DALLAS—The number of Americans who smoke is down to about 20% while in the 1960's the number was 46%--and we were thinner then.
Today an estimated 30% of Americans are overweight and a new study finds that it's because fewer of us are smoking.
"I gained a little bit of weight," Julie recalled. "I tried to quit smoking but it really didn't work."
Researchers studied the prevalence of obesity in two similar groups of people--in 1979 and 1997--25 years apart.
They looked at everything from physical activity, the number of restaurants and cigarette smokers--then and now--and found that the decline in cigarette smoking was responsible for about 2% of today's weight gain.
Julie Conary is a dietitian at Texas Health Plano where she she's people struggling with weight gain after they stop smoking.
She said nicotine acts as a stimulant and speeds up your metabolism--it also suppresses the urge to eat.
"One of the main reasons people gain weight after they quit smoking is they have that oral fixation," Conary said. "That hand to mouth habit where they replace cigarettes with food."
Julie said that's exactly what happened to her--she replaced as many as three cigarettes an hour with snacks.
"Yes," Julie chuckled. "Yes, I sure was."
Conary said Julie isn't alone.
"Some people will gain weight when they stop smoking, not like that feeling and go back to smoking as a result." But Conary said you don't have to pick your poison.
People can stop smoking and keep the weight off by starting an exercise program and trading junk food for healthy snacks.
You can have the best of both worlds.
"Well, it's better to control your weight gain after you quit smoking," Conary said. "Even if you gain five pounds that is far better than a lifetime of smoking as far as your risk."
Julie vowed to try to quit again--hopefully without the weight.
"It was just a habit and I took it up again," Julie said.