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The idea behind the study was to determine why, in most cultures, being slender is considered more attractive than being overweight, especially in the case of females.
They assumed the premise that thinness had some prehistoric evolutionary advantage, that the slender were more able to survive and reproduce than the corpulent, and that we have thus been programmed to view slenderness as more physically desirable. Low weight itself wasn’t sufficient, since the health problems and survival issues associated with being overweight were counterbalanced by the tens of thousands of years when excess weight was humanity’s best defense against its greatest ongoing threat: starvation.
The researchers began by calculating an optimal female weight, based on how the statistical likelihood of mortality correlated with rising or falling body mass indexes, and on the fertility rates associated with the same spectrum of BMIs.
Their mathematical model determined that the most attractive weight, at least in survival and reproductive terms, lay in a BMI range of 24 and 24.8.
If the researchers’ theory of attractiveness was correct, people shown a number of photos of subjects of varying weights would find those who were in that BMI category the most attractive.
The other school of thought is that we view thinness as more attractive because it is an evolutionary survival mechanism.
The idea here is that among early humans, the slender were more healthy, less prone to infertility or to such herd-thinning ailments as heart disease, diabetes and stroke, not to mention being able to run fast when their life depended on it.
I wrote that in an article for a magazine in the 1980s titled “In Sweat We Trust.” It has always been one of my favorite lines.
Sometimes as a writer you crank out a phrase that sticks in your mind as a possible genuine truth that you fortuitously happened to stumble over.
This isn’t to defend them, but they didn’t create our pro-thin bias, they just cater to it.
They’re guilty of pandering to an arbitrary and unfair social prejudice, but in my opinion they’re a dead end if you want to find the origin of that prejudice.
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