How will I deal with cravings?
Whether you're thinking about quitting smoking or if you have already quit, the reality is that you will face cigarette cravings. Keep in mind that your cravings are strongest during the first 4 to 5 days after you quit. Some people may experience occasional cravings for months or years after they quit smoking. There are 4 important "D" words that you might want to keep in mind the next time you are fighting the urge to smoke:
- Start by delaying. If you feel the urge to smoke, let a few minutes pass and you'll see that your cravings will pass too.
- It is important to distract yourself during this time to take the thought of smoking off your mind. Do an activity that doesn't allow you to smoke, like taking a shower, playing a game, or exercising.
- You may also find that deep breathing helps you focus on something other than smoking. Take a deep breath in through your nose and hold it for 5 seconds. Repeat this a few times to help yourself relax (deep breathing can make some people light headed, so don't try this while driving or operating any equipment).
- Finally, drink water. By holding the glass in your hand and slowly sipping the water and holding it in your mouth for a few seconds, you will help replace the sensation of smoking (i.e., holding a cigarette in your hand and smoke in your mouth).
Will I gain weight? How can I reduce the chances of weight gain?
People often associate quitting smoking with weight gain. Weight gain after quitting smoking is possible, but not everyone who quits will gain weight, and some people have even reported weight loss. Among people who do gain weight, the average is 5 to 7 pounds.
If you have gained weight after quitting smoking, or if you're thinking about quitting but are worried you might gain weight, read more about why people gain weight and how to prevent it. Weight gain does not have to be a factor in your decision to quit smoking if you have the right mindset.
There are many reasons why people gain weight when they quit smoking. Although this is not a complete list, these are some of the more common reasons for weight gain:
- Your food smells and tastes better since you quit so you're tempted to eat more or you just feel hungrier.
- Nicotine is a stimulant that artificially increases your metabolism, so when you quit smoking your metabolism returns to normal.
- You eat to cope with cravings or to keep your hands and mouth busy.
- You believe you have a legitimate reason for eating more or gaining weight because you have quit smoking.
Being aware of the changes your body is going through when you quit smoking may help you recognize and avoid weight-gaining behaviour. You can also reduce the chances of weight gain by:
- maintaining your usual diet
- eating low-calorie, crunchy snacks (e.g., raw veggies, fruit, popcorn, pretzels)
- exercising or engaging in more physical activity (e.g., playing sports, swimming, going for walks)
Try increasing your physical activity a few weeks before your quit date to help ease yourself into a new routine. People who are physically active before they quit are much less likely to gain weight.
You may feel tempted to start a new diet to prevent weight gain. But you may find that quitting smoking and starting a new diet at the same time could be overwhelming. One option if you are concerned about gaining weight is to start eating a healthier diet a few weeks before your quit date. This way, by the time you quit you have already adopted a healthy diet. Another option is to maintain your usual diet once you quit smoking. A few weeks after you have remained smoke-free, you can start eating a healthier diet and increasing your physical activity.