Thinness and obesity: A model of food consumption, health concerns, and social pressure
The increasing concern of the policy maker about eating behaviour has focused on the spread of obesity and on the evidence of people dieting despite being underweight. As the latter behaviour is often attributed to the social pressure to be thin, some governments have already taken actions to ban ultra-thin ideals and models. This paper proposes a theoretical framework to assess whether increasing the ideal body weight is socially desirable, both from a welfare and a health point of view. We first show that being underweight and being overweight are possible outcomes of a rational eating model. Then, assuming that people are heterogeneous in their healthy weights but exposed to the same ideal body weight, we show that increasing the thin ideal weight can be welfare improving, but may exacerbate the obesity epidemic.
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