A survey finds America's attitudes toward overweight people are shifting from rejection toward acceptance. Over a 20-year period, the percentage of Americans who said they find overweight people less attractive steadily dropped from 55 percent to 24 percent, the market research firm NPD Group found.
With about two-thirds of U.S. adults overweight, Americans seem more accepting of heavier body types, researchers say. The NPD survey of 1,900 people representative of the U.S. population also found other more relaxed attitudes about weight and diet.
While body image remains a constant obsession, the national preoccupation with being thin has waned since the late 1980s and early 1990s, said the NPD's Harry Balzer.
Those were the days when fast food chains rushed to install salad bars. In 1989, salads as a main course peaked at 10 percent of all restaurant meals. Today, those salad bars have all but vanished and salads account for just 5.5 percent of main dishes.
"It turns out health is a wonderful topic to talk about," Balzer said. "But to live that way is a real effort."
Fewer people said they're trying to "avoid snacking entirely;" just 26 percent in 2005, down from 45 percent in 1985, while 75 percent said they had low-fat, no-fat or reduced fat products in the last two weeks, down from 86 percent in 1999, according to the survey.
At 5-feet-6-inches and 230 pounds, Lara Frater likes her body just fine and turns up her nose at trendy diets.
"I don't beat myself up if I have a piece of cake," said Frater, a 34-year-old New Yorker and author of "Fat Chicks Rule."
The survey's findings aren't that surprising, as attitudes about weight constantly shift, said John Cawley, associate professor at Cornell University's College of Human Ecology.
While heavy women were idealized at times, think "Rubenesque," a term born of 17th century painter Peter Paul Rubens' full-figured women, corseted women with tiny waists were preferred in other eras.
"I don't think we're going to go back to worshipping obese women, but it's interesting to see how attitudes change as more people become overweight," Cawley said.
Others argue that people are merely becoming more politically correct and that bias against fat people is actually growing sharper.