The Intricate Relationship Between Smoking And Weight



Published on: 26-Sep-2022


10 min read


Updated on : 02-Nov-2023




Amrita Sandhu


The Intricate Relationship Between Smoking And Weight

The Intricate Relationship Between Smoking And Weight

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Although smoking is generally believed to lower weight  because it reduces hunger and calorie intake, speeds up metabolism and prevents fat from accumulating, studies show that long-term and heavy smokers are more likely to be overweight or obese than non-smokers.

Smoking has been linked to both weight loss and gain. Smoking reduces exercise by limiting respiratory functions because nicotine affects how the brain controls appetite and energy expenditure. The effects of smoking on metabolism and hunger are offset, resulting in a rise in body weight.

Consequently, the biochemical pathways point to a murky relationship between smoking and the body. Smoking might have an impact on your blood sugar and appetite. Smokers are more likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers.

Table Of Contents

1. Impact Of Smoking On Weight

2. Things To Do After Quitting

3. Busting Myths Around Smoking

4. Dietitian’s Recommendations

5. The Final Say

6. FAQs

Effects Of Smoking On Weight

1. Appetite

Cortisol, your primary stress hormone, is released by nicotine. Your "fight or flight" reaction to danger uses cortisol. Your body's digestion and immunity are shut down by it.

In case of no threat, people may experience:

  • Anxiety
  • Lack of focus
  • Restlessness
  • Loss of appetite temporarily

2. Blood Sugar Levels

When you smoke, your body releases cortisol. Cortisol encourages gluconeogenesis or the process by which your body produces glucose. For energy, your body converts food into glucose, a type of sugar. Therefore, you will also feel an increase in sugar when your cortisol levels increase.

To break down the sugar, your body produces more insulin in response to a surge in blood sugar, causing low blood sugar. To increase blood sugar, people frequently seek sweet meals and beverages. Eating processed meals high in sugar can be bad for your health and can make you gain weight.

3. Weight Gain After Quitting Smoking

Smoking activates your "fight or flight" reaction and might reduce your appetite. When you stop smoking, you may crave the euphoria that nicotine provides. You could try to get it from other sources, such as sweets or caffeine. 

People who quit smoking regain their sense of smell and taste and may discover that they love eating more than before. Smoking is a hand-to-mouth habit, and when people stop smoking, they could find that they start eating things like chips and candy instead of smoking.

4. Weight Gain And Body Confidence

If you are concerned about gaining weight after quitting smoking or are aware that you have already gained weight, keep in mind that your weight does not define you. 

Regardless of your size or weight, you are the same person with the same talents and abilities. The most important thing is that you be healthy. Quitting smoking will undoubtedly make you more beneficial in the short and long run. If you are feeling down about yourself, remember to:

  • Do the things that you love
  • Spend time with your friends and family
  • Stay Active
  • Eat properly
  • Be kind to yourself

Things To Do After Quitting

Things To Do After Quitting

Here are some things you may do to maintain your weight as you prepare to quit smoking.

1. Get Active

  • It can also assist you in resisting temptations to bad foods or smoking. 
  • If you already exercise, you may need to exercise for longer or more frequently to burn off the calories that nicotine helps eliminate.
  • Exercise can help control cholesterol levels, prevent heart disease, control the effects of diabetes and lower the risk of certain cancers and slow down bone loss associated with advancing age.

2. Shop For Healthier Groceries

  • Before you go shopping, decide what you want to buy. Make a list of healthful foods, including fruits and vegetables and low-fat yoghurt, that you may enjoy without consuming too many calories.
  • Stock up on low-calorie "finger foods" that can keep your hands busy, such as sliced apples, baby carrots, or pre-portioned unsalted nuts.

3. Sugar-Free Gum

  • It can keep your mouth busy
  • No added calories or sugar to your teeth.

4. Create Healthy Eating Habits

  • Make a healthy meal plan ahead of time so you can combat cravings when they hit. 
  • If you have a roast chicken with veggies for supper, it is easy to say "no" to fried chicken nuggets.

5. Never Let Yourself Get Too Hungry

  • A little hunger is OK, but if you are so hungry that you must eat right away, you are more likely to choose a diet-busting alternative. 
  • Learning to consume filling foods can also help you avoid hunger.

6. Sleep Well

  • Getting insufficient sleep increases your risk of gaining weight.

7. Control Your Drinking

  • Alcohol, sugary sodas, and sweetened juices may go down easy, but they add up and can lead to weight gain. 
  • Instead, try sparkling water with 100% fruit juice or herbal tea.

8. Hydration

  • Your body is capable of confusing hunger with thirst. Ensure that you are getting enough water each day. By staying hydrated, you can avoid overeating and ensure you are getting the right calories. Eat mindfully.
  • Water also supports weight loss attempts by enhancing metabolic activity.

Busting Myths Around Smoking

1. Smoking Is Less Harmful Than Alcoholism

Smoking-related illnesses claim the lives of alcoholics at a higher rate than alcohol-related issues do. In addition, addiction to alcohol and tobacco is associated; smokers are three times more likely to be alcohol addicted. As a result, it is essential to encourage cigarette cessation among persons who are also alcohol dependent to reduce the risk of various illnesses, including lung cancer, heart disease, and, ultimately, early death.

2. E-Cigarettes Are Safe

E-cigarettes are not risk-free. E-cigarettes are unsafe despite having fewer hazardous compounds in their aerosol (vapour) than traditional cigarettes. Smoking electronic cigarettes (vaping) exposes you to potentially lung-damaging metals, including lead, nickel, tin, and aluminium,  as well as hazardous compounds like formaldehyde and acrolein. Additionally, vaping can transport nicotine to your body and lead to physical addiction. Most significantly, we are yet unsure of how vaping may affect our health in the long run.

3. An Occasional Cigarette Is Fairly Harmless 

Research shows that smoking even a few cigarettes daily has substantial health concerns. Every cigarette you smoke damages your heart, lungs, and body's cells. Smoking-related illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, or lung cancer, do not just affect heavy or long-term smokers. Anyone who smokes or breathes in secondhand tobacco smoke risks their health.

4. Quitting Will Make Me Gain Weight 

Since nicotine suppresses appetite, quitting will increase your hunger. Additionally, when your senses of taste and smell develop, you can enjoy your meal much more. 

As a result, some smokers who give up the habit might gain 5 to 10 pounds in the first two months. Although this is not always the case, light smokers, who are less dependent on nicotine, will probably gain less weight than former heavy smokers.

5. "I Have Been Smoking For Too Long; Hence, The Damage Has Already Been Done."

The moment you stop smoking, your body begins to repair. Your body will suffer more harm the longer you smoke. But as soon as you stop, the body quickly begins to undo much of the damage. After quitting smoking, your risk of having a heart attack drops by 50% within the first year and reaches the same level as a non-smoker after five years.

Dietitian’s Recommendations

Smoking is a significant factor in making people ill since, although promoted as healthy, it negatively impacts our mental, emotional, and physical health. Moreover, type 2 diabetes is caused by smoking, making it more challenging to manage. Active smokers have a 30–40% higher risk of diabetes than non-smokers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                - Dietitian Vajeda Rehman

The Final Say

It is clear that the health risks of weight gain are minimal compared to the danger of continuing to smoke. Recommending physical activity and a healthy diet to focus primarily on smoking cessation rather than weight control until former smokers are confident that they will not pick up the habit again are all ways to help patients manage their weight.


1. What is the impact of smoking on BMI?

Some research found that smoking was related to decreased weight and BMI, whereas others found a contradicting effect of considerably higher BMI. A few troubling findings imply that there is little evidence to support the claim that smoking behaviour leads to an increase in obesity. 

Recent research has found that smoking has an inverse average effect on body weight. The impact of smoking on body weight may change depending on BMI.

2. Do all smokers gain weight after quitting?

Only some people who are former smokers gain weight after quitting. Even with the people that do, strategies prevent weight gain.

3. Will quitting lead to stress eating?

When people stop smoking, some revert to eating as a stress reliever. On the other hand, stress eating and compulsive eating might exacerbate metabolic decline. Mindful eating means understanding your body's cues, such as when you are hungry and full, and maintaining awareness while you eat.

4. How can I avoid gaining weight after quitting? 

  •  Drink plenty of water to help the body flush out any residual toxins. 
  •  To keep blood sugar levels stable, eat every three to four hours.
  •  Ensure each meal or snack has protein, healthy fat, fibre and fruit or vegetables.
  • Try to keep a regular sleep pattern.
  • If you are craving sugar, consider eating some fruit instead. Serve with protein and healthy fats like peanut butter.

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