As many as 3 in 5 Canadians are overweight or obese. While British Columbia is considered to have one of the lower rates of obesity in the country, at least 16% of the Province’s population are still considered as such; while the Northwest Territories has the highest rate of obesity in the country – 33.7%. Between the years 1978 and 2017, obesity rates have also risen in children, increasing from 23% to 30%. Many organizations, such as the Canadian Medical Association, Obesity Canada, and the World Health Organization all now consider obesity to be a progressive, chronic disease.
The most common causes of obesity are overeating, eating unhealthy foods, and lack of exercise. For example, if you eat but don’t exercise, your body turns the surplus energy that you consume into fat, thus beginning an increase in weight, leading one to become overweight, and eventually obese. Some of the foods that are most commonly known to cause weight gain include those that are processed (such as fast food), as well as sugary beverages and alcohol. Aside from food, there are other factors that may play a role in whether or not someone is overweight or obese. For example, certain genetic traits. One’s health may also play a role. Certain medical conditions such as hypothyroidism and Cushing’s syndrome are both linked to weight gain. You can also gain weight as a result of taking certain medications (i.e. ones used to treat diabetes and epilepsy, as well as if you’re on medications for mental illness such as antidepressants.) If you’re a smoker who recently quit, you may also notice an increase in weight.
If you are overweight or obese, you are at a higher risk of developing serious issues with your health, including but not limited to asthma, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, gout, gallstones, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and even certain cancers. One of the only ways you can reduce these risks and reduce the risk of becoming obese, says Dr. Ghahary, is to improve your lifestyle – and that often starts by changing your eating habits. Having a healthy diet isn’t just important if you want to lose weight, but it’s also important for your overall health.
First, try to figure out what drives you to eat. Is it “body hunger” or “reward hunger”? Body hunger is what’s regulated by the hormones in the gut, blood sugar, and fat tissues, and causes you to feel physically hungry. Reward hunger, on the other hand, happens in the brain and controls emotional, stress-related and mindless eating – even if you’re not physically hungry. Someone who experiences reward hunger may eat too much without realizing it and will often turn to foods that are unhealthy (i.e. sugary, fatty foods) – usually as a response to stress or other negative emotions. Once you have figured out what drives you to eat, you need to come up with a plan. It often helps to make a list of what you eat on a day to day basis, and do that for each meal. Seeing what’s in front of you can often give an individual incentive to want to change their eating habits because by seeing it laid out on paper, they realize that it may not be the best thing for them. The healthiest foods for someone who is overweight or obese include whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fish, and poultry, nuts, seeds, and beans. You should also cook with plant-based oils such as olive oil. For more healthy eating tips from Dr. Ghahary, click here.
Once you’ve come up with a healthy meal plan, you should also incorporate regular physical activity into your routine…because while diet plays a major role in weight loss, physical activity does too. To see significant weight loss, health experts suggest getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, which can be broken down into 30 minutes per day. How you exercise is entirely up to you, though Dr. Ghahary strongly recommends walking, as it’s one of the best workouts that you can give your body. Other examples of good types of exercise for individuals wanting to lose weight include bike riding, water aerobics, and even weight lifting.