It’s easy to attribute a new found desire to consume large quantities of food to our rapidly healing taste buds and our revived sense of smell. Truth is that many reach for extra calories almost immediately and probably for a combination of reasons. Whether using it as a hand-to-mouth oral crutch or as a replacement feeding for those now absent nicotine induced adrenaline releases that once pumped stored fats and sugars into the blood with each new chew, the net effect is the same – extra body weight. How can the weight gained during quitting be minimized?
Yes, the foundation of our dependency was a nicotine-induced flood of unearned dopamine. Yes, a mouth full of food will provide a small but short-lived burst of dopamine. But whether a brief crutch and coping tool, take extreme care not to condition your mind to use extra food as a substitute for nicotine. Serious weight problems can gradually sap you of your dreams and motivations to the point of making a 50% chance of a losing 15 years of life (which is the average loss of life for the long term tobacco user) look more appealing than that next extra pound. If you do find yourself using food as a temporarily early oral substitute (which is NOT recommended) reach for healthy foods like fresh vegetables.
Even if we leave extra food alone it’s very common to see some initial weight gain in the first couple of days. Unless you’re piling it on, it’s usually extra water retention primarily associated with physiological changes. If so, you should see water retention return to normal within two weeks. Minor metabolism changes can account for a few extra-unburned calories each day but they can be more than offset by enhanced cardiovascular abilities and general enhanced performance of the entire body. Not chewing nicotine does not cause weight gain, eating does.
We often chewed at the end of meals. It was a conditioned signal to the brain that our meal was complete and our period of eating over. This cue no longer exists. Its absence may lead to continued eating after our normal meal would have ended. If the leftovers keep vanishing you may need to find a new cue that your meal has ended. A toothpick, walk, immediate brushing of your teeth, doing the dishes, a stick of sugarless gum, or even a nice big deep breath may be all it takes.
But accept early on that should they occur, that a few extra pounds are acceptable and be patient with yourself. It would take an extra 100 pounds to equal the health risks associated with a single can of chewing tobacco. Is your life worth a few temporary pounds? There will be plenty of time to shed them later.
The next few minutes are all that matter and each is entirely doable. There is only one rule – no nicotine today, Never Take Another Chew, Dip or Chew! Breathe deep, hug hard, live long!
© John R. Polito 2000, 2013
The original article has been modified to be more relevant for dippers and chewers.