Many Canadians are deluding themselves about their weight, a poll released Monday for CBC News suggests.
When asked if they're overweight, 44 per cent said yes, with seven per cent admitting to being obese. The reality is worse, said Dr. Arya Sharma of the University of Alberta in Edmonton.
"Right now we have two-thirds of the Canadian population being overweight," said Sharma, who based his findings in part on a Statistics Canada report last year that directly measured heights and weights.
"We have about 20 per cent of the Canadians being what you would [consider] clinically obese."
Dan Carrol, a 29-year-old from Hamilton, is one of those overweight Canadians. He has a big goal with a deadline: to lose 70 pounds by his wedding day in October.
To help him shed the weight, Carrol is blogging all about his experience with healthier eating. He's also moving around more, while his brother captures the struggle on film, complete with a Rocky-like motivational trailer.
As Carrol runs down a metal staircase or beats back tempting treats, he knows that success hinges on accountability. He confesses his sins of inactivity on couch potato days, when he approaches the scale with dread. At other times, he gains inspiration just from feeling fitter.
Carrol — who is six foot two inches tall and tips the scales at 267 pounds, down from 273 — fondly reflects on his days as a young athlete playing hockey, baseball, karate and football until sports injuries and working shifts as a rehabilitation therapist slowed him down.
"I'm like most people," Carrol said. "I got caught up working, I get lazy at the end of the day, and before you know it, your pants don't fit anymore."
Carrol likens the accountability factor of the blog and the film to telling your parents you didn't do your homework. In this case, the work is the exercise regimen, which he's attacking with a new ferocity this new year, pledging in the film to "shed blood and sweat and tears to make it happen" for himself and his fiancée.
At least Carrol has recognized his weight problem. Seventy-seven per cent of those polled by CBC News said they live a generally healthy lifestyle. Again, their answers on the specifics of diet, exercise and sleep don't bear that out.
When people were asked why they aren't healthier, lack of time was the main reason given:
- Not enough time to make healthy meals: 37 per cent.
- Not enough time to get vigorous exercise regularly: 42 per cent.
- Not enough time to sleep: 36 per cent.
Nearly 60 per cent of both adults and youth surveyed said they are tired most of the time, and nearly 40 per cent of adults reported feeling stressed most of the time.
Part of the problem is that few Canadians look at what actually drives poor eating habits and our sedentary nature, experts say.
Easy to be inactive
People feel they lack the time and skills to prepare healthy meals, while research shows insufficient sleep and stress actually change our metabolism and lead to cravings and changes in how the body stores energy, Sharma said.
Another source of the problem is how society makes it easy to be inactive, said Mark Tremblay, an obesity researcher with the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute in Ottawa.
People choose cars over walking and video games over outdoor play in a society that is biologically and sociologically "wired" to embrace convenience. We're biologically trained for survival with little expenditure of effort, and our culture of labour-saving devices encourages mindless eating at otherwise idle moments.
"Increasingly, we are cocooning inside our houses, in front of screens, remaining motionless," Tremblay said.
Carrol recognizes those challenges, and is using the latest tools with the aim of returning to his more physically active days of yesteryear.
The online poll of 1,514 adults and 506 youth aged 12 to 17 was conducted by Leger Marketing from Nov. 10 to Nov. 17, 2010. The margin of error for the adult sample is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, and plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20 for youth.