Why I Blog

In 2007 I moved to Edmonton to become the medical director of the Edmonton ‘Weight Wise’ Program (since February 2012 I am now the medical co-chair of Alberta Health Services’ Provincial Obesity Program).

Within a few days of taking the new job, I realised just how many people were directly or indirectly involved in this program. Not only was there the clinic staff but there were also the staff working in the community, offering classes on healthy eating and physical activity. Then, there were the many administrators and managers throughout the system, who had a say in what was being delivered in the clinic and in the community.

And of course, I had my own ideas about what an obesity program needed to look like.

This is what my first blogs were about. Blogging was simply the easiest means for me to communicate with my colleagues and staff as to where I thought we should be going – the vision for the program.

Many of my first posts were about who I met and what I did. They included brief commentaries and pointers to obesity publications that I thought were important to consider as we changed and built the program. They also included random thoughts that emerged from my dealings with patients, staff, colleagues, and administrators.

Almost five years and well over 1,000 posts later, I continue to post daily – now for a much wider, world-wide readership.

Every day, when I click the ‘publish’ button, 1,000’s of emails go out to readers across the globe – colleagues and health care professionals (for whom I primarily write) but also people struggling with obesity, their families, and anyone else interested in this subject. My audience even includes journalists looking for new stories and new angles on old ones.

For me, blogging continues to be invaluable.

This is where most of my ideas on obesity first found the light of day – the issue of weight bias, the inadequacy of BMI, the etiological framework for obesity, the importance of mental health, the need for accommodation, the Edmonton Obesity Staging System, the 4Ms of obesity, the 5As of obesity management – all of these ideas originated from postings (or thinking about postings) – and were remarkably shaped by my readers, who are never stingy or shy with their comments.

As my readership continues to grow, so does my sense of responsibility to them.

But, readers aside, I have long ago recognized that the main reason I blog is for myself. This is where I can throw out ideas – promote views and controversies – make appeals – ask questions – and learn from my readers.

The content is biased – in so many ways: by the topics I chose to write about and the topics I don’t; by the attention that I give to studies that affirm my biases and the attention I give to those that don’t; by the range of topics and themes that I write about to illustrate the complexity of the issues and our uncertainties in dealing with them.

This is not where I expect anyone to come for answers – rather, I’d love to see my readers leave with more questions than they had before.

I am a firm believer that human development has never been driven by our need to find answers but rather by our need to ask questions. Most of my questions have never been answered but I have learnt so much just by asking – more than I may have, had someone simply told me the answer.

The sceptic in me always remains wary of those who think they know the answers – indeed, the more convinced anyone seems to know an answer, the less I believe they even understand the question.

Today, I am speaking at the Hot Topics Conference on Obesity and Mental Health here in Toronto – I hope the listeners will leave my talk (and this conference) with more questions than answers – I know I will.

Toronto, Ontario