I just read a news report about a study that found that people who quit smoking put on up to 5kg (11lb) on average in the first year. That’s more than was previously thought. Past studies have already shown that nicotine is an appetite suppressant and possibly also boosts the metabolism.
I believe that there are more powerful reasons behind the weight gain though. Whenever we have a habit, whether good or bad, it gives us some reward or payoff that our mind starts to look forward to, otherwise we wouldn’t keep repeating it. That’s the case for the strongest addiction to the most benign little habits.
When we stop engaging in a habit, the payoff also stops, so our brain starts looking for other avenues to get that same payoff. One of the most obvious and accessible avenues for a lot of people who quit smoking is food. They start eating more.
Whenever trying to stop a bad habit, the easiest way to do it is to figure out what payoff that habit is giving you – whether it’s stress relief, security, self-confidence, whatever – and then finding a good, healthy habit that will provide that same payoff. Quitting a bad habit and ignoring the reward makes it so much more likely that you will relapse.
That means the cold turkey approach isn’t always the best. The the greatest chances of success, replace a habit rather than avoiding it point blank. For example, if smoking calms you down and helps you relieve your stress, pop your iPod earphones on and listen to a favorite song to change your mood. You can even do a variety of different things to take care of the stress that the smoking was helping you with. Take a nice hot herbal bath when you get home from work each day as well, or go for a walk outside, or hit a punching bag for twenty minutes.
Just find out why it is that you’re engaging in the bad habit, then replace the habit with good behaviors that will successfully take its place, and your mind will no longer have any need for it!