The most recent TIME magazine cover screams “How America’s Children Packed On the Pounds,” less than subtly suggesting that the article pinpoints the culprit behind America’s bulging waistline. It does. Only a few paragraphs into the report, the TIME author proclaims that “our eating habits are clearly responsible for most” of our extra weight. Far from “clear,” the allegation is flat-out wrong. And today there’s even some encouraging news that we’re living longer despite our love-handles. Take that, TIME.

Research continues to suggest food is not what’s making us fat. Though most of us occasionally splurge at restaurants, a recent economic study shows that we tend to eat fewer calories elsewhere (snacks and other meals) on the days we eat out. Factoring that into the equation, dining out only increases our daily consumption by a mere 24 calories, or less than a single Hershey’s Kiss — not quite the obesity-causing scourge that health officials have led us to believe.
This study is one of many in the growing body of evidence confirming that “healthy” doesn’t mean focusing on an exact number of calories or a few select foods.
Adding to that body of research, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that life expectancy for Americans has reached an all time high (yet again). This flies in the face of unfounded forecasts that obesity would lead to premature deaths for our children’s generations. Even The Washington Postwhich featured a host of obesity scaremongers in its recent childhood obesity series — noted that “the favorable trends appear to contradict reports of shortening life spans in some Americans.”
During the same years when our average weight has been increasing, deaths from heart disease and stroke have been plummeting. A 2007 study in JAMA found that physical activity levels, regardless of weight, determine morbidity. In short, it’s fitness, not fatness that determines our health. And sensationalistic magazine covers won’t change that.