Obesity, which affects affects 1 billion people worldwide and nearly one in four Canadians, is a complex medical condition that significantly increases the risk of chronic disease.

This article offers a clear understanding of obesity and details different approaches to promoting healthy weight management while limiting health risks:

If you’re wondering how to manage your own overweight or better support a loved one’s, contact a healthcare professional.

What is obesity?

Obesity is defined as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat that adversely affects health. But how do you determine when someone is obese? Body mass index (BMI) is the most commonly used tool. A person is considered overweight if their BMI is over 25, and obese if their BMI is over 30.

Obesity has become a public health issue, since a high BMI is associated with an increased risk of developing other diseases. In 2017, more than 4 million deaths a year worldwide were linked to overweight or obesity1. These alarming statistics underline the urgency of adopting effective weight loss and obesity prevention strategies.

What causes obesity?

The causes of obesity vary from person to person. In most cases, the brain plays a central role, but the appetite regulation system is often beyond our reach. Many people mistakenly believe that obesity is solely due to a lack of self-control, effort or motivation. However, other factors are involved:

  • Genetics: Research shows that genetics play an important role in the development of obesity. Some people may have a genetic predisposition to weight gain, making weight loss more difficult for them. 70% of obese people have at least one parent in the same situation.
  • Hormones: Hormones can influence appetite, food choices and energy expenditure. Age-related hormonal changes can also lead to altered metabolism.
  • Stress: In stressful situations, some people may adopt harmful eating behaviors, such as emotional overeating.
  • Medication: Certain medications such as antidepressants, neuroleptics and corticosteroids can have side effects that affect metabolism and open up the appetite. Talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment.
  • Where you live: Access to a healthy diet (fruits and vegetables) is more difficult in certain geographical areas.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: The modern environment encourages a sedentary lifestyle. For example, many people spend most of their days sitting at a desk, and use the car to get around, which limits their physical activity.
  • Food marketing: Aggressive promotion of high-sugar, high-fat foods makes it difficult to learn to eat and resist temptation.

It is therefore essential to understand that losing weight is not simply a matter of “eating less and moving more”. A holistic approach must be adopted, taking into account genetic, environmental and behavioral factors.

overweight person at medical consultation checking heart disease

What are the health risks of obesity?

The health consequences of obesity are manifold, and can lead to serious or even fatal medical conditions or illnesses. The most common health risks are as follows:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Excess body fat can raise cholesterol and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease. It’s a major risk factor for coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Excess body fat, particularly in the abdominal region, leads to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. This can lead to high blood sugar levels, characteristic of type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of type 2 diabetes is higher in obese Canadians (13.4%) than in normal-weight Canadians (2.9%)2.
  • Respiratory problems: The accumulation of fat around the rib cage and in the abdominal region limits available lung volumes, leading to frequent shortness of breath, both at rest and during exercise. Certain conditions, such as sleep apnea, can develop and cause excessive fatigue.
  • Joint diseases: Being overweight can put extra pressure on the joints, increasing the risk of developing problems such as arthritis and other joint disorders.
  • Cancer: Some forms of cancer, including breast, colon, uterine and prostate cancer, are favoured by obesity.
  • Fertility and pregnancy: Overweight or obese women may have difficulty conceiving, and are more likely to develop complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
  • Mental health: Obese people are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, stress and low self-esteem, due to the social pressures and stigma associated with obesity.

It is therefore essential to take steps to prevent and manage obesity. Weight loss can not only help reduce these health risks, but also improve quality of life and general well-being.

What can I do to lose weight?

Weight loss is not an easy task, and it requires constant commitment. However, with the right strategies and support, it is entirely achievable.

Rethink your eating habits

Canadian food guide

There is no miracle diet for losing weight and keeping it off. However, Canada’s Food Guide makes several recommendations to help Canadians eat healthily:

  • Plant-based foods: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and plant-based proteins should make up the majority of your diet. They contain important nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and reduce the risk of certain diseases.
  • Protein foods: Proteins are an integral part of a balanced diet. Your protein needs can be met by eggs, nuts, legumes, fish and seafood, lean meats and poultry, plant-based products, etc.
  • Red meats and highly processed foods: It’s advisable to limit, or even exclude, your consumption of red meats and processed foods, which are high in added sugars and saturated fats. Processed foods include industrial products such as soft drinks, potato chips, sweetened yoghurt, ice cream, French fries, chicken nuggets, etc.
  • Healthy fats: Focus on sources of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, fatty fish and vegetable oils.
  • Hydration: Maintain adequate hydration, preferring water as your main beverage.

Other good eating habits can help you lose weight. For example, it’s essential to plan your meals carefully, as this allows you to make thoughtful food choices, balanced recipes and encourages the inclusion of a variety of nutritious foods.

Finally, take the time to savor each bite, paying particular attention to your body’s signals of satiety. By eating slowly, you promote better digestion and increased connection with feelings of hunger and fullness.

Regular physical activity

Regular physical activity is another essential pillar in the fight against overweight. It burns calories, helps maintain good health, and improves mental health and sleep quality. Here are a few recommendations:

  • Exercise daily: Get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity a day, whatever your age, sex or weight. In your day-to-day life, remember to move around as much as possible, such as taking the elevator rather than the stairs, riding your bike rather than driving, walking your dog, etc.
  • Practice an activity you enjoy: Physical activity doesn’t have to be intense sport. Choose exercises you enjoy to make it more enjoyable, whether it’s brisk walking, dancing, swimming, cycling or other sporting activities.
  • Exercise with friends and family: Physical activity can be more motivating and fun when shared with friends and family.
  • Adapt the activity to your situation: Choose a moderate to high intensity according to your fitness level, age and state of health. Adapt exercises for seniors or people with reduced mobility.

It’s important to note that, while physical activity is crucial to healthy weight loss, it must be accompanied by an appropriate diet and sometimes by medical supervision.

Obesity management in the Montreal area

It’s recognized that a multidisciplinary approach is needed to lose and maintain weight, going beyond diet and exercise. It requires a personalized strategy, medical and psychological support, and sometimes medication. Several ELNA Medical Group clinics offer programs tailored to your situation. Make an appointment today.

  • Weight loss program (Medispa Physimed, Montreal): The program is based on nutrition, physical exercise and certain medications. Following a body composition test, a personalized program is proposed to the patient. Follow-up is provided by a remote monitoring system and regular accompaniment by a physician. Find out more.

  • Global health program (PrivaMED Brossard and Boucherville): Recognizing that obesity results from the complex interplay of numerous genetic, metabolic, behavioral and environmental factors, this program offers personalized care to accompany patients through all the challenges surrounding weight loss and long-term weight maintenance. Available for adults and children. Find out more (French).

  • On-line pediatric nutrition: In the form of one-hour on-line workshops, nutritionist Valérie Bouzo offers a complete guide and advice on nutrition for children aged 6 months and over. Ask an appointment.

  • Pediatric nutrition (ELNA Pédiatrie Décarie and Dollard-des-Ormeaux): Initial consultation to assess the child’s situation, develop a nutritional treatment plan, and provide advice applicable at home. Follow-up with a multidisciplinary approach.Ask an appointment.
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    ELNA Médical logo

    Obesity is a complex problem that requires a multifaceted approach to its prevention and management. ELNA Medical works with overweight people to improve their health and well-being. Together, we can create a healthier future for us all.

    1 : WHO – Obesity

    2 : Statistics Canada – Overweight and obese adults