It Was Easier to Get and Stay Skinny in the ’80s (Medical Fact!): Find Out Why

Jane Fonda
A new medical study shows that it was easier to get and stay skinny in the '80s than it is today. Harry Langdon/Getty Images

It’s not you, it’s the decade you were born into! A recent study in the journal Obesity Research & Clinical Practice found that a slimmer figure is actually tougher to maintain now than it was back in the ‘80s — and it’s not entirely our fault.

According to the study, an individual who took in the same amount of calories and performed the same amount of exercise in 2006 versus someone back in 1988 still weighed 10 percent more. Translation: something about the environment is making us heavier as a population.

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“Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you’d have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight,” Jennifer Kuk, a professor of kinesiology and health science at Toronto’s York University, told The Atlantic in a statement. “However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise.”

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Some of the ’80s most famous faces — including Jane Fonda, Michelle Pfeiffer, Cher, Kim Basinger, Daryl Hannah, and Pat Benatar — have spoken out about how they’ve worked hard to stay slim over the years.

Michelle Pfeiffer
Universal/Everett Collection

“Fitness — if it came in a bottle, everybody would have a great body,” Cher once said.

Fonda, who became an ’80s fitness icon with her bestselling workout tapes, similarly talked about body image after releasing a yoga DVD at the age of 75 in March 2013.

Pat Benatar
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“For a woman, making peace with your body is a work in progress,” she told reporters at the time. “I have spent time in therapy, written books that have helped me heal as well as helped others. For me, healing meant understanding that good enough is enough.”

Kim Basinger
Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Pfeiffer, who had to don a latex suit for her role as Catwoman back in 1992’s Batman Returns, once told E! News that “it was probably really unhealthy and it would literally just start to squeeze my skin” — her 2012 counterpart, Anne Hathaway, similarly told Allure magazine that “[the costume] was a psychological terrorist.”

“The suit, thoughts of my suit, changing my life so I would fit into that suit … It dominated my year,” she said. “I went into the gym for 10 months and didn’t come out.”

Daryl Hannah

Researchers are not yet certain what changes exactly have sparked this flux in weight gain, but three possible factors are an increased exposure to chemicals, a greater dependency on prescription drugs, and the actual gut bacteria within American stomachs.

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