Wellness Wednesday - Kicking tobacco and weight gain

by Chuck Brown, UNMC public relations | September 23, 2009

picture disc. "If you could not mention that in the article, I would really appreciate it."

That was a common refrain from some people interviewed for this series as they discussed weight they gained when they quit tobacco.

Unfortunately, said tobacco cessation expert Tom Klingemann, Pharm.D., weight gain is difficult to avoid for those who kick the habit.

"I always encourage people to tackle one issue at a time and so I urge them to quit tobacco first, then maybe they move on to their weight," Dr. Klingemann said.

Those who quit tobacco face four factors that work against them in terms of weight management:

  • When people quit, their sense of smell and taste returns to normal (i.e., food becomes tastier);
  • Nicotine speeds up metabolisms and, thus, when it leaves the system, metabolisms tend to slow;
  • Nicotine also is an appetite suppressant, remove it, you get hungrier; and
  • Tobacco use breeds an oral fixation that doesn't go away once the tobacco product does.

"People often replace their cigarettes with things that aren't the best for them," Dr. Klingemann said.

Several people interviewed for the series ate a lot of hard candy as they quit -- wintergreen Lifesavers proved particularly popular.

Other stories

Below is a schedule of stories in this series on tobacco cessation.

There is, however, good news on the weight front, Dr. Klingemann said.

The average amount of weight gained for those who quit tobacco is less than 10 pounds.

"People often assume they will balloon up upon quitting when that usually isn't the case," he said.

Also, some people find exercise to be a good way to get through cravings and triggers.

And, Dr. Klingemann said, many who quit tobacco gain enough confidence to tackle other issues, such as weight gain.

"Quitting tobacco is difficult enough, and important enough, to focus on alone," Dr. Klingemann said. "Get that monkey off your back and your load will lighten enough to move on to other things."

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