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The Obesity Crisis: Nova Scotia’s Growing Waistline

Daily we hear about the fact that obesity rates are growing, but by how much and how does it relate to the average Nova Scotian?

Since 1985, obesity rates have tripled. Today, one in three adult Nova Scotians falls into the overweight or obese category with a body mass index of more than 30.

And guess what? It’s expected to get much worse.

By 2019, it’s predicted there will be more overweight and obese people in Nova Scotia than there are average or normal weighted people. This means more than 50 per cent of Nova Scotians will be overweight or obese in less than four years.

In particular, the categories of obesity at the upper end of the scales are growing dramatically.

These are the findings of a study published in the March 2014 Canadian Medical Association Journal called “Current and predicted prevalence of obesity in Canada: a trend analysis.”

Now that we know more definitively how obesity rates are growing, here’s what else you should know.

What is a body mass index?

A body mass index or BMI is a calculation of an individual’s height and weight. A normal BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, overweight is 25.0 to 29.9, obese class I is 30.0 to 34.9, obese class II is 35.0 to 39.9 and obese class III is greater than 40.0.

There are many online BMI calculators to help you calculate your BMI and if necessary, you can determine what a healthy weight range is for you. Try the Centres for Disease Control BMI calculator.

What causes obesity?

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, obesity is caused by or contributed to, “not only individual choices (what to eat and whether to be active) but also environmental and social determinants that shape people’s ability to make healthier choices”.

The social determinants of health that influence the health of populations include:

Although in the simplest terms, weight gain is caused when a person consumes more calories than they burn off by being physically active, the social determinants of health play a role too. An example is, does the individual have the money to buy healthy food rather than buying inexpensive food that is high in calories?

What are the health risks of obesity?

According to the CMAJ article, “Obese people are at an increased risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea and cancer. Excess body weight can also affect quality of life, education and income potential and increase the risk of premature death.”

What can you do to maintain your weight or to safely lose weight?

Although it’s natural to want to lose weight quickly, as the old adage goes, slow and steady wins the race. Studies have shown that people who lose a pound or two a week have a better chance of maintaining weight-loss over the long term.

Would it surprise you to know that losing just 5 to 10 per cent of your total body weight can improve your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels?

So don’t be discouraged, start your weight-loss journey by making small changes that you can maintain over your lifetime. Focus first on losing 5 to 10 per cent of your body weight. Once you reach that goal, set the next one.

Perhaps you will try to lose another 5 to 10 per cent. Weight loss will take time, stick with it.

Think about increasing your physical activity to help you lose weight by burning off excess calories. Too much time sitting has been attributed to weight gain and poor health outcomes. Introducing more activity into your day doesn’t have to be elaborate or involve a gym membership. Taking a walk is a great way to increase your activity levels. Raking leaves, mowing the lawn or walking around the mall are all ways to increase your activity levels.

Don’t become a statistic!

Today you learned that 1 in 3 Nova Scotians is overweight or obese.

You don’t have to be part of that statistic.

Do something good for yourself and set your goal today! If you’re someone who believes they need to lose weight and take steps to improve their overall health, don’t wait until tomorrow to get started.

Make an appointment with your doctor and talk about your overall health, what a healthy weight looks like for you and seek support on how to get there.

In the meantime, take a look at some of the resources we’ve provided and think about small changes you can do today to help you start your journey towards improved health and well-being.

The Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has a great resource for getting started on your weight-loss journey. The CDC understands that losing weight takes more than just a desire to do it. It takes commitment and a well-thought-out plan. Check out their step-by-step guide to getting started.

Other than being patient and setting realistic goals for weight loss, another great step toward a healthier life begins with what you put on your plate. As health blogger and respected physician Yoni Freedhoff states, “You can’t outrun the fork.

Research indicates that our dietary decisions may have the biggest impact on our weight status. When trying to make changes to your diet, don’t bite off too much. Even small changes can make a difference. Start by becoming more aware of what you are consuming by reading nutrition labels. Small changes like reducing sugary beverages, serving smaller portions, having dressings on the side and adding a fruit or vegetable to each meal and snack can make a big difference.

For tips to help you increase your activity levels, check out these blog posts:

Let’s encourage every Nova Scotian to consider the dangers of obesity! Share this message with your friends and encourage them to consider maintaining their weight or begin their weight-loss journey.

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This blog strives to provide Nova Scotians with reliable health information. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, when it comes to your health and well-being, talk to your doctor about what is right for you. Learn more