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Kirkey: Three-Part Series on Obesity

Over the past three days, newspapers across Canada have been publishing a three-part series on obesity by CanWest’s Sharon Kirkey.

For this mini-series, Sharon spoke to many prominent and outspoken Canadian Obesity Network members including Valerie Taylor (McMaster), Eric Doucet (Ottawa), Nikolas Christou (McGill), Robert Ross (Queens), Yoni Freedhoff (Ottawa) and researchers from the US on a wide range of subjects relevant to this topic. She also interviewed a number of people who have struggled with obesity and its many physical and psychosocial consequences.

As expected, not all experts agree on every aspect of the debate and some statements are clearly more controversial than others. Nevertheless, I would certainly view the articles as a balanced and insightful view of the true causes of the obesity epidemic and the possible solutions (or rather the barriers to solutions).

For those who missed the series, here are the links:

Part 1: The exercise myth: Physical activity plays an important role in healthy living, but it’s not enough to make you lose weight.

Part 2: The trouble with food: A look at the science and psychology of overeating.

Part 3: Fighting an epidemic: A search for the solution.

While readers may criticize that many topics relevant to the obesity discussion were not mentioned (e.g. gut bacteria, genetic programing, sleep deprivation, etc.), remember, this was a three-part not a ten-part series on this topic. 

Noticeably, the same articles appeared under different headings in different papers, in some with more controversial titles than in others (I guess the local editors wanted to add their own spin to attract readers).

Although, I believe that the articles do discuss both sides of the debate on each of the topics,  I am sure that the critics will find their pet-topic under- or mis-represented.  Indeed, I am convinced that many readers, especially those with their usual grudge and bias against obese people as well as those who have all the (simple) answers, will probably be unhappy.

I can only commend the editors of these papers (and of course Sharon) for taking on this important topic and not shying away from controversy, which I know these articles will provoke.

The more open debate we have on this subject, the better.

Appreciate views from any of my readers, who have read these articles.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. re part 2: the science and psychology of overeating

    That’s me.
    After years of gain-diet cycles I decided that “EATING MAKES ME HUNGRY”
    Nice to know I’m not the only one.

    I’ve also decided that “FAT IS A HIJACKING ALIEN PARASITE”
    Fat is not inert. It takes over my body, sucks the life out of it, and makes me hungry to trick me into feeding it.

    I’m more into metaphor than molecules, but I wonder if there’s any basis to my feeling that the fat itself distorts hunger.

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  2. >Anonymous.

    You may be right that fat has some particular effects on taste and hunger – check out today’s post on this topic.


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  3. hi Arya
    I was pleased you posted this. I thought it was fairly comprehensive with a broad selection of experts in the area. I didn’t read Sunday’s column but thought that the primary care piece wasn’t covered in much detail. It was alluded to but not directly addressed. Your thoughts?

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  4. >Lisa: thought that the primary care piece wasn’t covered.

    I agree, there is much more to be said about how we are actually providing treatments for obesity in Canada. The articles talk much about bariatric surgery, but this of course only addresses extreme obesity.

    Unfortunately, most primary health care professionals still do not see providing obesity counseling as part of their jobs and spend far more time treating diabetes, hypertension of the many other consequences of obesity rather than obesity itself.


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  5. I read part 2 only as I thought it would most interest me, and boy was I right. So much of this article is true for me. Food being an addiction? Check. Needing more to be satisfied? Check.
    I quit smoking and caffeine 3 years ago after a health scare. I was already obese and the weight came on even more after that. I began to realise, slowly – it took me three years – that I handled food the same way as I handled ‘trying’ to quit smoking throughout my life, before I went cold turkey and quit for good.
    When I was trying to quit, I would lie, cheat, steal…okay, maybe not steal…anything to get that next smoke. And I realised I was doing the same with food.
    I would go through a fast food drive through and order THREE burgers. I would tell myself I was going to feed one to the dog, he needed a treat too. Want to know what kind of dog I have? A 10 pound shihtzu. Guess how much burger he can eat….no very much.
    I would tell my family I hurt my back, my foot, my finger….and therefore couldn’t cook, in order to get that restaurant meal. I would trick myself every day to get down from my office to the food fair.
    Then I started to realize that food was now my cigarette. It was an addiction same as any drug, just as it says in the article. No doubt in my mind this is true. If I had never quit smoking I never would have seen the similarities.
    It’s good though because now I am treating overeating like an addiction and it seems to be working. I am losing weight. I have set rules for myself and I am following them, but boy it takes alot of will power. I have to change the channel if a restaurant or fast food comes on the radio or TV.
    I think about food constantly, am planning my next meal every minute, but at least now it’s low-fat, fresh ingredient meals. I think every day that I’m not going to make it, just like an addict. We have to eat, after all. We don’t have to smoke. But every day I find a reason to stick to it one day more.
    Thanks for posting this and letting me see in print what I have beleived for a while now.

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  6. Gopher: It is amazing how well you describe your food “addiction”. I have heard similar stories from hundreds of patients. Check out the many posts on “addiction” on my blog – you’ll be happy to see how much the science on this has advanced.

    Thanks for sharing!


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    You might find this article interesting. I believe that mislabeling of foods is one cause of obesity that must be clearly addressed in order to reduce the problem. Also I think that it’s a good idea to pressure the food industry to halve dish and portion sizes. The amount of calories in some of our foods is astounding.

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