Quitting smoking has its challenges, but maintaining a healthy weight doesn't have to be one of them. You may be worried about gaining weight if you quit smoking. If so, you have good reason--research has shown giving up the habit may cause pounds to creep on. A 2012 study published in the British Medical Journal revealed that participants gained an average of 10 pounds one year after quitting.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains some of the reasons why ex-smokers may experience weight gain:

  • Initially, in the first weeks after quitting smoking, you may feel hungrier.
  • You may find yourself substituting snacks high in fat or sugar after you quit, or drinking more alcoholic beverages.
  • You'll start burning calories at a normal rate again, which is better for your heart.

These facts provide you with even more reasons to prioritize staying slim in conjunction with quitting. Fortunately, the NIH reassures us that quitting smoking does not mean you'll automatically gain weight.

Try sticking with two simple methods to stay lean while you kick the habit: Staying active and eating right. With these goals in mind, it may be possible to maintain a healthy weight as you become smoke-free.

Keep Moving

According to the NIH, exercising regularly may play an important role in helping you avoid weight gain after you quit smoking. What's more, because you'll no longer be suffering from the effects of smoking on your lungs, you may be able to breathe easier while working out. Quitting may also improve your mood, which might give you more motivation to hit the gym.

These pointers can get you started on the right foot with an exercise program that can help you meet your weight goals:

  • Choose workouts that make you breathe harder without overheating or overtiring you. Your intensity level initially should be moderate rather than intense. But be sure not to go too easy either for the best benefit.
  • If exercise feels difficult, break your session up into a few shorter sessions instead of doing your entire workout at once.
  • After you quit smoking, and get more accustomed to physical activity, you may want to focus more on weight loss by increasing the amount of time you spend exercising.

Choose Foods Wisely

Though going without cigarettes may tempt you toward unhealthy food choices, if you eat too many high-fat foods or sugary snacks, you may end up disappointed when you step on the scale. These tips may help:

  • When you're hungry between meals or at times when you used to reach for a cigarette, reach for a healthy snack like a piece of fruit, fat-free yogurt, or even low-fat popcorn.
  • Eat at regular mealtimes to avoid getting too hungry--this can help you plan smarter food choices rather than falling back on fast food.
  • Avoid substituting one vice for another by having too many alcoholic drinks, which may also lead to weight gain, since alcohol stimulates your appetite--tea, hot chocolate, or sparkling water are healthier alternatives.

If You Need More Help

It's not easy to quit smoking, and you may need support to form new healthy habits. If you are having trouble managing your weight after quitting, speak with your doctor. They may recommend you consult a nutritionist or dietician for specialized guidance. Your doctor may also have recommendations to make quitting easier, such as trying some form of nicotine replacement therapy, like the nicotine patch or gum. Remember, by quitting smoking you're doing the best possible thing for your health. As you become smoke-free, you can continue to work on maintaining a healthy weight by staying active and eating right.