What slim looked like in 1940 – ctd.

Contrarian reader Stan Jones offers further evidence of 21st Century North America’s altered perception of weight: Footage of the Benny Goodman Orchestra playing Sing, Sing, Sing in 1937. Those are some skinny musicians. Note especially Harry James, whose solo begins 38 seconds into the tune:

(That is, of course, Gene Krupa on drums, and Goodman himself on clarinet.)

As a former TV host, Glennie Langille has first hand experience with society’s social expectations around weight. She offers a skeptical view of the notion that skinny equals healthful:

My first observation is that the original photo of Kennedy makes him appear to have an enormous head. This is a look normally associated with especially thin tv actresses creating the “lollipop” effect. As a former tv host, I am aware this is also the look preferred for that profession. But it strikes me the real reason the boy was thin was because he smoked and he was young.  Those two things make for a slim appearance. It should not be confused with a healthy person.

Greg Beaulieu also wonders about the role of that other health policy priority, smoking cessation:

As Scott [Logan] states, it is a hugely complex issue, but fundamentally it comes down to what you eat and how much physical activity you perform. Over the generations both of those variables have changed dramatically. While this generation has made a mega-industry out of the exercise/fitness segment, it also consumes things that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers would find astounding. To use just one example, I am old enough to remember when hamburgers and french fires were a rare treat, and not a lunch staple as they are for some these days.

I found one aspect of Scott’s comments thought-provoking. He noted the changes made in society’s attitudes towards smoking. While smoking is undeniably a filthy, deadly habit, I wonder if I am the only one who has noticed that as the smoking rate goes down, the obesity rate goes up? It is not surprising given the well-known connection between quitting smoking and gaining weight. But I wonder if the success our governments and public health agencies have had in demonizing smoking has inadvertently led to the increase in obesity? Are these unintended consequences that are their fault? Is the fat, so to speak, on their hands? And if so, what does it mean for other attempts by such agencies to affect the behavior of the population as a whole?

Since we will all die eventually, perhaps some enterprising economic analyst could delve into the cost-benefit quotient of spending public funds on attempting to keep people from killing themselves. Just a thought.

There’s little doubt that people who quit smoking often put on weight, but so do plenty of people who never smoked. Blaming the entire change, or much of it, on those pesky policy-makers who nagged us to quit smoking seems a tad convenient.