A new study in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism says that sometimes it is totally healthy to be fat. Really! While studying the uses of the Edmonton Obesity Staging System (EOSS), a recently proposed means of measuring obesity that is more complex than a Body Mass Index (which has problems), researchers at York University found numbers that "challenge the idea that all obese individuals need to lose weight,” according to lead author Jennifer Kuk.

"Moreover," says Kuk, "it’s possible that trying—and failing—to lose weight may be more detrimental than simply staying at an elevated body weight and engaging in a healthy lifestyle that includes physical activity and a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables." To come to this heartening conclusion Kuk and her peers looked at data for 6,000 obese Americans over a 16-year period, comparing their mortality risk with those of leaner Americans.

Some of the team's findings were pretty obvious ("lifestyle behaviors clearly have an effect on health" and those higher up on the five-stage EOSS scale are "less likely to be dieting, to eat adequate fruits and vegetables, and to be previous smokers") but some were less so. Like, those with higher body weights early in life often end up on the healthier side of the EOSS scale, even if they aren't stick thin ("Though speculative, it may be that individuals who develop obesity earlier in life exhibit an adaptive capacity, or perhaps these individuals are naturally predisposed to higher body weights because of higher insulin sensitivity—a factor associated with greater weight gain"). And interestingly, what may in fact be worse for your health than being fat is being fat and constantly letting your weight fluctuate through cyclical dieting (though, like everything, more research is required).

Really though, the paper makes yet another solid argument that we can use a better model for deciding when people are fat than BMI. It also serves to make us feel slightly better about all the ice cream we ate while watching the rain yesterday.