According to the Canadian Health Measures Survey, 62 percent of Canadian adults – or roughly 24 million people – are now either overweight or obese. That’s an awfully high number of Canadians who seem to need help with their weight. Now that obesity is officially classified as a disease by endocrinologists, we’ll hear even more about the need for most Canadians to get their BMI in the right range.
In this commentary, author Patrick Luciani asks whether we are exaggerating the number of people who want to control their weight. It’s an important question because we hear that too many Canadians are getting fat and now we are increasingly being told they are getting fat against their will. That’s an important point, because if the causes of weight gain are external to our decisions, that opens the door for governments to tax and regulate the foods and drink we consume.
However, Luciani suggests obesity may well be better understood as a consequence of affluence than as a disease or epidemic. The real reason we overeat is that we like it, and no amount of blaming and fruitless explanation can change that. He does not deny that society is gaining weight, but he points out that being overweight is hardly a death sentence. He also highlights that there are now growing concerns that an over-emphasis on obesity, and the 62 percent of us who are overweight, may be a factor in higher rates of anorexia; another unintended consequence of our perpetual obsession with weight and diet.
Luciani argues, “…keeping one’s weight under control is important for overall good health; only a fool would say otherwise. But we all have to determine where that point is for ourselves, not some arbitrary and moving target such as an abstract number on a BMI scale.”
He ends with a message to the obesity research community: we can always use more information about the science of obesity, how hormones work, and why it’s so hard to shed those extra pounds. What we don’t need are more lectures about how we’re all victims of mass marketing and the only remedy are policies that call for higher taxes, more regulations and control of our decisions.