Islanders need to take their health into their own hands
By Stephanie MacLean
I am concerned that Prince Edward Island is growing – around the waist, that is.
Despite the constant publicity that revolves around the obesity “epidemic,” it remains that Prince Edward Island is one of the fattest provinces in Canada. Yes, I said it: we are fat.
This is a great concern because obesity precedes a long list of health conditions, including but not limited to: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, certain cancers and high blood pressure. Obesity, and being overweight, results from an imbalance of energy, that is, eating more calories than our bodies need, and not increasing physical activity to compensate. For most, it is common knowledge that being overweight, and especially obese, is a health hazard, and yet we continue to live in such a way.
Islanders are the ultimate consumers, and what we are consuming is trans fat, and high quantities of sugar and sodium. While we are dishing out money for burgers and fries, the government will continue to dish out money for the innumerable health conditions that will result from our over-indulgence.
In fact, obesity costs Canada billions of dollars each year, both by direct (chronic disease) or indirect (absenteeism) causes. Not to mention, people willingly hand over small fortunes for the latest diet craze, the kind that promises you will lose weight in a miraculous period of time, and are disappointed when it does not work, or the weight is put back on.
Too many of us focus on the trivial side of being overweight, that is, the appearance value, when we should be focusing on the health risks. Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifelong process, unachievable for most, without incorporating both healthy eating and exercise into our daily lives.
On the Island, and in Canada in general, it has become commonplace to be overweight, and those who have something negative to say about it are quickly hushed for fear of being inconsiderate to the feelings of others. Inconsideration aside, the fact remains that more than half of Canadians are overweight or obese, and Prince Edward Island is currently sitting in second place among the rest of the provinces on the overweight and obesity chart. Whether you call it big-boned, or heavy set, obesity is a problem that we cannot seem to get a grip on.
The point has come where handing out Canada's Food Guide and recommending a set amount of physical activity is not cutting it. Canada's Food Guide is a great tool to achieve and maintain a healthful diet, but it becomes useless when people neglect to follow it. Those who are feverishly trying to implement programs and strategies to combat obesity can only do so much.
We need to take our well-being into our own hands.
I am not going to suggest that the government should strategize a program to reduce the obesity epidemic because I believe we need to stop relying on the government to “fix” things. It does not matter how many programs are put into place -- no matter how great -- if no one follows them. It is time to stop blaming the media, and fast food corporations for making us fat, and start admitting that our health is our own responsibility. We need to stop looking for an easy way out, and we need to start thinking about overall health, rather than appearance issues. Only then will the fight against obesity be in our favour.
Stephanie MacLean of Cardigan is enrolled in her fourth year at the University of Prince Edward Island, majoring in family science, as well as minoring in nutritional studies.