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Quebec Public Health Agency Conference Warns Against Weight Obsession

The mantra about the benefits of weight loss seem to be gospel in most discussions about solutions to the obesity epidemic.

It was therefore quite refreshing to follow the presentations and discussions at yesterday’s session on weight bias and discrimination at the Journées annuelles de santé publique (Québec).

One of the most innovative presentations was in fact a review of the many programs and initiatives by ÉquiLibre, a Québec non-profit organization with the mission:

“to prevent and reduce problems related to weight and body image in the population, through actions encouraging and facilitating the adoption of healthy lifestyle and developing a positive body image.”

For the past 20 years, this organization has been providing “Choose to Lose Weight?“, a program for women concerned about their weight, that focusses on size acceptance and ending the cycle of ‘yo-yo’ dieting.

For people fluent in French, the site provides ample advise on myths regarding weight loss, the potential risks of dieting and weight obsession, and tips on how to recognize ‘ethical’ weight management programs.

The ÉquiLibre site also links to an most interesting interactive site called ‘Behind the Mirror” aimed at youth, that most engagingly challenges weight and appearance stereotypes.

For non-French speaking readers, I recommend exploring the site in the Google translation mode, which does a remarkably efficient job of translating the content of these pages.

French speakers should of course browse the original site for information on ÉquiLibre.

I’d love to hear from anyone, who has participated in their courses.

Montreal, QC


  1. One of the problems in combating obesity is that people get used to higher and higher weights as “normal”. If you’re in a group where many people are obese, that’s going to seem ok – being only overweight will seem positively skinny. This is one of the many reasons why some groups are fatter than others (social, economic, geographic, or cultural groups).

    It is important to accept and celebrate all the excellent qualities of an obese person, like accepting and celebrating all the excellent qualities of a person in a wheelchair. Each of these people has an obvious medical problem, and it is important not to let the superficial impression of that problem define how we act to that person.

    Developing a “positive body image” means a person is well dressed and well groomed, and takes part enthusiastically in any activity they can handle. (Note: “well dressed” doesn’t mean fancy. It’s having clothes for whatever you want to do, grubbies for puttering on the car or a nice shirt for that business dinner. That’s easier said than done for an obese person)

    Having a “positive body image” doesn’t mean that obesity is ok. Obesity is still a problem. What is admirable is someone keeping up their body image in the face of this problem. Such effort should be admired and commended.

    What we should NOT do is pretend obesity is ok so that people have a “good body image” – they’re not fooled, and neither is anyone else. We do not want obesity to become acceptable because it’s the new normal.

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  2. I agree with Anonymous (I wonder is she is the same Anonymous I agreed with in the comments on an earlier post?)

    We can thank the Fat Acceptance movement for the normalization of obesity. Apparently, when I was morbidly obese, FA would have classified me as an “in-betweenie”. Come to think of it, FA proponents routinely refer to the morbidly obese as “deathfatz”. I think that’s supposed to be funny.

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  3. Anonymous 2, I think you may have the definition of “inbetweeny” wrong. It means someone who sometimes wears straight sizes and sometimes wears plus sizes – in between a size 14 or 16 misses and a 14 or 16W. Are you saying that you wore a size 14 or 16 when your BMI was 40+? That would be really unusual.

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  4. Hi, Dr. Sharma,

    I see the weight obesession regularly in society. People should focus on fitness instead, as well as proper rest. The body needs more rest than most over – exercisers give it.

    It is far healthier to walk regularly, perhaps sprint a bit once week ( a couple) and lift some weight once a week or so and let the chips fall where they may weight wise, than to deliberately starve ourselves and over exercise etc. to get to an arbitrary weight number – and only short term at that.

    To look like Brad Pitt in the movie “Troy” is not necessary for health. Society does not seem to realize this. 4to 8 % bodyfat is not any healthier than a solid 12 %. In fact, I would say 12 % is good. Body fat has its purpose and Bruce Lee’s in the movie Enter The Dragon was far too low. I think that contributed to his passing, honestly. He obviously was not well and it showed in his physical appearance. People with body fat that low have no reserve if they get seriously sick with a disease

    Dr. Friedman says just stay at the lower end of our setpoint, and modest weight loss can have a disproportionate benefit to our health ( and fitness improvement helps too e.g. how fast you can walk 400 meters- which correlates to mortality rates)

    Take care,


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