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Taking Action on Obesity

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. David Butler Jones warns that if we continue on this trajectory by 2023, 70% of Canadians will be overweight or obese. (Calgary Herald) This really got my attention. I know Dr. David Butler Jones; he is a fine man, not prone to hyperbole. He is absolutely passionate about the health of Canadians, especially kids. He has been advocating for increased physical activity and better eating habits for Canadians for at least a decade. To put this in perspective for myself, I calculated that in 2023 my children will be adults ranging from 23 to 27 years old. They will be living in a world where the vast majority of people could be living with heart disease, type II diabetes, joint degeneration, high blood pressure and other ailments directly related to poor lifestyle.

We can't reverse this obesity curve and inactivity today, but we can make today the day it stops getting worse. That in itself is a decision. Make today the first day of not getting worse. Maybe that means you walk around the block once; maybe that means you find a soccer ball and kick it around the garage with your kids for 10 minutes; maybe you say no to pop and junk food just for today. Cut through the overwhelming choices and make a single commitment towards a healthier life for yourself, for your kids, for your partner. Cook a meal, pass on the pre-bedtime snack, and decide today that you are going to stop getting worse. It doesn't sound like much of a commitment, but if we all did it, we would begin to build hope that we can gain control of obesity in our population.

In my considerable experience with goal setting, I know that it is best to focus on a single goal at a time. New research confirms that subjects who worked on a goal in one area of their life were far more successful than subjects who made several goals in many areas of their life. So how about committing to walking around the block for 20 minutes once this week, and twice next week until you reach four times a week. You may even decide that once you have your winter coat, gloves and hat on, you might as well walk a little longer. Maybe you want to start with food. How about replacing your morning cappuccino with low-fat milk, and skipping the sugar? How about doing this for a few weeks before switching to an Americano, or even better, green tea? Maybe coffee isn't your thing; maybe you can vow to eat six small meals instead of three bigger ones, perhaps you want to address your Cola habit, or your dependence on packaged foods.

My bugaboo is chocolate. I love it and I eat it everyday, but I would be willing to give it up today, absolutely and completely, if I knew it was going to make a generation of kids healthier. I can't do it for you, and no one can do it for another. Singularly, we need to make a commitment to ourselves and to our families to create a healthier generation. It starts with a single action, an action that each of us is more than capable of taking. Let's stop talking about obesity and make one decision that begins to reverse the trajectory so our children grow into strong healthy adults, not a generation of adults who will cripple the health care system.

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