More Opportunities for Ottawans to Fight Obesity in 2023

The start of the year is the best time to make healthy changes. Managing your weight to address and prevent obesity is one of the best adjustments you can make. Efforts to combat obesity are crucial, as the reported rates of obesity in Canada are relatively high, with about 1 in 4 adults (26.6%) currently living with this complex condition.

While the provincial rates for obesity in Ontario are slightly lower than the national average, obesity remains a health priority as it increases the risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. For Ottawa in particular, most recent data by the Ottawa Public Health reveal that residents in the lowest income group were twice as likely to be obese than those in the highest income group.

Aside from location and income status, obesity and being overweight can also result from other determinants like genetics, eating patterns, and physical activity levels. As a result, Ottawa has a wide range of initiatives that target these various factors to decrease obesity rates and improve residents’ overall health.

Dietary guidelines

The national government has published the Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide as an evidence-informed resource for following a healthy diet while maintaining variety and flexibility. The recommended servings vary per age group and cover various food groups, namely fruits and vegetables, grain products, milk and alternatives, and meat and meat alternatives.

As it was found in a Canadian Community Health Survey in 2016 that only 59% of residents in Ontario who were aware of the guide have used it in their daily diets, the guidelines were updated in 2019 and are now available in different languages. Additionally, there is a dedicated Food Guide website where individuals can find advice and information on healthy eating, meal planning, grocery shopping, recipes, food safety, etc.

Commercial and/or online programs

While there are self-directed options for weight management and health improvement, the Canadian Medical Association Journal released guidelines in 2020 to emphasize that obesity care must be evidence-based and move beyond simplistic approaches of eating less and exercising more.

Ottawans have the option to look for more personalized weight loss programs that are supported by expert advice from leading companies such as WeightWatchers. The programs help users make healthy dietary choices that meet their specific lifestyle and nutritional needs while also helping users to track their food intake, activity levels, and weight to achieve sustainable goals.

Additionally, a study on weight loss approaches found that individuals from Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom who participated in this commercial program lost twice as much weight and had an overall lower waist circumference than those who tried the do-it-yourself approach to dieting and weight loss.

Clinically managed interventions

Aside from weight management programs based on nutritional and behavioural science, Ottawans can also look into interventions provided by weight management clinics, such as the program available at Ottawa Hospital. These clinics can design treatment plans that prioritize exercise training for diet-resistant obesity, as it has been found that there is a specific subset of adults whose phenotypes make weight loss difficult despite adherence to diet restriction.

Individuals with difficult-to-treat obesity can improve their weight loss capacity and boost their skeletal muscle metabolism with the help of healthcare professionals who can unlock the predictors for their condition and consequently individualize their exercise training.

Public health programs

Since commercial and clinical programs come with costs, residents can still receive information and counselling on a variety of health topics, including obesity and weight management, through the Ottawa Public Health Information Centre (OPHIC). The service is available in 170 languages and can be accessed through call, email, fax, or live chat. Residents who are looking to receive timely articles and updates about Ontario-based programs and services can check this news column brought to you by the Manotick Messenger.