How Much Weight Will You Gain After You Quit Smoking?

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Your heart and lungs will thank you for kicking your cigarette habit, but your waistline may not. A new study of weight gain after quitting finds that ex-smokers may end up packing on a few more pounds than they expected.

On average, say French and British researchers, people may gain about 10 lbs. after kicking the habit. That’s substantially higher than the roughly 6 lbs. often quoted in quit-smoking literature handed out to smokers, and double the 5 lbs. that many female smokers report being willing to tolerate before attempting to quit, according to the authors.

Weight gain has long been associated with quitting — not surprisingly, considering that nicotine is an appetite suppressant and a stimulant — and many people who start smoking or don’t quit cite fear of ballooning weight as a reason. But the new findings back up what any doctor will tell you: you’re still better off quitting.

(MORE: Should Movies With Smoking Be Rated R?)

For the new study, published in BMJ, the research team closely examined data from 62 previous randomized controlled trials of quit-smoking programs involving people who were motivated to quit. All of the studies assessed weight changes among participants, and the researchers separated out those who used quit aids like nicotine replacement therapy or the drugs buproprion (Zyban) or varenicline (Chantix) from those who quit without treatment. “We kept these groups separate because these pharmacotherapies could have a small effect on weight gain in the short term,” the authors write.

The authors looked at weight gain in participants who had succeeded in quitting smoking for at least 12 months. On average, quitters who didn’t rely on drugs or nicotine replacement to kick cigarettes, had gained 2.5 lbs. one month after quitting, 5 lbs. at two months, 6.3 lbs. at three months, 9.3 lbs. at six months, and 10.3 lbs. at 12 months.

But these numbers aren’t set in stone, the researchers say. The study found great variability in the amount of weight people gained. Some people even lost weight. For instance, says study author Henri-Jean Aubin, professor of psychiatry and addiction medicine at Hôpital Paul Brousse, in France, a quarter of ex-smokers gained less than 2 lbs. or lost weight after quitting, while an equal number gained more than 17 lbs.

(MORE: Social Smoking Is No Better for Your Brain)

“Although our study has confirmed that there is substantial weight gain on average during the first year of continuous abstinence, a prediction of average weight gain will be wrong for most individual smokers,” says Aubin, adding, “The good news is that after the first [three months], weight gain is decelerating substantially. Nearly 20% of the smokers actually lose weight after one year of continuous abstinence.”

So, while it’s true that some quitters will gain a significant amount of weight, a great many will actually lose extra fat — an added health bonus on top of putting out cigarettes for good.

In an editorial accompanying the new study, Esteve Fernández, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Barcelona, and Simon Chapman, a professor of public health at the University of Sydney, argue that many real-world quitters may fare better than those included in the review. The data in the study include only those smokers who volunteered for clinical trials and attended smoking-cessation clinics, a “self-selecting minority of smokers who may differ in important respects from those who quit without professional assistance,” the authors write:

Those who decide they need help to stop smoking tend to lack self-efficacy. They might have similar problems with the dietary and physical activity behaviors important in weight control. So these results may not be generalizable to all smokers who quit because two-thirds to three-quarters of ex-smokers stop smoking without professional help or interventions.

(MORE: Can the Quit-Smoking Drug Chantix Help People Kick Alcohol, Cocaine?)

Fernández and Chapman urge potential quitters not to be put off by the new findings, noting further that previous studies have found that ex-smokers may gain weight in the short term after quitting, but not in the long term. “Modest weight gain does not increase the risk of death,” they write. “Smoking does.”

Aubin says physicians should stress the long-term benefits of quitting to their patients and encourage them to start exercising, which not only helps reduce weight gain, but also may help them stay quit.

“Quitting smoking at age 40 increases life expectancy by nine years, even taking into account the possible post-cessation weight gain. If their smoking patients do not take steps now to quit smoking despite the risk of weight gain, when will they do it?” he says.

22 comments
Student_of_Life_1
Student_of_Life_1

To all of you complaining about weight gain I would like to share my story,


I used to smoke more than a pack a day, started when I was 16 and have always been obese. I quit smoking and gained nearly 40lbs after a year. This made me even more so obese. What is one year in a lifetime? I started exercising because I felt healthier after the year. Mind you, I started out slow and lost only 15 pounds in the second year after quitting smoking. I felt great! I was still obese but I was definitely a lot healthier than a lot of other people who are average weight and smoking. Anyways, before I bore you to death the end result was that I lost 120lbs in a period of 6 years (including the 15 in the second year). For the record, I was 22 years old, 5'10'', Male, and weighed 240lbs when I quit smoking. I ballooned to 280 after the first year. Now I am 28 years old, still 5'10, still Male and weigh in at 160lbs. I hope this inspires some of you to stick in there and continue to have hope for yourselves after you quit smoking. I know it is tough especially with the weight gain and feeling bad about it but it is like anything in life and comes with hard work, perseverance and TIME (pun not intended). 

Eclipse
Eclipse

It sounds to me like the articles that quote 5 to 10 pounds is a crock. I'm reading the comments and finding that I am not alone in my hopelessness since quitting smoking 7 months ago. I also gained weight, 30 pounds and am so unhappy about it that I barely leave my house except to go to work. At 5'3 and 160 pounds I am uncomfortable and disgusted with myself. I have quit before and expected the weight gain, so I started to see a nutritionist and joined a gym in the hope of preventing the weight gain. I just met with her yesterday and took a journal of what I eat. Even she doesn't understand how I am gaining so much on such a strict 1200 calorie diet. I'm not sure what I am going to do, because now cigarette smoke makes me gag, so smoking again isn't an option anymore. Now I'm obese, severely depressed, and far worse off that I ever was when I was a smoker.

beachgal
beachgal

Most quit smoking campaigns parrot the same rhetoric.  They speak to us like we are idiots.  Weight gain is different for everyone.  I quit for one year at age 48 and gained 35lbs in 2 months.  I went to hot yoga daily, orange theory fitness 3 x's a week....none of that mattered.  It's strictly metabolic.  I was now considered obese.  5'3 and 185lbs.  I felt ugly and depressed.  Needless to say, I started smoking again after a year and dropped back to a size 8. 

I know I have to quit, but this weight gain was disastrous. I don't want to attempt it again since I had this bad experience.  What is the answer?  I'm in sales and have to look a certain way.  Help!


JkD
JkD

I am 49 now and quit smoking 15 months and 23 days back ( after 24 years of smoking @ 10 to 14 cigts/day). I gained weight around my waist and belly....waist size increased from 34 to 37. I really look ugly to myself. I still crave for the cigrt. every day at least for four/five different times of day and night. Life  without cigarettes is unhappy. Cigarettes used to be a great company at times. I think you can quit anything but cigarettes. Dont know how long I last like this. Not sure.....may be one day I start living again and bring that company back to me. I see doctors and researchers talking about quitting but only a smoker knows how quitting really feels  right like a pain in the ***

JaggerLink
JaggerLink

I gained 25 in 4 weeks after I quit

Stacy
Stacy

I quit 6 months ago and i never knew quitting could make you lose weight. I have lost 7 pounds and still counting, i'm one of the lucky ones. Before i quit i was so scared of gaining weight, so i made myself a promise not to replace it with anything els. I think thats the key..

ciara220
ciara220

I quit 9 months ago due to a collapsed lung and have gained 22 pounds and I don't even eat meat. I am not a big food person so when they say that you will only gain 10 pounds that's not true and they need to tell people the truth. On top of all of the weight,  they don't tell you about the digestive problems that it causes like your flat stomach now is huge. If it wasn't for other people in my family I would start smoking again in a minute, I actually felt better.


Davihan
Davihan

I have quit 3 times over the last 15 years and gained 30 pounds each time.  As a matter of routine, I was working out with a trainer consistently and eating weeds and dirt practically.  It has to alter your metabolism somehow to cause that excessive gain.  This time, I am really thinking it just isn't worth it.  Carrying the extra weight for me is much, much worse than the risks of smoking.  I agree with you, Penny, the "professionals" need to get honest.  I have never met anyone that only gained 5-10 pounds.  It has always been at least 20 and no one I've known personally ever lost the weight.  The national healthcare spend for obesity related medical conditions is three times that of smoking related illnesses, so I'm looking for a smoke right now.

Penny
Penny

I gained 32 lbs when I quit 5 years ago, the thing was I was watching what I ate and really didn't feel I was eating a lot more.  My friend quit about a year ago and gained 29 lbs....its great to quit smoking and well worth it but let's tell the truth here, I think the majority of people who quit smoking gain a significant amount of weight, and not just 10 lbs.

IrmaGreen
IrmaGreen

i gained 28 lb since feb when i stopped smoking what now ha ha trying to loos 30 again

Jennifer Herrald
Jennifer Herrald

E-cigarettes:

"In 2011, Dr Edward Langston, of the American Medical Association said: 'Very

little data exists on the safety of e-cigarettes, and the FDA has

warned that they are potentially addicting and contain harmful

toxins.'

Yoshi_1
Yoshi_1

My, and several friends experience is a fast gain of close to thirty pounds. There may be an age component at work here as well. It wasn't easy to get rid of that weight, either.

Yoshi

vaperman
vaperman

E-cigs are harmless and they'll keep you skinny.

SteveCarol
SteveCarol

@Eclipse  Here is your best option, I think: stop caring about your weight and appearance to such an unhealthy degree.  It is unhealthy because you are overweight, but not to huge degree, and yet you are disgusted, depressed, stuck in your house, and pondering starting to smoke again over it.  One day you can likely lose the weight, but until then stop doing this to yourself.  I assume you are female given your size and text.  I know feminine beauty standards and all, but you have much more power over your mind than you seem to realize.  You can simply not care and accept yourself.  Often times people do not want to do that though.  Just stop letting what you think others are thinking influence you.  Live for yourself.

SteveCarol
SteveCarol

@beachgal  Easy fix: stop being so vain, accept yourself.  It is actually that simple.  Just stop the active persecution of yourself within your own mind.

kparmar1
kparmar1

@JkD Check out the Alan Carr audio tape (stop smoking...google it). This, I am certain, will help you. You need to change the whole psychology of thinking you are missing or lacking something in your life. Leave the smoking to the drug addicts and enjoy your life. 

SandraOz
SandraOz

@ciara220 Hello Ciara, I put at least 2 stone on since I quit 16 months ago - I just stopped, because of serious dental issues exacerbated by smoking.  It could have been a lot worse.  I understand that you think you felt better smoking but I believe that would be due to the positive (anti-depressant) effects of nicotine.  I am not happy being this size but I also lead a very sedentary lifestyle, hit the menopause and so have to get off my (fat) ass and do some exercise!  I miss smoking, the pose, the drama, the company, the fix of it.  But, there is a price to pay and you paid harder than me.  Don't start again, your body can't take it.  Besides which, it really, really stinks.  Take Care of yourself.

VictoriaNarcisi
VictoriaNarcisi

Took me five years of failing......keep trying. You will do it. One way or another. Hope it is not before you lose lung function....run and walk.... It keeps you mindful of your lung function.

VictoriaNarcisi
VictoriaNarcisi

E is BAD for lungs,too. Sorry E cigs take addiction to a new and dangerous level....and it is not good for lungs either....just give it up. Nicotine was an insecticide... Remember that.