French obesity and eating habits

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The Times has an interesting reports that obesity levels in France are rising. What's interesting here is the claim that eating habits are changing dramatically:
There has also been a breakdown in the classical French tradition of mealtime as a family ritual so disciplined and honored that opening the refrigerator between meals for a child was a crime worthy of punishment. A side effect is a blame-the-mom syndrome, as fewer mothers have time to shop at markets every day or two for fresh foods and instead put more prepared dishes on the table.

Findus, the frozen food giant best known for its breaded, frozen fish filets, filmed French people eating over a period of time and was shocked by the results.

Contrary to the myth that the French spend hours sitting around the table savoring small portions of several courses, the films showed them eating in front of their television sets, while on the telephone and even alone. In fact, the average French meal, which 25 years ago lasted 88 minutes, is just 38 minutes today.

and Japanese obesity levels--to cite another example of a famously thin people--though low, are also way up. If French eating habits are really changing this much--then this suggests that the impact of technology and changing lifestyles is extremely strong and that the sort of broad lifestyle change that anti-obesity activists want to effect may be ultimately infeasible.


Working NY Times link is here. This link will also continue to work after the article disappears into the NY Times archive (courtesy of the New York Times Link Generator.

The article doesn't mention smoking but I wonder if it's correlated with a decline in smoking?

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