A recent YouGov survey has shown that COVID-19 has driven an astonishing quit rate amongst smokers. 1 million people have decided to pack in the cigarettes since the pandemic hit the UK, with young smokers under 30 being the most likely to do so. There are several explanations for this. With fewer social gatherings lined up and the closure of pubs and bars, young smokers have had fewer opportunities to smoke, and have felt more motivated to quit. Young people have also been hit hard financially by the pandemic – unemployment has risen to 13.4% amongst the age group 16-24, whilst they also make up a third of new universal credit claims. Given that young smokers are more price sensitive than older smokers, many have had to make the financial decision to give it up.
Because of the increase in quit rate, we believe it is really useful to understand how to manage snacking and eating behaviours – something that many smokers may not have had to think about much before. As smoking is an extremely addictive habit, it is unsurprising that quitting smoking often leads to the development of new behaviours, such as an increase in snacking.
This can be due to many factors, but emotional habit is one of them. As a cigarette is often deemed a ‘reward’ to smokers, or perhaps it is a coping mechanism for stress or anger, snacking naturally takes over here as a new form of relaxation. Eating releases the same feel-good hormone as does nicotine, and therefore ex-smokers find comfort in the hand-to-mouth habit of snacking in replacement of a cigarette. It is totally normal for your appetite to increase and food to start tasting better after you quit – which is an exciting thing, as you can start to enjoy food more!
We have several tips to avoid over indulging, weight gain, and bad nutrition - so that you can stay on top of your dietary choices:
- Choose your snacks wisely. Order a Healthy Nibbles snack box to ensure that you are snacking healthily. Why don’t you opt for a banana, or carrots and humous? The need to frequently have something in your mouth will fade over time, but make sure you keep nutritious snacks in reach for the time being.
- Drink plenty of water. Hydrating yourself will put cravings at bay whilst also helping to flush out any toxins once you stop smoking. Aim for 2L at least a day (try and up this to 3L over time). You’ll feel so much better for it.
- Avoid empty calories. Junk food has no nutritional value. Because of this, empty calories are quickly digested and you’ll end up feeling hungry again in no time. Make sure you’re eating whole foods. This will keep you full for longer so that overeating isn’t an issue.
- If you’re constantly feeling the need to reach for a snack, it’s probably because you’re bored. Go for a walk to clear your mind and suppress any cravings.
If you’ve just quit smoking – well done! If you haven’t yet, that’s ok too – start taking steps to make healthier lifestyle choices. It’s not always going to be easy. Trying different things to see what helps you beat the urge will be key, and it might take you a little while to get it right. Don’t be too hard on yourself.