Let’s Talk

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

Lend me your ears, fellow Millenials. The Government of Canada’s Public Health Agency recently created a new website in order to encourage Canadian youth to participate in a dialogue about healthy weights.

A bit of terminology before talking more about the dialogue: the terms overweight and obese are used to describe people who have an excessive amount of body fat. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a comparison of a person’s weight to his height that allows people to be categorized into groups (underweight, healthy weight, overweight, obese) based on their estimated levels of body fat. A BMI calculator for kids and teens can be found athttp://kidshealth.org/kid/grow/body_stuff/bmi.html.

Essentially, a person’s BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of his height in meters. If a person’s BMI is between 20 and 25, he is categorized as having a healthy weight. If his BMI is between 25 and 30, he is said to be overweight. A BMI over 30 signifies obesity. BMI isn’t a flawless method for determining whether or not someone is at a healthy weight– muscular athletes and people with large bone structures will tend to have higher BMIs than less muscular people and people with small bone structures, even though they don’t necessarily have higher percentages of body fat.

As I have written in previous columns, the childhood obesity epidemic is a serious problem for Canadian health care. In Canada, the rate of obesity in youth and children has almost tripled in the past twenty-five years. In 2004, 34% of New Brunswick youth and children were either overweight or obese. Why?

The climb in obesity rates can be attributed to unhealthy lifestyle habits. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that youth eat 6 to 8 servings (an example of a serving of vegetables is a half-cup of carrot sticks) of vegetables and fruit each day, but the majority of 11 to 15 year-olds eat less than one. As I pointed out in an article about the 2011 Active Healthy Kids Canada Physical Activity Report Card a few weeks ago, only 7% of Canadian children and youth follow the guideline of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily. What to do?

To properly tackle the Canadians’ ”biggest” problem, it is important to hear many different points of view. The ourhealthourfuture.gc.ca website allows Canadians across the country to share their thoughts on healthy weights, as do discussion roundtables and a summit planned for later this year.

Youth are encouraged to share ideas for their schools, families, and communities that they think will help themselves and their friends maintain or reach a healthy weight. Additionally, youth are encouraged to read, comment on, and vote on the ideas submitted by other participants.

A few of the most popular ideas (as voted by online participants) mentioned in the online dialogue at this time include making physical activity during the winter more appealing, taxing video games, building skate parks, and exercising while watching television. Readers who would like to share their own ideas or comment on ones already articulated should visit ourhealthourfuture.gc.ca.

Originally published in the Times & Transcript on May 22nd, 2011.

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