CON: A Fav Resource

From my Healthy Living column in Moncton’s Times & Transcript.

When I find myself with a bit of free time on my hands and when I’m not on the verge of homework overload, one of my favorite sites to scourge for infomation is the Canadian Obesity Network (CON) website. The CON was founded in 2006 and, among other activities, regularly holds conferences about obesity across Canada and publishes Conduit, a magazine about obesity in Canada.Conduit magazine is available in print and online form and all of the presentations made at CON conferences are available in video format online.

Recently, in an effort to prepare myself for an oral presentation about obesity (an assignment I need to complete for a summer program), I have been listening to the obesity presentations from the CON’s Second National Obesity Summit 2011. I have fallen in love with this resource all over again.

Destined for researchers, academics, and healthcare professionals, some of the presentations (especially those talking about treatments from a medical point of view) are a bit too pedantic for me, a mere teenager. However, the majority of the presentations can easily be understood by anyone who would like to learn more about obesity, its causes, its repercussions, its prevention, and its treatment. These presentations are interesting not only because of the information they provide, but also because of the well-shaped perspectives shared by the presenters.

One of my favorite presentations from the 2011 conference was that of Dr. Arya Sharma, who is the scientific director of the CON. He began his presentation about bariatric interventions by defining bariatrics—the branch of medicine that deals with obesity– and went on to highlight, simply and effectively, several important points about obesity. Some of his main points were:

-there is not one obesity, but many obesities– diseases with different causes that result in excess body fat.

-bariatrics is about the prevention, management, and care of patients with diseases characterized by excess body fat. It is to patients with obesity problems what pediatrics is to young patients.

-managing obesity is not always about losing weight. Oftentimes, it is about improving the health of individuals for whom weight loss is unlikely and unideal.

-obesity (or rather, obesities) is not simply caused by eating too much and moving too little. It caused by a variety of underlying problems. Sometimes, the origins of obesity are caused by emotional eating due to stressful events or medication, other times, they lie in living in a sedentary environment.

-obesity is a chronic disease. Individuals who have been obese at one point in their life are likely to become obese again if their weight is not properly and continuously managed.

-the severity of obesity should be measured not by the amount of excess body fat, but by the magnitude of its complications.

-there is a need for bariatric physicians to work with family doctors and bariatric surgeons (bariatric surgeries are surgeries that cause significant and long-term weight loss).

-controlling energy in, energy out cannot be seen as the default method for treating obesity. Obesity’s underlying causes must be treated.

Dr. Sharma’s presentation and the other 2011 conference presentations explore obesity from many different aspects, treating it like the complex issue it is instead of the simple one (calories in, calories out and self-control) it is often thought to be.

Interested readers can view Dr. Sharma’s presentation (the presentation begins forty five minutes into the video entitled Mini Review 3) and the other CON presentations at the CON website presentation page: http://hosting2.epresence.tv/obesitynetwork/1/Page/Published/13.aspx

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on June 18th, 2011.

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