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Sandra asked...

I've gained weight since I quit smoking.

Tags: Diet , Weight , Smoking

I am 40 years old and stopped smoking last November 2012. I know that it counts as normal to put on weight after dissing the ciggies, when I mentioned it to my GP a couple of weeks ago, he said its normal. What's not normal for me is that how fast I put on weight and that whatever I do, I do not lose, but put on even more. In the last 4 months I put on 2 sizes. Even I changed my whole diet in February 2012. Which means I cook from scratch, hardly salt or oil, all fresh and also I look how many calories I take in. Also since April I joined a local boot camp, and done that for 12 weeks, twice a week. I put on muscles, still the fat around it did not go away, I put again weight on and inches. 2 weeks ago I got mesaured and I am on my highest weight ever, 84 kilos, my height: 168 cm and body fat measured 37%! A year ago my body fat was on 22% and always was around that area. I do not eat more than 1500 calories right now, all healthy and measure every food. Still I put another 2 kilos on in the last two weeks. I can almost watch the fat growing around my tighs, waist and stomach, hands and neck. I feel very uncomfortable and I am worried I am soon moving up to a 18. I don't think that is normal, with eating healthy and doing regular exercise. I do now 3 times a week bootcamp...still nothing changes at all. It's like I do not have any metabolism at all. I also think my stool has changed in the last couple of months. My GP didn't want to discuss this with me, he put it down to me stopping smoking and dismissed me. I am quiet frustrated and can't believe that I am able to put on such weight in such a short time. Could this maybe be something else like my liver, or underactive thyroid? What do you think? How can I get my GP to make them test my blood and get it properly tested?

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The answer

Unfortunately it is not uncommon (although not inevitable) to put on weight after stopping smoking. There is a wide variation in the amount of weight gained. One large review of 62 smoking cessation studies suggested that the average weight gain was 4-5kg after 12 months of not smoking, with most of the gain happening in the first 3 months after quitting. However, about 16% of smokers lost weight after quitting and 13% gained more than 10kg. If you are measuring your calorie intake reliably (and it certainly looks as if you are being very careful at taking account of what you eat), I would be very surprised if you were not losing weight, albeit slowly (and sadly more slowly as a woman than as a man) on 1,500 calories a day. Doing regular exercise such as your three times weekly ‘boot camp’ should also be helping with weight loss.

Even though people do not regularly lose weight with exercise alone, it certainly works well in combination with a calorie controlled diet and even without weight loss should increase your body muscle and reduce your body fat proportion. It is certainly possible that you have an underactive thyroid if you are putting on weight with this level of calorie intake and energy expenditure (liver problems do not commonly cause weight gain without other symptoms).
Other symptoms suggestive of an underactive thyroid include feeling tired all the time, constipation, dry skin, feeling the cold, lifeless hair and fluid retention. I do think that if you speak to your GP (or perhaps another GP in the same practice?) with a list of the symptoms you have told me about, they will be happy to see if there could be a problem with your thyroid gland.

Answered by Dr Sarah Jarvis.


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