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Is Obesity a Worthy ‘Cause’?

One thing I have learned as Director of the Canadian Obesity Network, is that ‘obesity’ is not a ’cause” that people will easily rally around – not even people who suffer from it!

Compared to the hundreds of millions that are raised each year to ‘fight’ cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, etc., fundraising to support obesity – research, prevention, or treatment – is virtually non-existant.

To drive this point home: the entire annual operating budget of the Canadian Obesity Network is less than $1 million a year – three fantastic and amazingly dedicated staffers and a few as committed contract consultants run the whole network and all of its activities.

Compare this to the actual size of the problem – just $1 from every Canadian, who is overweight or obese (or loves someone who is overweight or obese), would easily raise over $20 million to support CON’s activities.

Imagine all the work that CON could do with this kind of funding.

Imagine creating a Canada where all children and adults with excess weight

  • are treated with dignity, respect and fairness;
  • have equitable and timely access to credible health services to prevent and treat obesity;
  • can count on policy makers to address the societal ‘root causes’ of obesity.

Imagine the public campaigns that could educate Canadians about the very real emotional, physical and economic pain of weight-bias and discrimination that kids and adults with excess weight suffer everyday.

Imagine going to your doctor’s office and actually getting evidence-based and empathic advise on how best to manage your weight and related health problems.

Imagine going to your doctor’s office and NOT being told to simply lose weight, when weight is not your problem.

Imaging not having to wait for months (if not years) to see an obesity specialist or a bariatric surgeon.

Imagine public health campaigns that do not simply stereotype and blame Canadians with excess weight or reduce solutions to simply ‘eating more fruit and walking around the block’.

Imagine a Canada where policy makers actually consider the ‘obesogenic’ impact of their policies (food, transport, zoning, education, etc.).

Imagine a Canada where ‘fat-jokes’ and weight-based bullying are no longer acceptable.

Imagine a Canada where ‘average Joe’ actually appreciates the complexity of the obesity problem and understands why ‘shame and blame’ is not a solution.

Imagine a Canada where makers of ‘weight-loss’ supplements, diets, devices and services are held to the same ethical standards as providers of treatments for other medical conditions.

Imagine a Canada, where no health professional is licensed without demonstrating a sound understanding of the complex socio-psycho-biology of obesity, its prevention and treatments.

Imagine if we actually had obesity treatments that did not require surgery!

If any of the above goals are worth achieving – would this not be a worthy ’cause’?

Then why is it so hard to find organisations or individuals willing to support CON (current supporters excluded!).

Who does not have a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter, a friend, or a colleague struggling with obesity with nowhere to turn but the next (useless?) diet or exercise program?

Who does not wish that they or their loved ones could finally receive the best psychological and medical (or even surgical) help in a timely, equitable, and non-judgemental manner.

Which employer does not see obesity and related health problems cutting into their bottom line.

I, the directors and many dedicated members volunteer our time to the Network – but its staff and contractors expect a paycheck. All of the educational and training activities of CON also cost money, so does running a website, printing brochures, publishing CONDUIT magazine, meeting with policy makers, supporting the student networks, and all the other activities that the network engages in to realise its vision.

Perhaps my readers have ideas on how to better make obesity a ’cause’ worth giving to and supporting.

Perhaps my readers know of individuals or organisations, who believe in the mission and vision of the Canadian Obesity Network.

All ideas are appreciated!

Thanks to all the members, partners and friends who already support the Canadian Obesity Network – your help is very much appreciated.

If less than 5 cents per overweight Canadian got us here – how much further could we go with more?

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. No offense, but if you had $20 million you wouldn’t make a dent in obesity. Totalitarian outlawing of calorically dense foods is the only thing that will work.

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  2. Speaking as an old media hack here, I think what you need is a good media strategy. The absolute cheapest way to get anything you want is with PR, as long as it’s targeted properly. I’m a magazine editor and have also worked in various roles around newspapers and magazines and I know that if someone comes up with a good story, it gets run. Simple as that. Run enough stories and bingo! you’ve got lobbying power. What people get wrong is that what they consider a story and what the media considers a story are two different things. What you need is a strong, opinionated hook to get the ball rolling.

    The reality with public funding is that you have to have a passionate group of citizen advocates behind it. Heart disease and cancer get a huge amount of money simply because the people donating (wealthy older people) worry that one day soon they’re going to be suffering from those diseases. Spinal research gets very little, because the people most likely to have spinal damage are young males, a demographic with little clout.

    Obesity, to be brutally frank, is a difficult one because of the shame and stigma associated with it, and because it’s associated with poorer, less glamorous people.

    But the breast cancer people did it. When they started, both cancer and breasts were a taboo topic in the media. They broke through by having some high profile people speak out (thus removing the shame) and by showing that it was a disease that could affect your mother, your wife and so on. So what obesity needs is a couple of high profile people who have been affected in some way.

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  3. and in the mean time, I will not eat sugar in any form, grain, manufactured oil, or other manufactured eatable product and live in a “Paleo lite” life style.

    The medical advise, and popular media need to catch up with the Paleo community, where the weight problem is much smaller.

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  4. Over the last few decades, there have been so many about-faces and so much conflicting information disseminated on the causes of obesity that it will be hard to rally people to such a movement as you describe while the societal and individual causes are still in doubt (or are perceived as being in doubt).

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  5. Amen! Reminds me of that John Lennon song…but these imaginings are more attainable as out of reach as they seem at the moment…

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  6. “Imagine going to your doctor’s office and NOT being told to simply lose weight, when weight is not your problem.”

    ….what is the problem? If I don’t know that then how can I fix it?

    I have recently become involved with the weight wise program locally as a family member to a patient referred and I am not getting any answers there….it has been so discouraging to hear the same old messages about servings of food groups/activity and the way it is delivered wtih the same condescending attitude…. “you will get out of it what YOU put into it…..etc…I know there has to be more to it….because I could teach the course….but still I struggle personally with this issue of obesity

    I have been following these emails for almost a year and personally have learnt some things….I am overweight and have listened to the idea about the first step being no longer gaining weight….I haven’t, I have lost 13 lbs….I am being patient…I didn’t get this way overnight and it will take time to make lasting changes….drinking water, stairs instead of the elevator, a walk in the evening instead of tv reruns, taking the time to make fresh meals instead of eating out, finding balance between work and play….I am not sitting on a couch eating bon-bons…I work a 60 hour week minimum, have children to raise, work at staying married and maintain a house/yard….it is a journey and I am looking forward with hope to a healthy long life as a role model for my children….because as a mom….so much of it depends on what I do and say….one more thing to try and balance

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  7. You and your colleagues have the vision and the leadership which is a strong start. Set up an electronic donation link on your various websites. I’ll donate $20 a month.

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  8. I do consider all the ideas you have offered in your post. They are very convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too quick for starters. May you please extend them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

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