Much to the chagrin of activists who think that obesity is the new tobacco, new evidence published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine shows that healthy habits are just as important to a healthy life than low weight — if not more so. Perhaps that is why, much to the chagrin of New England Journal of Medicine authors, our life expectancies continue to increase.

As Britain’s Daily Mail reports:

[Researchers] found that obese people who took part in ‘healthy activities’ like eating five or more fruits and vegetables daily, exercising regularly, consuming alcohol in moderation, and not smoking, carried roughly the same risk of dying young as their thinner counterparts.

The Mail also quotes an Occidental College professor who comments on the findings, “We should reject the idea that fat people are ‘killing themselves’ with their extra pounds. It’s simply not true.” (Don’t tell MeMe Roth.)

We’ve been saying for some time that the single-minded focus on diet and body weight is misplaced. Indeed, at least one contributor to our longer lives has been linked with weight gain: People who quit smoking tend to gain weight.

Will these findings convince activists like Kelly “Twinkie Tax” Brownell that food punishment is not the way to better health? Of course not. It’s much easier (and more lucrative for governments) to pick a tasty target and tax it than to address obesity and health in a comprehensive manner.

Instead of waiting for public health activists to save us from ourselves, we should drop the fad diet book and put on some running shoes. It’s more likely to help.