Perhaps the biggest fear of those that quit smoking is that they might gain weight. But the hardest thing is the quitting process: it requires on average three to four attempts.
But paying attention to what and when you eat could help you maintain the line. The withdrawal symptoms, including irritability, low moods, insomnia and weight gain, can be bypassed with the right alimentation.
Irritability is most severe around mid-morning on the first few days after quitting, when a powerful craving for nicotine adds to reduced blood sugar.
Many smokers usually skip breakfast, aggravating the low blood sugar, that's why the quitter must make an effort to eat small and regular snacks of slowly released sugars, like a small slice of multigrain bread or a bowl of whole-grain cereal.
Every few hours during the first few days of quitting, the quitters should have some slowly digested, low-GI snacks at hand, to maintain blood sugar levels during the morning. Dried apricots, apples, pears, low-fat yoghurts, oatcakes are ideal in this case, as they also have a calming effect.
Ideal sugary foods could slightly boost the "feel-good" brain transmitter serotonin, a crucial detail as about 50 % of all smokers are predisposed to depression. Foods like turkey, chicken, pork, pinto beans and red kidney beans, peanuts, mackerel and sardines are also efficient in these cases, as they are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for serotonin synthesis.
St John's wort has an effect of serotonin-boosting, and if there are no contraindications, drink this tea. A 300mg of a standardized extract contains 0.3 % of hypericin, and should be taken thrice daily. The effects are visible after four weeks, so you should start taking it before.
Quitters can experience higher post-lunch somnolence than others do, as nicotine often helps to boost concentration. Protein meal, especially at lunch, could help in maintaining you alert, that's why you should eat lean meat, fish, eggs and pulse vegetables.
Chewing gum (preferable sugar free) also keeps your mind set.
At bedtime, quitting has an opposite effect, as it will keep you alert. Roughly 25 % of quitters experience sleep disturbances. A hot milky drink before sleeping helps releasing sedative brain chemicals. Camomile tea can help, due to its gentle sedatives.
And caffeine-rich drinks should be avoided four hours before sleeping.
Nicotine maintains or reduces your weight, because it suppresses the appetite (by decreasing the hunger-stimulating brain hormone neuropeptide Y) but it also slightly raises the metabolic rate: each smoked cigarette increases your metabolism by about 7 % for around 30 minutes.
That's why you must resist the feeling of hunger and the drive to eat simply because you always feel the need "to keep your hands occupied" and you should burn more calories. A diet which is lower in calories and some more physical activity are also efficient in these cases.