August 19, 2019


In 1969, Americans were, it would appear, much thinner — men and women equally. (That guy picking his way through the crowd at Altamont has not an ounce of body fat.) As it happens, this superficial impression is borne out by the available data, since in 1971 the average 19-year-old man weighed just 159.7 pounds, according to figures compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, and the average woman 131. A hippie now at Woodstock 50 — if such existed and if a planned anniversary concert had not fallen apart — would have added an additional 14 pounds to his frame and a woman another 20.

My own impression from being around a campus is that while older Americans started getting fatter in the 1980s, it wasn’t until after the turn of the millennium that you saw 19 year olds looking fatter, and the change seemed fairly swift. Also, the male students aren’t just fatter but it’s often a more female-like fat distribution — not the sturdy frat guy with a keg belly, but a kind of soft overall fatness, around the hips, lower back, and thighs. I suspect there’s something hormonal going on.

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