Goldfish Syndrome: the Real Reason Americans Are Fat

August 29, 2006

Want to know the real reason Americans are gaining weight? Never mind all the theories about inactivity, portion size, corn syrup consumption and growth hormones; it’s all about living space. Just as goldfish grow when transferred to a larger bowl, Americans are expanding to fit their homes.

Consider these numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the 1960s and 70s, we gained weight relatively slowly. But from the 1980s on, the average weight rose dramatically:

Average of US Males, in Pounds
1960: 166 (average height 68 inches)
1970: 172
1980: 173
1990: 182
Now: 191 (average height 69.5 inches)

You can see a similar pattern in US Census housing data:

Average New Home Size, in Square Feet
1960 1200
1970 1525
1980 1595
1990 1905
Now: 2225

Not convinced? Consider the folks who live in relatively small spaces: prison camp inmates, soldiers, New Yorkers. They are relatively slim.

There is one anomaly that threatens to disprove my theory: the poor. Goldfish Syndrome would predict fashionably slim folks inhabiting trailer parks, and 300-pound multi-millionaires rolling about in 20,000 square foot McMansions. Instead, we get the opposite. Perhaps this is a function of kitchen proximity. When you are so rich that the kitchen is located in another zip code, a larger home actually becomes a weight loss advantage.

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6 Responses to “Goldfish Syndrome: the Real Reason Americans Are Fat”

  1. anneandper Says:

    Maybe if I make a bed out of a small box then I can lose weight while I sleep.. –Per

  2. meme Pellegrino Says:

    Obese children: Weight is so easy to put on for children because their mothers are always feeding them…all through the day…after school they get a snack…after playing they get a snack…before bed they get a snack…first thing the teacher does is ask, anyone hungry?…they get another snack…must have a sweet with lunch, along with soda…poor children, their body is always wanting food as that is the way their stomachs have been bought up…

    • Paula Says:

      LOL — that’s how I was brought up in the 1980’s and NONE OF US WERE FAT. My grandma made pies, cakes, orange popcicles, home made cinnamon rolls, home made bread and home cooked rich meals and she was a great cook and always had a Dr,Pepper in hand. She never was overweight nor were the people in my family – at all.

      My kids have to eat a bunch of health food but have trouble maintaining a healthy weight.

      Like the Gold Fish idea — lol. I guess a cow raised on 50 acres of grass should be a lot bigger then a cow raised on a half acre pasture right?

  3. kaitlyn Says:

    this statement is completely ridiculous.
    the people you mentioned that live in small spaces, people in prisons, and military workers, they are on a restricted diet!!!
    as for newyorkers, the pressure to be an ideal weight is much higher than that of most cities. which is reasonable, it is a city of fashion. how many obese models do you see???
    when goldfish are transferred into a larger bowl, they dont grow more obese, they grow more towards their adult size. so, if your theory was even remotely correct, then all children live in small spaces, and all full grown adults live in huge spaces. also jockeys must have no space to live at all, and basketball players, famous or not, all live in the biggest mansions on the planet.

    c’mon put a bit of thought into your ideas. dont be ridiculous.

  4. goldfish Says:

    It’s a valid point however, I think the real reason is mainly due to the fact that technology is rapidly changing and as a result we are basically just getting lazier and lazier.

  5. jay Says:

    judging by the statistics average weight went up 30 pounds whereas homesize nearly doubled.


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