Here on the West Coast, we have long prided ourselves on being healthier and slimmer than other Canadians. While we still lead the pack, our numbers are too high.
A new study from the University of B.C. says obesity in B.C. rose 25 per cent between 2000 and 2011. Across Canada, obesity rates have reached their highest point, with more than 30 per cent being obese in the Atlantic provinces, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
Fighting obesity is not a question of looking good in a swimsuit. What matters are the health risks. Obesity is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancers.
An estimate from 2008 put the cost of obesity to the Canadian economy at $4.6 billion.
There is no point in looking to government to fix the problem. Public education helps, but there is no tax or law that will substitute for making sensible decisions. It starts with parents educating their children and following up the good words with good deeds in the kitchen.
For some people, medical and genetic issues can defeat efforts to slim down, but for most, exercise and healthy eating are the key. Those who change their habits lead others by example, a much more effective strategy than the all-too-common one of shaming them.
Although government health-promotion campaigns are not the solution, they can help keep the issue in people’s minds. It is interesting that the two provinces with the highest per-capita spending on health promotion — B.C. and Quebec — have the lowest obesity rates.
The study does offer hope. The greatest increases were from 2000 to 2007. Between 2008 and 2011, the Canadian obesity figure rose by only one percentage point, to 25.3 per cent. The messages could be getting through.
It’s up to all of us to take responsibility for our health, not just in terms of obesity. Changing habits is hard, but the payoff is huge.
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