How to Manage Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

The decision to quit smoking is one of the best choices you can make when it comes to your health. Many people worry about the withdrawal symptoms that come with quitting, especially the possibility of weight gain.

Often, quitting smoking is accompanied by weight gain because people may use food to cope with other smoking withdrawal symptoms.1 It is important to maintain a healthy BMI, but the weight gain that follows quitting smoking is a lower health risk compared to the risk of continuing to smoke.2

Consult your doctor if you are concerned about weight gain after you quit smoking and congratulations on taking the first step to improving your health.

Keep reading to learn more about weight gain after you quit smoking and how to manage the transition to a smoke-free life.

A man preparing to jog in the snow

Why Do You Gain Weight When You Quit Smoking?

It is completely normal to experience some weight gain when you stop smoking.2 On average, people typically gain between 1 kilogram and 10 kilograms (2 to 22 pounds) after quitting smoking.2

There are a variety of reasons why people who quit experience a rise in their weight. Below we will explore some of the possible reasons and how to combat them.

Changes in metabolism

When people smoke cigarettes, nicotine (which is the addictive substance in tobacco) makes our body's food processing system work faster which in turn burns more kilojoules.3 When nicotine is no longer present, our food processing system, a.k.a metabolism, slows down.3

This is one major cause why ex-smokers may experience weight gain when they quit smoking even if they do not consume more food than they normally would.3

Changes in eating habits

Many people report that they eat more food once they quit smoking cigarettes.3 Some may experience hunger as a withdrawal symptom once they quit and therefore consume more calories than they were previously.3

It is important to note that research shows that eating patterns will eventually return to normal and this increase in hunger will subside as your body adjusts.3

Changes in taste perception that cause an increase in appetite

It is reported that people who smoke cigarettes have a greater "bitter taste perception" meaning they are more likely to interpret foods and flavours as bitter.4 When a person quits smoking, it is possible for their taste perception to return to normal and thus cause an increase in appetite.4 This could be due to foods tasting better than they did previously.

Turning to snacks to replace the hand-to-mouth action of smoking

Smoking is not only an addiction, but it is also a physical habit, and like any habit it's hard to break. The physical act of bringing your hand to mouth can easily be replicated with food which is why some people who quit smoking find themselves eating more than they normally would.5

Keeping your hands busy is a great way to avoid reaching for food when experiencing cravings.5 Consider taking up a new hobby like knitting or instead of snacking, drinking water or herbal tea as a substitute.

Emotional eating due to stress

When you feel a craving coming on, distracting yourself with food is a common habit that people will build to decrease their withdrawal symptoms in the moment.5 Typically, the craving will only last a few minutes and it is important to remember that before you grab a snack to distract yourself.5

Try distracting yourself for a few minutes during a craving before grabbing something to eat. You may notice this will help decrease weight gain.

NICORETTE® Smoking Cessation Gum and NICORETTE® Smoking Cessation Lozenge may help relieve some cravings and decrease the urge to smoke during the stressful first few days of quitting. Consult your doctor if you are wondering if these products are right for you.

Tips on Avoiding Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

A person chopping vegetables

It is overwhelming to quit smoking and it may feel daunting to know you will go through a variety of withdrawal symptoms. The possibility of gaining weight shouldn't stop you from quitting smoking as it is far better for you to quit and gain weight than to continue smoking cigarettes.1

You are taking an important step towards better overall health and wellbeing when you decide to quit smoking.

Below is a list of ways to decrease the likelihood of gaining weight after you quit.

1. Regular exercise to minimize weight gain and improve overall well-being

When you quit smoking try adding some form of physical activity into your daily routine. When you are moving, it will help control cravings and the overall urge to smoke.6

People who have recently quit smoking should try and do moderate intensity exercise for at least two-and-a-half hours a week or one hour and fifteen minutes of high intensity exercise a week.6 Moderate intensity exercise may look like a brisk walk everyday around the block or riding your bike.6 Higher intensity work outs could be going for a jog a few times a week or participating in an exercise class.6 Taking up weightlifting also has proven health benefits, and it is recommended that people incorporate it into their schedule two days a week.6

Incorporating exercise into your daily routine as you quit smoking can help release stress, will distract you from the urge to smoke, burn calories, and can help you manage your weight.6

2. Creating healthy eating habits

Creating healthy eating habits after you stop smoking will help you maintain your weight and avoid weight gain from snacking.6

Drinking lots of water is recommended and cutting back on sweetened beverages like juice, soft drinks, and sweetened tea or coffee is best.6 Getting into the habit of checking nutrition facts labels on foods will help you stay aware of how much sugar and unhealthy foods you are consuming.6

Adding whole wheat and whole grain groceries to your shopping list will also contribute to healthier eating habits.6

3. Portion control

When you are trying to maintain a healthy weight, being aware of how large your portions are is important. It is shown that people will eat more food if larger portions are put in front of them.7

Planning how large your portions will be during mealtimes is a great step to take when you are in the process of quitting smoking.

4. Preparing Healthy Snacks

When cravings come and you are tempted to snack, it can be hard to make healthy choices in the moment. Try preparing snacks in advance to combat the urge to grab something sweet or salty.

Try snacking on fruits and vegetables as well as unsalted snacks.6 Chewing sugarless gum will keep your mouth busy when urges to smoke or snack come on6 and even brushing your teeth to keep a fresh taste in your mouth will help.6

5. Limiting alcohol intake

Consuming alcohol can lead to an increase in weight gain because of the calories and sugars present in many alcoholic beverages but it can also make you more likely to smoke.5

If you frequently smoked while you were drinking, you may be more tempted to have a cigarette and give in to your withdrawal symptoms.5

Try not to drink for the first few weeks after you stop smoking to decrease the likelihood of having a cigarette.

6. Sleeping Well

Getting a good night’s sleep is the first step to improving overall health and well-being. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep has been associated with an array of health problems including weight gain.8

People who regularly sleep less than 7 hours a night have a higher chance of having a body mass index of 30 or higher and are more likely to have diabetes, heart disease, depression, and high blood pressure.8

Having a healthy sleep schedule is important for maintaining your weight and decreasing the likelihood of poor health.8

7. Consulting with a healthcare provider

It is hard to quit smoking alone. If you are feeling unsure about the symptoms and body changes you may experience when you quit smoking, consult a doctor.

There are many ways that a health care provider can assist you in the transition to a smoke free life through counselling or recommending medications that will help you stay a non-smoker.6

8. Using smoking cessation products

If you are someone who smokes half of a pack of cigarettes a day or more, using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) increases your chances of quitting smoking successfully than if you don’t use NRT.9 Using a smoking cessation aid may be a good choice for you if you are planning on weaning yourself off cigarettes, as NICORETTE® products will help combat cravings by delivering small amounts of nicotine into your body without the harmful effects of smoking.

NICORETTE® products like NICORETTE® inhaler could be a good choice for those likely to miss the hand-to-mouth habit of smoking. Smoking cessation products ease cravings and replicate the physical habit of smoking.

There are a variety of resources to help you manage weight gain after you quit smoking and support you through the process.

You aren't in this alone. Read Health Benefits of Quitting Smoking Timeline to stay motivated and feel good about the great choice you have made for your body.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the average weight gain after quitting smoking?

People who quit smoking may gain between 1 kilogram to 10 kilograms (or 2 to 22 pounds).2 The average amount of weight people gain is usually four to five kilograms within five years after quitting.3

How long does weight gain last after quitting smoking?

Weight gain is most common in the first three months after a person stops smoking, but people may notice weight gain within the first 12 months.3

Do you always gain weight after quitting smoking?

A study showed that 65% of people who quit smoking maintained their initial weight or had an increase in weight of less than 5% of their initial weight.10 The other 35% of participants gained more than 5% of their total body weight.10

It is important to remember that any post smoking cessation weight gain is still better for your health than the effects of smoking and should not be reason to not quit.1


It can be daunting to begin the journey of quitting smoking. Remember that there are resources out there to help you through the withdrawal symptoms and weight gain that you may experience.

Staying conscious of your food consumption habits, getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol, and incorporating exercise into your daily life are all great ways to decrease the likelihood of gaining weight once you quit.

Using smoking cessation products like NICORETTE® inhalers, gum, and lozenges will help you keep your cravings at bay. Whenever you need support, it is important to reach out to a healthcare provider.

Congratulations on taking the first step to improving your health.