We May Be Fatter, But We Think We Look Darn Good

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In a recent 35-page report, two economists attempted to explain whywe're all getting fatter. First, relative to consumer goods as awhole, the price of a calorie has dropped by 36 percent since 1977.

And, naturally, we tend to eat more as food prices decline. There'sanother factor at work, however, because although food pricesleveled off in the mid-1990s, we have continued to gain weight. Andthat factor is an upward adjustment in what we consider to beappropriate body weight. When we compare ourselves to everyonearound us, we think we look just fine.

The two economists, Mary Burke and Frank Heiland, studied theweights of woman between thirty and sixty years old from 1976 to2000. During that period, the women's average weight increased bytwenty unwelcome pounds.

In 1994, an average woman weighed 147 pounds but wanted to weighonly 132 pounds. By 2002, she weighed 153 pounds and wanted to weigh135 pounds. The numbers indicate that, in spite of recurringcontroversy over anorexic movie stars, there is less social pressureto be thin.

The fatter we get, the more our body image standards relax, andthat process, so to speak, just feeds on itself. The finding iscorroborated by an earlier study, which indicated that 87 percent ofAmericans, including 48 percent of the obese, think that their bodyweight falls in the "socially acceptable" range.

Source: EurekAlert; Social Dynamics of Obesity by Burke and Heiland

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