IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Epidemics of Abundance: Overeating and Slimming in the USA and Britain since the 1950s


  • Avner Offer

    () (Nuffield College, Oxford)


Body weight has risen in defiance of health and appearance norms. The social epidemics of overeating and slimming were driven by market forces and the psychology of eating: restrained eating is easily disinhibited by stress. For men, the rise in body weight was associated with the decline of family eating and exposure to greater food variety. For women, the ‘cult of slimming’ was associated with mating competition, driven initially by adverse sex ratios. Food abundance made a mockery of the rational consumer. Paradoxically, the costs of abundance fell more heavily on the poor, who have had less access to the resources of self-control.

Suggested Citation

  • Avner Offer, 1998. "Epidemics of Abundance: Overeating and Slimming in the USA and Britain since the 1950s," Oxford University Economic and Social History Series _025, Economics Group, Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
  • Handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_025

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    More about this item


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nuf:esohwp:_025. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Maxine Collett). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.