Thinking Thin

By Megan McArdle

Reader Susan from LA writes:

I wanted to comment on your Bloggingheads event with David Frum and his total non-responsiveness to your theory about why people overeat. As someone who works in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles--land of the perfect body--I totally agree that government pressure will do nothing to make people lose weight. People will only give up one pleasure in exchange for a more intense pleasure. And if you're poor and miserable, and eating is the high point of your life, you'll always reach for the cheetos.

I suspect the only way people will change their behavior is a sudden desire to move up the social ladder. Being thin and attractive gives you a competitive edge, especially if you live in a city with lots of talented people. The moment someone I know suddenly gets ambitious, or makes partner, or needs investors, they start losing weight. In California, being fat will hurt any career, whether you're a doctor, lawyer or accountant. We all take our cues from television/movie industry and the message is clear: you must be sexually appealing, no matter what you do. And so we tune out the Dominos commercials and reach for the tuna. Thank God for sushi, or we'd all go crazy.

No one I know is starving, but no one is ever full. But the point is we're compensated in other ways...

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2009/08/thinking-thin/23681/