On Monday of this week, the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Health Information released a joint 62-page report on obesity in Canada (PDF). Dr. Arya Sharma is an internationally-renowned Canadian obesity researcher who referred to this report as “thoughtful, insightful, and thorough…”
I’ve been reading Dr. Sharma’s blogs for a while, and this is a guy who doesn’t pull punches. He had largely good things to say about the report, but criticised the way the media covered it.
Dr. Sharma pointed out some important aspects of the report, such as “Research has identified a number of determinants associated with obesity, including physical activity, diet, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, immigration, and environmental factors.” Also, “…the patterns involved are complex, and determinants are interconnected.”
But the media seemed to interpret one portion and latch onto it as a “eat less, move more” (ELMM) platitude that simplifies the extremely complex problem of obesity to the point of ridiculousness. On a population-wide scale, ELMM ignores biological, genetic, societal, environmental, historical and even psychiatric determinants of obesity.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it’s that nothing is ever simple. Things are not black and white, and answers to complex problems are equally complex.
That being said, we’re talking about a population-wide obesity epidemic here, so what does ELMM have to contribute at the individual level? After all, if you’re overweight you’re probably concerned mostly about you, correct?
Well, this is where ELMM might have some merit, but it still must be couched within the understanding of the more complex issues at hand, like the types of food we eat, where the hidden calories lie, environmental factors that lead to over-consumption and inactivity, the way you’ve been brainwashed by the “wild west of weight loss” industry into thinking there is some kind of miracle cure. It’s a long list of factors that contributes to people being overweight in this country.
So what is the solution at the individual level? The answer is nothing that can fit in this one blog post, except to recommend that you focus on expanding your own knowledge base on this multi-faceted issue. A good place to start is by reading the report linked at the top and making your own judgments about it. A couple of other good sources of obesity information in Canada are to follow Dr. Yoni Freedhoff and Dr. Arya Sharma on Facebook.
Knowledge is power — the better you understand this issue, the better armed you are to do something about it on an individual level.