Overweight Americans have the lowest risk of premature death.

By Lisa Wade, PhD

Last year the Journal of the American Medical Association released a study aiming to determine the relationship between body mass index and the risk of premature death. Body mass index, or BMI, is the ratio between your height and weight. According to the National Institutes of Health, you are “normal weight” if your ratio is between 18.5-24.9.  Everything over that is “overweight” or “obese” and everything under is “underweight.”

This study was a meta-analysis, which is an analysis of a collection of existing studies that systematically measures the sum of our knowledge.  In this case, the authors analyzed 97 studies that included a combined 2.88 million individuals and over 270,000 deaths.  They found that overweight individuals had a lower risk of premature death than so-called normal weight individuals and there was no relationship between being somewhat obese and the rate of early death. Only among people in the high range of obesity was there a correlation between their weight and a higher risk of premature death.

Here’s what it looked like.

Above is two columns of studies plotted according to the hazard ratio they reported for people.  This comparison is between people who are “overweight” (BMI = 25-29.9) and people who are “normal weight” (BMI = 18.5-24.9).  Studies that fall below the line marked 1.0 found a lower rate of premature death and studies above the line found a higher rate.

Just by eyeballing it, you can confirm that there is not a strong correlation between weight and premature death, at least in this population. When the scientists ran statistical analyses, the math showed that there is a statistically significant relationship between being “overweight” and a lower risk of death.

Here’s the same data, but comparing the risk of premature death among people who are “normal weight” (BMI = 18.5-24.9) and people who are somewhat “obese” (BMI = 30-34.9).  Again, eyeballing the results suggest that there’s not much correlation and, in fact, statistical analysis found none.


Finally, here are the results comparing “normal weight” (BMI = 18.5-24.9) and people who are quite “obese” (BMI = 35 or higher). In this case, we do see a relationship between risk of premature death in body weight.


It’s almost funny that the National Institutes of Health use the word normal when talking about BMI. It’s certainly not the norm – the average BMI in the U.S. falls slightly into the “overweight” category (26.6 for adult men and 25.5 for adult women) — and it’s not related to health. It’s clearly simply normative. It’s related to a socially constructed physical ideal that has little relationship to what physicians and public health advocates are supposed to be concerned with.  Normal is judgmental, but if they changed the word to healthy, they have to entirely rejigger their prescriptions.

So, do we even have an obesity epidemic? Perhaps not if we use health as a marker instead of some arbitrary decision to hate fat.  Paul Campos, covering this story for the New York Times, points out:

If the government were to redefine normal weight as one that doesn’t increase the risk of death, then about 130 million of the 165 million American adults currently categorized as overweight and obese would be re-categorized as normal weight instead.

That’s 79%.

It’s worth saying again: if we are measuring by the risk of premature death, then 79% of the people we currently shame for being overweight or obese would be recategorized as perfectly fine. Ideal, even. Pleased to be plump, let’s say, knowing that a body that is a happy balance of soft and strong is the kind of body that will carry them through a lifetime.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(Photo reblogged from seriouslyamerica)
(Post reblogged from asleepinthestorm)


some chill positivity from a 1998 Sesame Street book about the letter F

(Photo reblogged from jumanjiwasunderrated)


Bharti Singh

(Photoset reblogged from chubby-bunnies)



Fatkini in the Keys!

(Not for porn blogs)

The epitome of carefree black girl.

(Photoset reblogged from fatbodypolitics)


forever love this photo of me.

(Photo reblogged from meganatee)


shout out to my 400+lb ladies who get almost no recognition ever in even body positive and fatshion spaces

you’re amazing, you’re wonderful, you matter

(Post reblogged from randomlancila)


We like this look worn by Jorge Garcia so much that we’re helping you make it yours in this week’s Well-Rounded Gent:

(Photo reblogged from thesizeissue)


US 18/20

Hi bunnies, I’m Brianna.

Today when I went to the bathroom to get ready, I looked at my body and I was so happy with what I saw. I feel great today, I feel beautiful. I love this feeling, and everyone deserves to feel this way. Y’all are beautiful, remember that.

(Photo reblogged from chubby-bunnies)

(Source: fuckingsushi)

(Photo reblogged from takingshape)

Love your Body- Abbie Bevan


Love your Body- Abbie Bevan

(Photo reblogged from cryssymcfatfat)


Your Body Is Beautiful And You Are A G o d d e s s 

Love this.

(Source: thewaywardqueen)

(Photoset reblogged from myhappyfat)

1964 newlyweds Margaret and John


1964 newlyweds Margaret and John


(Photo reblogged from sleepydumpling)


[Image Description: photo set a woc with short hair stands on a solid color wall in various photos. She wears a sleeveless sheer blouse tied in a knot at the waist and floral print leggings. In the first phot she is smiling looking at the camera. In the second her eyes are closed with a hand raised behind her head, the last she is looking to her side.]


I wore these leggings out on Sunday and even though I love them, I fucking hated them. I thought my legs looked too big (as I usually do) and honestly, I didn’t even want to look at myself. So, last night I decided that I was going to love them again. I found this shirt in the back of my closet, put on some makeup, and took these pictures.

Being positive about my body is so hard some days because truly, I’ve been told my whole life that my body is wrong and takes up too much space. But I’ve definitely come a long way. Last month, I would never have posted pictures that showed this much of my arms, stomach, thighs, etc. Last year, I would never have tied this shirt up, worn it without a tank top , and I SURE AS HELL would not have taken or posted pictures in it.

So these pictures are a giant FUCK YOU to everyone who has ever tried to make me feel bad about my body. It’s a fuck you to all of the people who wanted to like me in private because they couldn’t handle my body. It’s a fuck you to everyone who has ever offered me dieting or exercise tips that I never fucking asked for. And most of all it’s a fuck you to everyone who fetishes the fat body.

I don’t want your fucking help. I am not your fucking fetish. I will not hate my body to fit your standards

***DONT REBLOG THIS TO YOUR FETISH/PORN BLOGS that’s not what these are for

(Photoset reblogged from heckyesfatvisibility)

Stretch mark chub love!! US size 16-20, age 18
Come say hi at


Stretch mark chub love!! US size 16-20, age 18

Come say hi at

(Photo reblogged from chubby-bunnies)