People who live large can be happy, group professes 

If you're happy and you know it, raise your fork.

To all those who believe the key to happiness is a healthy and fit lifestyle, at least one study and a few organizations might throw food in your face.

"Of course you can be large and happy," said Peggy Howell. "I love my body. I'm not trying to lose weight."


Howell is with the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA). The California organization started nearly 40 years ago to encourage and promote those who carry a few more pounds than the average person.

"Appearance is all subjective," she said. "It all has to do with what the present society has decided is acceptable because there have been certain periods of time when people of size were certainly valued and appreciated. The people who had the digestion and metabolism of fat people were the ones who survived famine when we were hunter-gatherers."

They may also be the ones who walk around with smiles on their faces and laughter in the voices more than fit and thin folks.

According to a 2005 study by researchers in Sweden and England, the larger a person, the higher the happiness. The research showed out of more than 1.2 million men surveyed over the course of several years, the higher up a male scored on the Body Mass Index (BMI), the lower the risk of suicide.

BMI is a mathematical formula widely used by physicians and researchers to indicate obesity. The formula uses a person's weight and divides it by their height to get a BMI score that ranges between 19 and 40. If a person has a BMI of 25 to 29.9, that is considered overweight. A score of 30 to 34.9 is considered obese and a score higher than 40 is labeled extremely obese.

Conversely, if someone has a BMI of less than 18.5, they are considered underweight.

The suicide study found for each five-point increase on the BMI scale, the risk of suicide dropped 13 percent. However, the researchers wanted to point out, "We would not recommend interventions to increase BMI to prevent suicide."

But for doctors like Gary E. Raskob, dean of the University of Oklahoma College of Public Health at OU Health Sciences Center, there is no evidence to persuade him being fat is being better.

"Nobody in the health profession is saying, 'Look, you're a bad person if you are overweight or obese.' That's not the issue. What we're saying is we now have lots of scientific data and evidence that shows being obese is definitely not good for you in terms of risk and health issues. And even overweight is an intermediate grade of being good for you. When people become overweight, they often continue on and progress to being obese."

What has Raskob so concerned are the obesity rates of children.

"For children born in Oklahoma and the United States after the year 2000, their chance of developing diabetes in their lifetime is one in three," he said. "About 25 years ago, that chance was about one in 30. The marked increase of prevalence of diabetes in our population has more than doubled over the last 25 years. This is being driven, about 90 percent, by weight and being overweight. It's not the type 1 diabetes, which is genetic. It's type 2 diabetes, which we used to call maturity onset diabetes that people would get in their 40s, 50s and 60s. Now we're seeing that manifest in teens and children, and that is entirely driven by overweight and obesity."

Raskob also argues obesity is driving up the cost of health insurance, but Howell called that a "bunch of BS." She and NAAFA believe health advocates who throw out cost numbers as a way to combat obesity are simply trying to help pharmaceutical and diet sales.

"Health insurance groups were formed so a variety of people, diseased or not, would all have health coverage," Howell said. "They would pay equally and share the burden of the costs of the health care for the whole group.

"Now it's gotten away from that. Now the greed has dominated the situation so much that insurers are saying, 'You're too fat; we're not going to insure you.' That's totally BS. That's what they were formed for in the first place."

But Howell and Raskob do agree on one thing: No one should be discriminated against due to their size. Howell said that has become the main focus of NAAFA.

"Forty years ago when we started, there was nothing out there to support people of size in any way. But over the past 10 years or so, there have been social groups pop up all over the country. These people hold dances and parties for people of size. Their main focus is on socializing. Our main focus has gone toward the civil rights portion." "Scott Cooper

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Scott Cooper

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