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“Health At Every Size”.

 Image reposted from @notquitebeyonce

By Jessica Vander Zaag with an excerpt from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight © 2010 by Linda Bacon


Sorry it’s been a minute, life took a few weeks to kick me in the teeth. In case you’ve forgotten where we left off the summary is: dieting doesn’t work.

 “But!” you cry out, “What about ~*HEALTH*~?!”

I’m glad you asked.

 To answer I’m going to call upon the woman with the greatest name in the world of science, Linda Bacon.

Linda has devoted her career to researching the effects of weight-loss programs and health outcomes, and along the way created a movement referred to as “Health At Every Size”.

 There’s a whole book you can read on the subject, but for now let’s just challenge some common concerns:


“But being overweight means you’ll die sooner!”

Nope. As per Linda, “Almost all epidemiologic studies indicate people in the overweight or moderately obese categories live at least as long—or longer—than people in the normal weight category. The most comprehensive review of the research pooled data from 26 studies and found overweight to be associated with greater longevity than normal weight.3 Analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys I, II, and III, which followed the largest nationally representative cohort of U.S. adults, also determined that the “ideal” weight for longevity was in the “overweight” category.4


“But being obese would put my health at risk!”

Meh not really. “Epidemiological studies rarely acknowledge factors like fitness, activity, nutrient intake, weight cycling, or socioeconomic status when considering connections between weight and disease. Yet all play a role. When studies do control for these factors, increased risk of disease disappears or is significantly reduced.5 What’s likely going on here is that these other factors increase disease risk at the same time they increase the risk of weight gain.”


“But I’m determined to lose weight so I can keep it off.”

Sorry but no. “The vast majority of people who try to lose weight regain it, regardless of whether they maintain their diet or exercise program.6, 7 This occurs in all studies, no matter how many calories or what proportions of fat, protein or carbohydrates are used in the diet, or what types of exercise programs are pursued. Many studies also show that dieting is a strong predictor of future weight gain.”8-14


“But I just want to lose weight so I can live longer.”

Turns out that no one has ever shown that losing weight prolongs life. Some studies actually indicate that intentional weight loss increases the risk of dying early from certain diseases.”15-20


“But the only way for “overweight” people to improve health is to lose weight!”

Heck no! “Most health indicators can be improved through changing health behaviors, regardless of whether weight is lost.5 For example, lifestyle changes can reduce blood pressure, largely or completely independent of changes in body weight.1, 21, 22 The same can be said for blood lipids.1, 23, 24 Improvements in insulin sensitivity and blood lipids as a result of aerobic exercise training have been documented even in persons who actually gained body fat while participating in the intervention”.24, 25


Now that last point is key. Go read it again. You CAN improve your health, you CAN make positive changes, exercise WILL do good things for you, all regardless of how your weight changes. Maybe that’s not what you want to hear because you still want to look a certain way, and best believe we’re going to dive into the cesspool of fatphobia along this body image journey, but for now let’s change how we think of weight in relation to health.


xo jess

PS For more from the amazing Linda Bacon visit



  1. 1. Bacon, L., et al., Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic dieters. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2005. 105: p. 929-36.
  2. 2. Provencher, V., et al., Health-at-every-size and eating behaviors: 1- year follow-up results of a size acceptance intervention. J Am Diet Assoc, 2009. 109(11): p. 1854-61.
  3. 3. McGee, D.L., Body mass index and mortality: a meta-analysis based on person-level data from twenty-six observational studies. Annals of Epidemiology, 2005. 15(2): p. 87-97.
  4. 4. Flegal, K.M., et al., Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity. Journal of the American Medical Association,
  5. 293(15): p. 1861-7.
  6. 5. Campos, P., et al., The epidemiology of overweight and obesity: public health crisis or moral panic? International Journal of Epidemiology, 2005.
  7. 6. Miller, W.C., How effective are traditional dietary and exercise interventions for weight loss? Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999. 31(8): p. 1129-1134.
  8. 7. Mann, T., et al., Medicare’s Search for Effective Obesity Treatments:Diets Are Not the Answer. American Psychologist, 2007. 62(3): p.220-33.
  9. 8. Stice, E., et al., Naturalistic weight-reduction efforts prospectively predict growth in relative weight and onset of obesity among female adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1999.

67: p. 967-974.

  1. 9. Stice, E., K. Presnell, and H. Shaw, Psychological and Behavioral Risk Factors for Obesity Onset in Adolescent Girls: A Prospective Study. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 2005. 73(2): p. 195-202.
  2. Coakley, E.H., et al., Predictors of weight change in men: Results from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 1998. 22: p. 89-96.
  3. 11. Bild, D.E., et al., Correlates and predictors of weight loss in young adults: The CARDIA study. International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders, 1996. 20(1): p. 47-55.
  4. 12. French, S.A., et al., Predictors of weight change over two years among a population of working adults: The Healthy Worker Project. International Journal of Obesity, 1994. 18: p. 145-154.
  5. 13. Korkeila, M., et al., Weight-loss attempts and risk of major weight gain. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999. 70: p. 965-973.
  6. 14. Shunk, J.A. and L.L. Birch, Girls at risk for overweight at age 5 are at risk for dietary restraint, disinhibited overeating, weight concerns, and greater weight gain from 5 to 9 years. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2004. 104(7): p. 1120-6
  7. 15. Williamson, D.F., et al., Prospective study of intentional weight loss and mortality in never-smoking overweight U.S. white women aged 40-64 years. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1995. 141: p.1128-1141.
  8. 16. Williamson, D.F., et al., Prospective study of intentional weight loss and mortality in overweight white men aged 40-64 years. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1999. 149(6): p. 491-503.
  9. 17. Andres, R., D.C. Muller, and J.D. Sorkin, Long-term effects of change in body weight on all-cause mortality. A review. Annals of Internal Medicine, 1993. 119: p. 737-743.
  10. 18. Yaari, S. and U. Goldbourt, Voluntary and involuntary weight loss: associations with long term mortality in 9,228 middle-aged and elderly men. American Journal of Epidemiology, 1998. 148: p. 546-55.
  11. 19. Gaesser, G., Thinness and weight loss: Beneficial or detrimental to longevity. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 1999. 31(8): p. 1118-1128.
  12. 20. Sørensen, T., et al., Intention to lose weight, weight changes, and 18-y mortality in overweight individuals without co-morbidities. PLoS Med, 2005. 2: p. E171.
  13. 21. Fagard, R.H., Physical activity in the prevention and treatment of hypertension in the obese. Med Sci Sports Exerc, 1999. 31(11Suppl): p. S624-30.
  14. 22. Appel, L.J., et al., A clinical trial of the effects of dietary patterns on blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine, 1997. 33: p.1117-1124.
  15. 23. Kraus, W.E., et al., Effects of the amount and intensity of exercise on plasma lipoproteins. N Engl J Med, 2002. 347(19): p. 1483-92.
  16. 24. Lamarche, B., et al., Is body fat loss a determinant factor in the improvement of carbohydrate and lipid metabolism following aerobic exercise training in obese women? Metabolism, 1992. 41: p. 1249-1256.
  17. 25. Bjorntorp, P., et al., The effect of physical training on insulin production in obesity. Metabolism, 19: p. 631-638.

Excerpts from Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight © 2010 by Linda Bacon. More info at