Thursday, August 28, 2014

Call For Abstracts: Canadian Obesity Summit, Toronto, April 28-May 2, 2015

COS2015 toronto callBuilding on the resounding success of Kananaskis, Montreal and Vancouver, the biennial Canadian Obesity Summit is now setting its sights on Toronto.

If you have a professional interest in obesity, it’s your #1 destination for learning, sharing and networking with experts from across Canada around the world.

In 2015, the Canadian Obesity Network (CON-RCO) and the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons (CABPS) are combining resources to hold their scientific meetings under one roof.

The 4th Canadian Obesity Summit (#COS2015) will provide the latest information on obesity research, prevention and management to scientists, health care practitioners, policy makers, partner organizations and industry stakeholders working to reduce the social, mental and physical burden of obesity on Canadians.

The COS 2015 program will include plenary presentations, original scientific oral and poster presentations, interactive workshops and a large exhibit hall. Most importantly, COS 2015 will provide ample opportunity for networking and knowledge exchange for anyone with a professional interest in this field.

Abstract submission is now open – click here

Key Dates

  • Abstract submission deadline: October 23, 2014
  • Notification of abstract review: January 8, 2014
  • Early registration deadline: March 5, 2015

For exhibitor and sponsorship information – click here

To join the Canadian Obesity Network – click here

I look forward to seeing you in Toronto next year!

@DrSharma
Montreal, QC

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Who Likes Fat Jokes?

sharma-obesity-not-funnyAs I prepare for my upcoming comedy show, “Weighty Confessions of an Obesity Guru” at the 33rd Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, I am swamped with media interest in the notion of someone doing comedy on obesity.

Obviously, anyone who knows me or has been to one of my shows knows that I do not make “fat jokes” – or jokes about fat people.

This may be surprising to many in the comedy industry, as there is no shortage of comedians who think fat jokes are funny – and they apparently have the audiences that agree.

So, one may ask, who are these people who laugh at fat jokes?

This question was recently studied by Jacob Burmeister and Robert Carels in an article published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

The researchers examined the responses of 500 individuals who viewed 7 video clips from popular film and TV programs featuring weight-related humor.

Participants were asked to rate each clip on a number of dimensions including funniness and offensiveness.

They also completed measures of attitudes and beliefs toward obesity including dislike for obese persons, belief in the controllability of body weight, and a belief in stereotypes about obese persons.

As the researchers (and most of us would have predicted), the greater the participants’ dislike for obese persons and their belief in disparaging stereotypes about obesity, the funnier they thought the jokes were.

Similarly, the more the participants believed in disparaging stereotypes about obesity and that obesity is controllable, the less likely they were to consider weight-related humor distasteful.

While none of this is surprising, these finding do align nicely with disparagement humor theory.

Thus, the widespread use of weight-related humor is nothing else than a direct reflection of the widespread misconceptions and stereotypic beliefs about obesity that feed weight bias and discrimination.

These are exactly the issues that I aim to address in my show – perhaps it is now time to laugh about people who laugh at fat jokes.

@DrSharma
Edmonton, AB

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Your Body Thinks Obesity Is A Disease

sharma-obesity-adipose-tissue-macrophageYesterday, the 4th National Obesity Student Summit (#COSM2014) featured a debate on the issue of whether or not obesity should be considered a disease.

Personally, I am not a friend of such “debates”, as the proponents are forced to take rather one-sided positions that may not reflect their own more balanced and nuanced opinions.

Nevertheless, the four participants in this “structured” debate, Drs. Sharon Kirkpatrick and Samantha Meyer on the “con” team and Drs. John Mielke and Russell Tupling on the “pro” team (all from the University of Waterloo) valiantly defended their assigned positions.

While the arguments on the “con” side suggested that “medicalising” obesity would detract attention from a greater focus prevention while cementing the status quo and feeding into the arms of the medical-industrial complex, the “pro” side argued for better access to treatments (which should not hinder efforts at prevention).

But a most interesting view on this was presented by Tupling, who suggested that we only have to look as far as the body’s own response to excess body fat (specifically visceral fat) to determine whether or not obesity is a disease.

As he pointed out, the body’s own immunological pro-inflammatory response to excess body fat, a generic biological response that the body uses to deal with other “diseases” (whether acute or chronic) should establish that the body clearly views this condition as a disease.

Of course, as readers are well aware, this may not always be the case – in fact, the state of “healthy obesity” is characterized by this lack of immunological response both locally within the fat tissue as well as systemically.

Obviously, it will be of interest to figure out why some bodies respond to obesity as a disease and others don’t – but from this perspective, the vast majority of people with excess weight are in a “diseased” state – at least if you asked their bodies.

While this is a very biological argument for the case – it is indeed a very insightful one: it is not the existence of excess body fat that defines the “disease” rather, how the body responds to this “excess” is what makes you sick.

As readers, are well aware, there are several other arguments (including ethical and utilitarian considerations) that favour the growing consensus on viewing obesity as a disease.

Of course,  calling obesity a disease should not detract us from prevention efforts, but, as I often point out, just because be treat diabetes or cancer as diseases, does not mean that we do not make efforts to prevent them.

If calling obesity a disease increases resources towards better dealing with this problem and helps take away some of the shame and blame – so be it.

@DrSharma
Waterloo, Ontario

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fat Activism in Canada

Dr. Jenny Ellison, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Jenny Ellison, Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada

Yesterday’s opening plenary talk at the 4th Canadian Obesity Student Meeting, hosted by the Canadian Obesity Network’s Students and New Professionals (CON-SNP) network, was given by Dr. Jenny Ellison from the  Frost Centre for Canadian & Indigenous Studies at Trent University, on the history of fat activism in Canada.

In her talk, Ellison, presented a broad historical overview of how fat stigma and messaging around fat has evolved over the years.

From the early “Christian” view of obesity as a deadly sin, moral failing and lack of will power and the beginning of the obsession with body shape and size in the early half of the 20th century to the growing movement of fat acceptance and understanding of the negative consequences of fat stigma and fat politics for larger people.

She concluded with an overview of how informal networks within the fat activist movement are self-organising online sharing a wide range of information from finding physicians to identifying safe spaces where they can interact.

Ellison also complimented the Canadian Obesity Network on taking a strong stance against weight stigma and discrimination, thus opening up the possibility for a different future.

A recent paper by Ellison on this subject is available here.

@DrSharma
Waterloo, ON

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

4th Canadian Obesity student Meeting (COSM 2014)

Uwaterloo_sealOver the next three days, I will be in Waterloo, Ontario, attending the 4th biennial Canadian Obesity Student Meeting (COSM 2014), a rather unique capacity building event organised by the Canadian Obesity Network’s Students and New Professionals (CON-SNP).

CON-SNP consist of an extensive network within CON, comprising of over 1000 trainees organised in about 30 chapters at universities and colleges across Canada.

Students and trainees in this network come from a wide range of backgrounds and span faculties and research interests as diverse as molecular genetics and public health, kinesiology and bariatric surgery, education and marketing, or energy metabolism and ingestive behaviour.

Over the past eight years, since the 1st COSM was hosted by laval university in Quebec, these meetings have been attended by over 600 students, most presenting their original research work, often for the first time to an audience of peers.

Indeed, it is the peer-led nature of this meeting that makes it so unique. COSM is entirely organised by CON-SNP – the students select the site, book the venues, review the abstracts, design the program, chair the sessions, and lead the discussions.

Although a few senior faculty are invited, they are largely observers, at best participating in discussions and giving the odd plenary lecture. But 85% of the program is delivered by the trainees themselves.

Apart from the sheer pleasure of sharing in the excitement of the participants, it has been particularly rewarding to follow the careers of many of the trainees who attended the first COSMs – many now themselves hold faculty positions and have trainees of their own.

As my readers are well aware, I regularly attend professional meetings around the world – none match the excitement and intensity of COSM.

I look forward to another succesful meeting as we continue to build the next generation of Canadian obesity researchers, health professionals and policy makers.

You can follow live tweets from this meeting at #COSM2014

@DrSharma
Waterloo, Ontario

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In The News

Diabetics in most need of bariatric surgery, university study finds

Oct. 18, 2013 – Ottawa Citizen: "Encouraging more men to consider bariatric surgery is also important, since it's the best treatment and can stop diabetic patients from needing insulin, said Dr. Arya Sharma, chair in obesity research and management at the University of Alberta." Read article

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