Quitting can be a new opportunity to build new healthy habits! These can support you in your goal of becoming nicotine-free and help you maintain a weight that’s comfortable for you.
You’ll likely experience some changes both physically and emotionally when you quit smoking or vaping. Amid lots of amazing physical benefits (Clearer skin! Whiter smile! Easier breathing!), you may notice other body changes, too. A common reason that people return to smoking is fear of gaining weight. Nicotine alters your metabolism, so quitting smoking changes the way your body processes food and how many calories you burn.
On the whole, your body changes for the better when you quit. Changing your relationship with nicotine is also about changing your relationship with your body. By taking care of your body, you are choosing your well-being and that’s a powerful thing!
What to expect
Quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to protect your health, now and in the future. The benefits of quitting smoking or vaping far exceed any potential risks from weight gain. Remember, you can be healthy at any size!
It’s normal to feel some body image anxiety when you quit. Unpleasant thoughts about your body and comparing yourself to others can be triggering and – like other triggers – can lead to a slip or a relapse back to smoking and vaping. Self-compassion is an important tool in living a healthier lifestyle. Your body is more than your appearance.
What can help
Drink more water
Carry a water bottle wherever you go. Drinking water can help you manage cravings and deal with symptoms of nicotine withdrawal. Sometimes, feelings of hunger can actually be feelings of dehydration, so try drinking water first when you feel hungry - and if your hunger continues, have a snack!
Regular movement can help you feel your best. When you build muscle or increase your endurance, you’ll also start to feel stronger in your body.
Find an activity you enjoy and add it to your routine. Even a 10-minute walk a few times a week can help boost your metabolism naturally. Exercising is also a great substitute for smoking or vaping and can help you reduce stress, manage cravings, and improve your overall health.
Going nicotine-free affects your appetite and your taste buds, so you’re probably going to feel a bit hungrier after you quit. Instead of trying to diet or limit your calories (which can make you more stressed and more likely to slip), make healthier snack choices.
- Keep some cut up fruit and veggies on hand
- Nuts, seeds, and other snacks with protein and healthy fat will help keep you full between meals
- Make healthier swaps for your favourite snacks! Air-popped popcorn instead of a bag of chips, dark chocolate instead of a candy bar, and low-sugar sweets instead of candy are all good options.
- Eat mindfully: savouring your food and chewing slowly will help your body know when it’s full (plus you get to appreciate the return of your taste buds!)
Practice body acceptance
Feeling good about your body can be challenging, but it’s important to try. Learning to practice body neutrality or positivity can improve your self-confidence, lower stress and anxiety, and increase your chances of quitting for good.
- Make a list of things your body can do! E.g., “I love my arms because I can use them to hug my best friend”, or “I love my legs because they help me run around with my kids”.
- Notice how you speak to yourself. Treat yourself and your body with kindness instead of fixating on your “flaws.” Practicing affirmations like “My worth is not determined by my body size” or “I am proud of what my body can do” can help change the narrative.
- Use relaxation and mindfulness exercises to build a positive mindset, reduce stress, and manage nicotine cravings. Try this free one from Headspace!
Think about the big picture
It’s normal to feel a bit discouraged if you see your body changing. While gaining weight can feel frustrating, remember that quitting smoking or vaping is so much better for your health in the long term!
Quitting will help you feel your best and live your healthiest life. Focus on the positives, like having more energy, sleeping better, feeling less stressed, and reducing your risk of disease.
Be proud of the work you are doing to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself through the process.
If you are struggling with body image, self-esteem, or disordered eating, please reach out to your health care provider. You can also access free, anonymous support from the National Eating Disorder Information Centre by calling 1-866-NEDIC-20 or visiting https://nedic.ca/.