The 80s was a decade filled with neon colors, big hair, and unforgettable music. It was also an era characterized by leg warmers, high-top sneakers, and the meteoric rise of aerobics.

But beyond these fashion and pop culture trends, there was an intriguing phenomenon that often goes unexplained: it was easier to maintain a slim and slender figure back then.

As I dive into the past and reflect on the impact that the 80s have had on the American cultural zeitgeist, as I so often do, I can’t help but wonder what made managing our weight gain seem so effortless during that era.

So, join me below, and let’s take a trip down memory lane as we explore the various factors that may have contributed to this unique aspect of the 1980s.

I’m going to peel back the layers of this intriguing onion and reveal insights into a time when being skinny carried a different connotation, and unravel the cultural influences that shaped our bodies as much as they did our hair. So

Why Was It Easier To Be Skinny In The 1980s?

In the 1980s, it was easier to stay skinny because there were limited fast food options, we lived more active lifestyles, and our diets had far fewer processed options.

There was also a rise in fitness culture popularity and societal beauty standards were considerably more superficial, heavily emphasizing thinness and physical beauty over less appearance-focused traits.

So both diet and exercise played a significant role in shaping the landscape of weight management in the 1980s. However, to better grasp the extent of this phenomenon, we must delve into each element individually and explore their nuanced dynamics.

This study released by the School of Kinesiology and Health Science at York University found that it is actually more difficult for adults to maintain the same body weight than just 20 to 30 years ago.

The Factors That Made Being Skinny In The 1980s Easy

The Rise of Fast Food

One of the most influential factors why it was easier to be skinny during the 1980s is the fact that the fast-food industry had yet to achieve the inescapable dominance it holds today.

This meant that people had far fewer options for quick and inexpensive high-calorie meals on the go. Additionally, 80s fast food was healthier than it is today, with the average modern portion size now containing significantly more calories.

As a result, people in the 1980s were less likely to indulge in calorie-rich fast food, thereby attaining a healthier weight and waist-line with less effort.

Modern Fast Food Makes People Fat

Active Living Before The Digital Age

The 1980s was a time of awesome tech advancements, but smartphones, streaming services, and social media were still a far cry from reality. This meant that people in the 80s lived far more active lives than we do today.

Without the digital distraction imposed by modern technologies, folks were more often on the move, getting active and, consequently, staying fit. Outdoor physical activity, team sports, and simply hanging out with friends, were more common.

People then weren’t glued to digital screens 24/7 like the majority of us today, so it is no wonder that it was easier to be skinny in the 1980s.

Contrasting Food Environments

Believe it or not, food in the 1980s was different than food today. The widespread availability and rampant popularity of the processed, high-calorie foods that we eat today had not yet materialized then.

Convenience stores and supermarkets didn’t quite bombard their customers with overflowing sugary drinks, salty chips, and crackers, or shelves upon shelves of fattening candy.

Since the majority of people had access to generally healthier foods and home-cooked meals were more prevalent, individuals consumed fewer empty calories and, thus, had more control over their health and fitness.

The aerobics craze of the 80s kept people skinny

The Fitness Revolution

Speaking of fitness, the 1980s witnessed the rise of fitness culture and a newfound enthusiasm for exercise.

In the 80s people became obsessed with aerobics, jazzercise, Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda workout videos, racquetball, and home gyms.

These trends became cultural movements of sorts, and people of all types were always making an effort to work out and stay in shape.

Sweating it out to energetic music in brightly colored lycra and spandex is as 80s as big hair and shoulder pads.

Body Image Ideals

People in the 1980s were subject to a different set of societal beauty standards than people today. Notions of beauty and physical attractiveness placed a much stronger emphasis on thinness and being skinny.

Successful fashion models and popular celebrities almost always showcased slim figures, and popular media perpetuated the notion that being skinny was the only way to be fashionable or desirable.

This pervasive cultural influence, in stark contrast to the modern-day emphasis on natural beauty and body acceptance, undoubtedly generated societal pressures to maintain a slender physique, leading people of the 80s to work harder to stay skinny.

Ideal body size has changed since the 1980s

In Retrospect: The 80s And The Simplicity Of Being Skinny

For all intents and purposes, staying skinny in the 1980s was far easier than it is today.

During the 80s, people were generally more active and ate better than their modern-day counterparts. Aggressive body image ideals also played an important role in generating societal pressure to be skinny.

However, it is important to note that being skinny isn’t just about the era you’re in. Maintaining a healthy weight and fit physique ultimately depends on a mix of factors that also include genetic composition, metabolism, food intake, amount of exercise, and the choices you make.

At the end of the day, the most important thing to avoid obesity is to find a healthy balance of diet and physical activity. So, stay active, eat mindfully, and embrace body positivity. Do so, and you will find your overall health and well-being will improve regardless of the decade you’re in.