Evidence Gains: Where to Turn for Facts about Fatness

I was recently by asked for one of my friends for sources of reliable information regarding fat liberation, and I thought it would be a great idea to start compiling a list! Below, you will see sources of info that includes peer-reviewed journal articles, organizations that specialize in different aspects of fat liberation, and fat liberation activists who I admire.

This is not a list of watered-down “body positive” sites that refer to their thesaurus to figure out new and improved ways to talk about diets-that-aren’t-really-diets (spoiler alert: they really, really are) or pseudo-feminist justifications for pursuing IWL (intentional weight loss). Rather, these are either links to the studies that help debunk the fatphobic, sizeist paradigm that has been taken for granted for too long or links to the organizations doing the good work of disseminating the ideas of body liberation.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list (it’s not even a list of the majority of what I’ve read on the topic, it’s just what’s coming to mind to me in this moment), and I welcome additional suggestions in the comments!


Journal Articles

  • There is an AMAZING list of links to journal articles that are available online (as well as books and links!) through the HAES Curriculum that you can see here.
  • There are also links to articles related to size-based discrimination that you can see here.
  • Absolute Advantage, Vol. 7, Number 1: “Helping without Harming: Kids, Eating, Weight, and Health
  • “Health-At-Every-Size and eating behaviors: 1-year follow-up results of a size acceptance intervention” (Provencher V, Bégin C, Tremblay A, Mongeau L, Corneau L, Dodin S, Boivin S, Lemieux S.)
  • “Size acceptance and intuitive eating improve health for obese, female chronic dieters” (Bacon L, Stern JS, Van Loan MD, Keim NL)



The following cut-and-paste of some amazing, relevant quotations was supplied by the ever-awesome Amber Karnes (who y’all should absolutely know about, follow, and support!):

“Groundbreaking work on fitness and weight has been done by [epidemiologist Steven] Blair and colleagues at the Cooper Institute. They have shown that the advantages of being fit are striking and that people can be fit even if they are fat … and thus have lowered risk of disease. A remarkable finding is that heavy people who are fit have lower risk than thin people who are unfit.”
-Dr. Kelly Brownell, Director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders, 2003

“Consistently, physical inactivity was a better predictor of all-cause mortality than being overweight or obese.”
-Annals of Epidemiology, 2002

“There was a steep inverse gradient between fitness and mortality in this cohort of men with documented diabetes, and this association was independent of BMI … Obese men with fitness levels greater than the lowest quartile were at no increased risk for mortality when compared with men in the reference group.”
-Diabetes Care, 2004

“[A] fit man carrying 50 pounds of body fat had a death rate less than one-half that of an unfit man with only 25 pounds of body fat.”
-Harvard Health Policy Review, 2003

“We’ve studied this from many perspectives in women and in men and we get the same answer: It’s not the obesity—it’s the fitness.”
-Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, 2004

“In Greek schoolchildren, primary CHD [coronary heart disease] risk factors are mainly associated with physical activity levels, independently of fitness, fatness, and/or fat intake… It is noteworthy that the present data contradict recent reports citing obesity as the single most important contributor in the pathogenesis of CHD during childhood … Confirming a previous report in Greek children, we found that the CHD risk factors studied were not substantially affected by qualitative aspects of diet.”
-Archives of Disease in Childhood, 2004

“Active obese individuals actually have lower morbidity and mortality than normal weight individuals who are sedentary … the health risks of obesity are largely controlled if a person is physically active and physically fit.”
-The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, 2000

“Compared with normal weight, overweight and obesity did not significantly increase all-cause mortality risk. Compared with low CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness], moderate and high CRF were associated significantly with lower mortality risk.”
-Obesity Research, 2002

“Obese individuals with at least moderate CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness] have lower rates of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or all-cause mortality than their normal-weight but unfit peers. In fact, death rates in the former group are about one half those of the latter.”
-Editorial, JAMA, 2004

“Unfit, lean men had twice the risk of all-cause mortality as did fit, lean men and also had higher risk of all-cause mortality when compared with fit, obese men. The all-cause mortality rate of fit, obese men was not significantly different from that of fit, lean men … In summary, we found that obesity did not appear to increase mortality risk in fit men. For long-term health benefits we should focus on improving fitness by increasing physical activity rather than relying only on diet for weight control.”
-American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1999

“The report from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study presents convincing evidence that fitness is a more potent risk factor for mortality than is fatness … an effect of fitness that was statistically independent of the level of fatness was confirmed. The effect of fatness independent of fitness was less clear.”
-American Journal of Epidemiology, 2002

“If the height/weight charts say you are 5 pounds too heavy, or even 50 pounds or more too heavy, it is of little or no consequence healthwise-as long as you are physically fit. On the other hand, if you are a couch potato, being thin provides absolutely no assurance of good health, and does nothing to increase your chances of living a long life.”
-Steven Blair, P.E.D., Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, 1997

“This prospective follow-up study among middle-aged and elderly men and women indicates that obesity (as assessed by increased BMI) is not related to an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality, but low-level LTPA [leisure time physical activity] and a low level of perceived physical fitness and functional capability are … In conclusion, in contrast with our initial hypothesis, obesity was not found to be an independent predictor of mortality among middle-aged and elderly men and women. However, low-level LTPA seemed to predict and a low level of perceived physical fitness and functional capability predicted an increased risk of all-cause and CVD mortality among both men and women.”
-International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 2000

“An interesting finding of this study is that overweight, but fit men were at low risk of all-cause mortality.”
-International Journal of Obesity Related Metabolic Disorders, 1998

“Most studies of BMI and other measures of obesity have not adequately accounted for physical fitness, a known modifier of weight status and a potential mediator of the effects of obesity on CAD [Coronary Artery Disease] and adverse CV outcomes … Our data support previous studies showing that functional capacity appears to be more important than BMI for all-cause and CV mortality, especially in women.”
-JAMA, 2004


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