Nfld. & Labrador

Norwegian writer's comments raise real concerns over obesity, says Clyde Jackman

A Norwegian writer who wrote an article calling some Newfoundlanders fat may have been rude but also raised an important point, according to Wellness Minister Clyde Jackman.

Clyde Jackman talks obesity

7 years ago
4:32
Clyde Jackman reacts to Norwegian travel journalist Karl Ove Knausgaard calling Newfoundlanders fat. 4:32

A Norwegian writer who recently wrote an article calling some Newfoundlanders fat may have been rude, but raised an important point, according to cabinet minister Clyde Jackman. 

Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgaard visited Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula, and wrote that he was shocked by the locals' "enormous girth." (Maria Teresa Slanzi)

People in Newfoundland and Labrador are still reacting to a less-than-complimentary article in the New York Times by Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, who wrote that the people he saw at a Jungle Jim's restaurant in St. Anthony was overweight.

"Everyone in the place, except the waiter, was fat, some of them so fat that I kept having to look at them. I had never seen people that fat before," Knausgaard wrote. 

Clyde Jackman, minister responsible for seniors, wellness and social development, said he understands why the remarks sparked a backlash, but also thinks it's time to have a real conversation about obesity in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador is consistently ranked as having one of the highest obesity rates in Canada. ((iStock))

"When you get a response like that, you just think of your fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," he said.

"It's a touchy subject but there are certain facts that we need to recognize here," Jackman said in an interview with Here & Now.

"I just came back from ministerial meetings with people across the country, and one of the things that was flashed on the screen was a chart showing where we placed in terms of being overweight — and we are still at the top."

Jackman said the government is creating health and wellness programs to try to get people to take responsibility for their health.

Worrisome trend

However, Jackman notes government can't force people to be healthy and that the public needs to be more conscious of preventing obesity, especially in young people.

"We know the impact this is having," he said.

"I remember a few years back being in P.E.I. on a meeting and one of the things being reported from the World Health Organization is that this is a generation of youth that will not live as long as their parents unless they change some of their habits."

A recent study completed by the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest percentage of overweight people in Canada. 

The study estimates that by 2019, roughly 71 per cent of people in the province will be considered obese or overweight.

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