The EconomistThe Economist

The economics of thinness

24 Dec 2022 · 11 min read

The discourse may have shifted towards prizing "healthy" bodies over thinness, but stigma against larger bodies persists; it can be measured by economic indicators.

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Mireille guIliano is a slim and successful woman. She was born in France and studied in Paris before working as an interpreter for the United Nations. She then worked in the champagne business and in 1984 joined Veuve Clicquot whose performance was, at the time, rather flat. She fizzed up the ranks and launched their American subsidiary. In 1991 she became its chief executive and ran it with great success. In her apartment overlooking downtown Manhattan, she offers a glass of water before quipping “You know how much I love water.” She is correct; drinking plenty of water is a key rule in “French Women Don’t Get Fat”, her bestselling book on how to lose weight and stay slim “the French way”.

In the book she describes her discomfort when as a teenager she gained weight while spending a summer in America. Her uneasiness comes to a head when she returns home to France and her father, instead of rushing to hug her, tells her she looks “like a sack of potatoes”. She goes on a new diet plan, remembers her old French habits (lots of water, controlled portions, moving regularly) and tips the scales back in her favour.

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