It is possible to stop smoking and lose weight, study reveals
This October, as the nation’s smokers are encouraged to stop smoking, research shows it is possible to manage your weight successfully while quitting.
The study*, led by Professor Deborah Lycett from Coventry University’s Centre for Intelligent Healthcare and published in BMJ Open, shows it is not inevitable that you’ll gain weight when you stop smoking. Encouragingly, the study demonstrated that it is even possible, with support, for quitters to lose weight while they abstain.
In the study, 76 smokers were recruited to a randomised controlled trial, with all participants being offered access to NHS-commissioned Stop Smoking Services. Of the 76 smokers, 37 were offered free membership of their local Slimming World group for 12 weeks, while the remaining 39 were offered stop smoking support alone.
For the 17% of smokers in the trial who successfully managed to stop smoking, change in weight was analysed over time. Those who just focused on quitting were seen to gain weight steadily over time, whereas those who stopped smoking and simultaneously attended Slimming World lost weight at each follow-up point. At 12 weeks those who had been supported at a slimming group had lost an average of 1.3kg. At 12 weeks there was a 2.3kg mean difference in weight between the quitters who attended a slimming group and those who didn’t.
It’s true that, without support, giving up smoking and managing your weight at the same time can be challenging. Your appetite and sense of taste comes back, and you can be so used to having something in your hand that you are tempted to reach for food instead of a cigarette.
Carolyn Pallister, Nutrition and Health Policy Manager at Slimming World, says: "The results of this trial showed weight gain isn’t an inevitable consequence of quitting though and, in fact, it is possible – with weight-management support – to lose weight while quitting. We know making healthy changes and breaking habits isn’t easy to do alone and in Slimming World groups members are supported to make behaviour changes with tools and techniques such as for and against lists and motivational interviewing, alongside support from people who understand your challenges and who are also on a journey to better health and wellbeing. This study illustrated how the combination of attending Slimming World and smoking cessation support helped people give up and not gain weight."
Professor Deborah Lycett, Centre for Intelligent Healthcare, Coventry University says:“This is the first study, that we know of, to investigate referral to a weight loss provider during a stop smoking attempt and the results will be reassuring for those who want to stop smoking but are fearful of weight gain; there does seem to be a promising a way to tackle both simultaneously.
“This was a small study, however, so we have not proved definitively that losing weight while stopping smoking does not reduce your chances of quitting successfully. If you are a smoker, stopping smoking remains the single most important thing you can do for your health, even if you do put on a little weight.”
These findings are especially important as new NHS research shows if a smoker can quit for 28 days, they are five times more likely to quit for good.
Given the risks to health that tobacco use causes, and as available research suggests that both smokers and those with obesity are at higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 outcomes and death, there may never have been a better time to consider quitting and managing your weight at the same time.
 Reddy, R. K., Charles, W. N., Sklavounos, A., Dutt, A., Seed, P. T., & Khajuria, A. (2020). The effect of smoking on COVID‐19 severity: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Journal of medical virology
 Kassir, R. (2020). Risk of COVID‐19 for patients with obesity. Obesity Reviews, 21(6). Dietz, W., & Santos‐Burgoa, C. (2020). Obesity and its Implications for COVID‐19 Mortality. Obesity.
“I stopped smoking while losing weight and it’s changed my life - I even bought a car with the money I’ve saved!” says Brian, who lost 10st
Brian Farmer, 51
Weight loss: 10st
I’ve struggled with my weight all my life. I mainly put weight on when I started junior school and was always getting told to lose weight by my school nurse. I was bullied at school all the time. I felt like I was just a joke to people and each morning I would dread going.
I started smoking at the age of 14 or 15 – everyone was doing it and it helped me to fit in. Until around three and a half years ago, I used to smoke 40 cigarettes a day which was costing me around £30 daily, then I decided enough was enough – my mind was made up: I was going to stop!
The previous year, in 2016, I’d already decided I’d got to make some changes – I put on a happy front around others but at over 22st, deep down I knew my weight was killing me. I had to go for regular check-ups with my nurse as I had type 2 diabetes and had to take tablets every day for both this and for my cholesterol as my levels were so high. I’d battled depression for many years and due to my size, I struggled to get out of bed and even put my socks on. Getting in and out of the car was a daily challenge and when I was in the car, my stomach was right up against the steering wheel making it uncomfortable to drive.
I realised that I needed to do something and change my eating habits. I was so desperate to get rid of my type 2 diabetes so I could achieve my ambition of driving a heavy goods vehicle again. I was falling asleep all the time as I had no energy. My health was getting me down and I wanted to see if losing weight would make a difference to my health. The final straw was when I saw a picture of myself. My partner was a member of Slimming World and as I saw how well she was doing, I decided to join her one evening.
Walking into group in April 2016, I was really nervous, and I think I may have appeared quite grumpy! I felt very embarrassed. I thought only women attended slimming clubs and was terrified of what the scales would say. Everyone was so welcoming and friendly though and suddenly I didn’t feel alone anymore, and I noticed some men there too. After just two weeks, I couldn’t believe the change in me. I looked in the mirror one day and was shocked at the difference, my clothes had started to get very baggy – I even had an embarrassing moment when my trousers nearly fell down! I like the fact there is so much healthy food to choose from and the fact that I’m never hungry has helped me stick to plan.
By 2017, I was a year into my weight-loss journey. I decided now it was time to give up smoking. I was so nervous that I’d put the weight back on and there were times when I thought I wasn’t going to succeed, but everyone at group encouraged me so much and told me how proud they were, it gave me the boost of confidence I needed and put me in the right mindset to quit. I remember my last cigarette clearly, one Sunday night I had two cigarettes left in the packet, I smoked one and gave one away and I’ve never looked back. I would eat fruit to curb any cravings. Aside from the health benefits, I soon realised, with the money I was saving on cigarettes I could put that monthly spend towards a new car – which is exactly what I did!
To think when I joined Slimming World in April 2016, I weighed 22st 9lbs and had a 52-inch waist. Now I have a 34-inch waist, I no longer fear being seen in public, I’m sleeping well compared to before and I love going out and socialising. I reached my target weight of 13st in November 2018. The nurse at my local GP cried she was so happy – she’d never seen results like this before. I’ve joined a gym, I go bike riding and the best thing is that I no longer have type 2 diabetes. I can now go into any shop and buy clothes. I’m able to go swimming, go for long walks, run upstairs, play with my granddaughter and I’m happy.
I’m so proud I managed to maintain my weight all over lockdown and kept active as well as eating healthy foods. I walked, exercised, did some gardening and I run regularly on the seafront. My partner and I batch cook to make sure we’re well prepared for the week ahead, essential for me as I’ve now achieved my dream of becoming a HGV driver. I make sure I always stay on plan and take pre-packed salads with me for lunch with fruit. I always make sure I have breakfast before I leave the house too. I cook a lot more for myself - my favourite meal to cook is homemade lasagne – it tastes amazing!
I feel like a different person now. I’m a non-smoker, I no longer have diabetes and I’ve managed to maintain my weight loss. Life is great and I’m looking forward to what the future brings.
Sausage rolls from a baker for lunch
Lots of bread
Takeaway for dinner
Cakes, biscuits, sweets
Lots of cans of coke
Two Weetabix with strawberries for breakfast
Salad with ham for lunch
Yogurt and fruit
Chicken with rice and vegetables for dinner
Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. Members join local weekly groups or an online programme. Groups are run by a network of community-based Slimming World Consultants across the UK and Republic of Ireland. Consultants are trained in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as recognised behaviour-change techniques. Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of energy density and satiety. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly-developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating, encouraging and empowering members to make changes in a supportive, warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the NHS. Following the suspension of weekly groups as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Slimming World launched a temporary virtual service. Find out more about Slimming World’s step-by-step safe reopening, where guidance and venues allow, here.
For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit slimmingworld.co.uk. Follow Slimming World on Twitter at www.twitter.com/slimmingworld or become a Slimming World fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/slimmingworld
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