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This is Why Canada Needs COACH Now!

Yesterday, as widely reported in national media, Statistics Canada and the US National Center for Health Statistics released a study that directly compares the prevalence of obesity among adults in Canada to the number in the US.

The good news is that the prevalence of obesity among adults in Canada is lower than it is in the US (24.1% of adults in Canada vs. 34.4% in the US).

The bad news is that during the past two decades, in both Canada and the US, the rates of adult obesity have been increasing at roughly the same rates (about 10% points overall) with small, but perhaps interesting, variations across age groups – in men the greatest increase was among those aged 60 to 74; among women, the increase was highest among those aged 20 to 39.

The latter figure is particularly alarming because, with all of the accumulating data on epigenetic programming, where maternal obesity is literally transferred to her offspring via actual modification of their genetic code, we are in for an ever burgeoning epidemic of childhood obesity – one that is unlikely to be stopped by taxing pop or reintroducing 20 mins of daily phys-ed into school curricula.

As blogged before, we should now be seriously talking about actually providing obesity treatments to those already struggling with excess weight – perhaps starting with providing treatments for young moms and dads and those with severe obesity, who need it most.

Once obesity is established, simply preventing further weight gain can be seen as success. Without treatment, the currently over 6,000,000 obese Canadians will simply continue gaining weight, with all of its economic and health consequences.

Note that the solution for many may not be weight loss -after all, if simply losing weight were the solution, then this problem would not exist – I have yet to meet an overweight or obese person, who has never lost weight.

What Canadians need is access to weight management in the same manner as they would seek and receive management for their diabetes, their hypertension, their asthma, their depression, or any other chronic condition that affects their health.

Currently such weight management resources in our healthcare systems are beginning to emerge but remain rare and hard to find amongst the deafening cacophony of the commercial weight-loss industry.

This is exactly where the Canadian Obesity Awareness and Control initiative for Health (COACH) comes in – providing Canadians struggling with excess weight with reliable and un-biased information on obesity management and pointing them to credible weight management resources in their healthcare systems and communities.

The time for COACH is now – not once we have caught up with our friends south of the border. If anything, this report should remind us that without immediate action, Canada may well soon be where the US is today.

If you have not already done so – please show your support for COACH and help spread the message by clicking here.

Edmonton, Alberta


  1. I have to say I disagree with your assumption that once a person hits the obese mark they will simply continue to gain weight. If that were true I’d be as big as a house, literally, by now. The body has a natural set point, a range of approximately 10-15 lbs that we roam between once we become adults, provided that other factors like thydroid, diet and excercise, injury etc dont’ become a factor. Maybe, just maybe, some people are fat. It takes all sizes and kinds to make up a world, and fat people are part of it. The people who make up the overweight and obese catagories of the BMI ranges aren’t the people most people think they are. My BMI is into the obese catagory and many many people say “Oh, YOU’RE not fat!” if I use that adjective towards myself. The 1 or 2% of people who are into the morbidly obese catagory, the ‘headless fatty’ folks we see in the news, those folks are the ones people thing of when we throw around words like obese or fat. They’re people too, and yes, their fatness is ok.

    You’ve said repeatedly here at your blog and in the news that people can be fat and fit, fat and healthy, that not all fat people are lazy, overeat or are out of shape and that our media constantly pushes that false, negative stereotype. So why the change? Why are you pushing for COACH when your past statements have indicated that fatness is alright?

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  2. “Why are you pushing for COACH when your past statements have indicated that fatness is alright?”

    There is a big difference between a statement such as “fatness is OK” and asking anyone carrying a few extra pounds to lose weight.

    Yes, as repeatedly stated in my postings, not everyone with a BMI over 30 is automatically sick and you can be healthy over a wide range of body shapes and sizes.

    But this does not mean that when you have health or functional problems that are directly attributable to excess weight and undoubtedly get better with weight loss, I would not recommend treatment. Denying that for some people (and not just those with severe obesity) the health impacts of excess weight are both life shortening and debilitating is simply that – denial.

    Of course the solution is not to go out and start the next diet only to gain the weight back. Both the decision whether or not to treat as well as the long-term treatment strategies and goals have to be highly individualized – for some people staying just as they are may be the best (and only) solution – for others a modest 5% weight loss can mean coming off various medications or sleeping better – for others, bariatric surgery may be their only option to regain their lives, continue in their jobs, and care for their families.

    COACH will discuss, embrace, and promote all of these strategies.

    This is why COACH is NOT a weight-loss program or a new campaign to discriminate against or blame obese people or to simply make them feel worse about themselves.

    COACH is about providing reliable and research-based evidence to people who want it and have decided that they may need professional help.

    Finding professional help for dealing with excess weight-related health problems, is not, nor should it be, any different than finding a cardiologist when you have a heart problem, a diabetologist when you have diabetes, or a dietitian when you have celiac disease.

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  3. we are in for an ever burgeoning epidemic of childhood obesity

    Oh really? How can you be so certain ‘obesity scientists’ are not going to make any inroads into this, do you know something we don’t?

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  4. “How can you be so certain ‘obesity scientists’ are not going to make any inroads into this”

    I certainly do hope that obesity scientists are going to make inroads into this – it turns out that there is a lot of work going on in this are right here in Canada and maternal-fetal health is one of the major themes throughout the upcoming 2nd National Obesity Summit in Montreal in April.

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  5. This could relate to the higher grain intake recommended and achieved in the USDA food guide to Canada’s guide. There should be another line that says “It is recommended that obese people eat meat and vegetables only, and refrain from eating sugar in any form, grains, manufactured oils, and manufactured eatable products.” There is nothing like clear, simple direct and correct instructions.

    But what do I know.

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  6. Obesity being viewed as a chronic disease (and not only a cosmetic condition) is rather a new concept and even now not everyone view obesity as such. As Dr Sharma pointed out, as much as we have specialists in treating different medical conditions such as heart disease (cardiologists), joint disease (rheumatologists), etc., we don’t have specialists or enough resources for patients with obesity to go to. Programs such as COAH is providing a huge opportunity for Canadian dealing directly or indirectly with Obesity to be supported and taken care of. It is simply to help patients dealing with excess weight to go to the reliable local resources to manage their condition rather than wondering around and not knowing where to turn or which unregulated and unsure weigh loss program to choose.

    Let’s review the goal for COAH program one more time here;

    1) To provide Canadians with reliable information on the causes, consequences and treatment of obesity.

    2) To help Canadians identify credible obesity management resources in their health systems and communities.

    All it says is simply to provide help and support and hopefully in doing so increase awareness and prevent obesity epidemic from growing as fast as it does now.

    Thank you very much Dr Sharma for all you/CON are doing!

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  7. Having battled weight my entire life, one of the pieces I learned was how much my weight is a mental game. I learned that it wasn’t so much about finding the perfect diet, it was changing a lot of what went on in my head. I had to change my self-talk, my beliefs and thoughts about my self-worth and had to start to make myself and my health a priority. I also had to deal with the emotional issues I had around food and also figure out how my extra weight was serving me. Was it keeping me safe? Was it keeping people away from me? Did I use it an excuse for not dealing with emotional issues? I also had to learn what a healthy portion looked like and learn how many calories were in the foods I ate. I had to learn what healthy eating looked like and learn what worked for me. It is my opinion that addressing the issue of obesity is not a “one size fits all” situation. Being overweight is not simply a matter of making bad food choices or not exercising, it is has many layers of emotions as well. Everyone has their own unique experience with food and weight and until they have dealt with how they feel about themselves, the emotions that food can evoke for them, etc. it is almost impossible to find a long term solution to dealing with their obesity. Once they can get help with the mental part of obesity, then the medical and nutritional side of it will have a much better chance of success. I have seen this result in both myself and the clients I have coached as a lifestyle coach.

    I applaud the efforts of COACH. To this point, for a lot of people, the only source of nutritional and diet information has come from the diet industry who is not interested in helping people find permanent and lasting solutions to weight loss. The more information and assistance people can get, the better their chance of success. Every positive change people can in their lifestyles is a step towards better health.

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