Freedom from Emotional Eating, Food & Weight Obsession

Can You be Fat and Healthy? York University Study Finds Thin Isn’t Always Best

When I do speeches and when I do phone evaluations with potential coaching clients, and I say the health risks of being fat are commonly misrepresented, and steeped in myth and prejudice, I am often challenged…and sometimes not very nicely. But, I make it my business to keep up with the latest research. And we are seeing more and more (and more) studies like the one below.

Just so I am not accused of slanting anything to fit my beliefs, here is the press release announcing the study’s findings, exactly as written by the University that conducted the study. 

If you have a doctor, family member, or friend who keeps telling you to lose weight, without any specific reason other than the company line, “We know excess weight is bad for you!”, consider printing this study. Take the study with you to your next visit. Use it to shift the conversation to what you might do to get “healthier”, rather than “thinner”.


TORONTO, August 15, 2011 – A study out of York University has some refreshing news: Being fat can actually be good for you.

Published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, the study finds that obese people who are otherwise healthy live just as long as their slim counterparts, and are less likely to die of cardiovascular causes.

“Our findings challenge the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight,” says lead author Jennifer Kuk, assistant professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health. “Moreover, it’s possible that trying – and failing – to lose weight may be more detrimental than simply staying at an elevated body weight and engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” she says.

Kuk’s team looked at 6,000 obese Americans over a 16-year span, comparing their mortality risk with that of lean individuals.

They found that obese individuals who had no (or only mild) physical, psychological or physiological impairments had a higher body weight in early adulthood, were happier with this higher body weight, and had attempted to lose weight less frequently during their lives. However, these individuals were also more likely to be physically active and consume a healthy diet.

Researchers used a newly-developed grading tool, the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), which has been found to be more accurate than body mass index (BMI) for identifying who should attempt to lose weight. Developed by University of Alberta researchers, it is modelled on staging systems that classify the extent and severity of other diseases such as cancer, mental illness and heart disease. It offers five stages of obesity based on both traditional physical measurements such as BMI and waist-to-hip ratio, plus clinical measurements that reflect medical conditions often caused or aggravated by obesity (such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease).

Kuk stresses that in order to determine whether or not they should lose weight, individuals should see a physician to be evaluated using the EOSS criteria.

The study, “Edmonton Obesity Staging System: Association with Weight History and Mortality Risk,” is co-authored by Chris Ardern, Assistant Professor, York University; Timothy S. Church, Director of the Laboratory of Preventive Medicine, Pennington Biomedical Research Center; Arya M. Sharma, Professor of Medicine & Chair in Obesity Research and Management at the University of Alberta, and Scientific Director of the Canadian Obesity Network; Raj Padwal, Associate Professor, University of Alberta; Xuemei Sui, Assistant Professor, University of South Carolina; and Steven N. Blair, Professor, University of South Carolina.

York University is the leading interdisciplinary research and teaching university in Canada.  York University is an autonomous, not-for-profit corporation.


Ellen Shuman is a Life Coach who specializes in empowering people who are working on emotional and binge eating recovery. She is the founder of A Weigh Out & Acoria Eating Disorder Treatment, Vice President of the Binge Eating Disorder Association (BEDA), and Co-Chair of the Academy for Eating Disorders Special Interest Group on “Health at Every Size”,

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About Ellen Shuman

Ellen on the phone

I have worked in the Wellness Field for 30 years. I created an Emotional Eating & Binge Eating Disorder Recovery Program way before most people knew BED was an eating disorder, NOT a “willpower” issue. Personally, I suffered for years before finding answers and the help I needed and deserved! I became a Coach in 1997 to help others who were still suffering as I had. I love being a Coach!


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