ASDAH Gathers Health At Every Size Experts to “Debate the Weight of the Nation”

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The Association for Size Diversity and Health provides resources and an alternative viewpoint for HBO’s series deemed by ASDAH to be “Heavy on Fat Panic and Light on Proof”

It will manage to reinforce so many of the stereotypes surrounding people of size while fanning the flames of a nationwide obesity panic.

On May 14 and 15 HBO will unveil its new documentary Weight of the Nation. With its tagline “to win we have to lose”, the documentary purports to outline the dangers of obesity and offer solutions for this supposed epidemic. The documentary and its surrounding trailers, website, screening materials and vast marketing apparatus has caused deep concern within the Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) an international, professional organization committed to Health At Every Size® principles. Weight of the Nation is of particular concern to the leadership and membership of ASDAH as it presents larger body size as a dire health and financial threat to our nation without presenting or even alluding to the significant body of research that conflicts with this notion. Further, the documentary presents weight loss as one of the most important “cures” for this supposed national crisis without presenting a method for said weight loss that is scientifically proven to be successful in the long term. ASDAH has presented a point by point scientific debate of many of the issues on its “Debate the Weight (of the Nation)” webpage at The debate can be found alongside a number of other valuable resources created by noted HAES experts including ASDAH President Deb Lemire, Fall Ferguson, JD, MA, and Deb Burgard, PhD, FAED.

“While I’m sure HBO and those creating this documentary mean well, we fear it will do more harm than good,” said ASDAH president Deb Lemire. “It will manage to reinforce so many of the stereotypes surrounding people of size while fanning the flames of a nationwide obesity panic. This will be done on the basis of incomplete evidence (much of which is taken out of context) and will offer no scientifically proven method for long term weight-loss.”

The issue of long-term weight loss is an important one to many of the professionals within ASDAH. While many diets and other methods of weight reduction may be successful in the short term, there are no weight loss programs proven to be successful to any but a small handful of participants in the long run. There are no scientific studies that show statistically significant sustained reduced body size at a term of three to five years from initial weight loss.1

“Seldom are drop outs taken into account,” said Paul Ernsberger PhD, obesity researcher at Case Western Reserve University. “Drop outs from diet programs are people who either failed to lose weight or gained it all back. Also, studies fail to take into account that in the aftermath of unsuccessful weight loss resulting in a regain of the lost weight, many dieters will begin a new diet plan. The old diet that failed long ago will get the credit for the current drop in the weight roller coaster.”

A glance at the Weight of the Nation web page regarding “What Works for Successful Weight Loss” is a clear example of this phenomenon. The page cites statistics from the National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) on over 10,000 people who have lost between 30 and 300 lbs. and kept it off for more than one year. Given the fact that over half of the adults in our nation are on a diet at any given time, this is a fairly small number, and one year is well under the statistical tipping point where weight regain appears in the majority of cases. There is also no evidence given regarding how many times each of these people has tried to lose weight and whether that weight loss moves them from the obese or overweight category into another. What is perhaps of greater concern is the listing of several weight loss surgery procedures on this same page with no listing of the risks that may accompany these surgeries (including serious infection, malnutrition, need for additional surgical intervention or death) the common occurrence of weight regain among those undergoing these surgeries or even increased suicide rates.2

“What we have seen so far in the previews suggests that far from being an innovative take on the issue, the HBO series trots out the same tired assumptions that lack empirical support,” says Deb Burgard, PhD, FAED. “If we don't start asking the scientific questions about whether anyone has a way for the majority of people to sustainably change their weight, whether a weight-suppressed person has the risk profile of a never-been-fat person, whether our ‘obesity prevention programs’ increase weight stigma, or how weight stigma affects people across the weight spectrum, we will continue to throw away money and time that we cannot afford.”

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has released data that indicates that overweight people statistically live longer than their ‘normal weight’ counterparts and far longer than those who ‘underweight’.3 When exercise and diet are taken into account, even those in the ‘obese’ category live far longer than the media frenzy would have us believe. Several important studies have shown that behavior is a far better predictor of longevity than BMI and that even fat people who exercise live longer than thin people who don’t.4 And furthermore, the NIH data appears to indicate that obesity rates are not increasing exponentially, but rather are leveling off.

“The issues of weight, BMI and healthy behavior are consistently mixed up and oversimplified in order to increase readership, viewers and ratings,” said Lemire. “Although there is ample evidence that healthy behaviors are the key to longevity and quality of life independent of body size or BMI, showing headless fat people and fueling fat panic make for more popular articles and more exciting television. We invite the public to view our page at to review the evidence and draw its own conclusions.”

About Debate the Weight (of the Nation)
ASDAH is proud to offer a variety of tools and information at These tools include a point by point refutation of the Weight of the Nation trailer as well as an evidence-based review of the Weight of the Nation episode guide. Further information is available on the ASDAH web page at and the ASDAH blog at

The Association for Size Diversity and Health (ASDAH) is an international professional organization founded in 2003. It is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization, whose members and leaders are committed to Health At Every Size® (HAESSM) principles.

The Health At Every Size® (HAES) movement is a continuously evolving alternative to the weight-centered approach to treating clients and patients of all sizes. It is also a movement working to promote size acceptance, to end weight discrimination, and to lessen the cultural obsession with weight loss and thinness. You can learn more about ASDAH and the HAES model on the organization’s website at

1 Bacon, Linda and Aphramor, Lucy. “Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift.” Nutrition Journal, 2011 10:9.
2 Bennet I. Omalu, MD, MPH; Diane G. Ives, MPH; Alhaji M. Buhari, MA, MSIE; Jennifer L. Lindner, DO; Philip R. Schauer, MD; Cyril H. Wecht, MD, JD; Lewis H. Kuller, MD, DrPH. “Death Rates and Causes of Death After Bariatric Surgery for Pennsylvania Residents, 1995 to 2004.” Arch Surg. 2007;142(10):923-928.
3 Flegal KM, et al. “Excess deaths associated with underweight, overweight, and obesity." JAMA. 293[15]: 1861-7, 20 April 2005.
4 Farrell SW, Braun L, Barlow CE, Cheng YJ, Blair SN. “The Relation of Body Mass Index, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and All-Cause Mortality in Women.” Obesity Research. 2002 Jun; 10(6):417-23.

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