Blog: Leonie BarrieFood for thought

Leonie Barrie | 6 February 2006

One of the best-selling diet books last year suggested that ‘French Women Don't Get Fat’ despite their fondness for eating cheese, bread, and drinking wine. And figures from the British Medical Research Council’s centre for nutrition seem to confirm that while half of all adults in Britain are overweight and one in five is obese, this compares with just one in 10 of the French population. But now the size myth has been exposed by none other than a fashion industry survey.

Like other well-publicised surveys in the UK and US, the French one involved 3D scanning of people across the country in an attempt to help the clothing industry understand – and respond to – the changing shape of its customers. French men and women are getting taller and heavier, and the average woman in France has gone up a dress size since 1970, the last time a similar study was carried out. Data shows that the average French woman today is just over 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighs in at 137.6 pounds, compared to 5 feet 2½ inches tall and 133.6 pounds in 1970.

Should the results really come as any surprise? Well, the French are still smaller than their US and UK counterparts, but a rise in the number of fast food restaurants and changes in eating habits that mean families forego meals at the dinner table are probably to blame for their expanding waistlines. As are demographic shifts, including higher numbers of immigrants in the population and a change in body shape that has come about from healthy activities such as sport. But what is probably more important is that the clothing industry sees these results as new fodder for change. If your French is up to scratch, full details of the survey results can be downloaded from the French Textile and Apparel Institute’s website:

The Institut Français Textile-Habillement


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