by Lisa George
It is alarming to know Canadians are getting larger and becoming unhealthier.
Worst is that we are passing along our bad eating and exercise habits to our children. It all amounts to serious health concerns for Canadians in future years.
The weighty statistics don’t paint a pretty picture
A report out of Canada’s Parliament states that rising obesity rates among adults and children are taking an “enormous” toll on the health of Canadians with rising rates of diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses which are all costing society, perhaps as much as $7 billion a year. It projects as many as 66,000 Canadians die each year from obesity-related health problems.
The recent Senate report is entitled “Obesity in Canada” and it is a must-read for Canadians who are concerned and want to do something about the “obesity crisis.” Consider these facts:
- Canada now ranks fifth in the world when it comes to the number of obese adults (the U.S. is number 1).
- Obesity in our country has doubled in adults (two thirds are overweight or obese) and tripled in children since 1980.
- Only 15 per cent of adult Canadians are getting the 150 minutes of activity a week they need to stay fit
- All of the unhealthy living is costing the health-care system and economy between $4.6 and $7.1 billion a year in direct costs and loss of productivity.
These Canadian statistics were recently supported by a British medical study that found over one in eight adults in that country are now obese. Imperial College London calculated of about five billion adults alive in 2014, 641 million were obese. This is a ratio that has more than doubled since 1975 and will balloon by 2025 to 1.1 billion, or one in five within just nine years.
Like Canada’s Parliamentary report, the British research warned of a looming crisis of “severe obesity” and disease brought on by high-fat, high-sugar diets causing blood pressure and cholesterol to rise.
The so called “battle of the bulge” has got very serious. Very fast.
Need to shop better
A diet heavy on sugars, white breads and pastries, canned and processed foods, is all contributing to the problem. However, the solution to this is simply: to shop better.
Start by making a meal plan and a grocery list for the week. Include meals that will have plant based protein like beans and lentils as well as fish and seafood. Also include a list of healthy snacks for yourself. By creating a meal plan and grocery list you are less likely to succumb to the urges of grabbing unhealthy, highly processed fast foods.
Be sure to shop the perimeter of the store, going only to the aisles for things like beans, frozen berries, dried spices, and any other items you have planned for your weeks’ meals. On the perimeter you will find fresh fruits and vegetables, yogurt, eggs, meat and fish. Fill your cart with these foods first – then go and seek out only what is needed.
Eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit – and, by getting creative with your recipes, these can make up the bulk of your main entrée. Try to have at least 2 meals of fish, such as wild salmon, trou sardines, and mackerel, to ensure you get omega-3 fatty acids, and also include eggs as an excellent source of protein.
When you select your meats, be sure to pick lean cuts. Of course, the best sourced meat and poultry is from a local farm if you can get it, and limit your intake of red meat.
In the centre aisles, select high-fiber, nutrient-rich legumes (best is dried, but canned is fine too if rinsed well), and whole grains. Seek out different varieties of beans and always look for organic first. And, with everything, be sure to read the labels for unwanted sugars and additives.
Rethink what you eat – and be mindful of what you put in your mouth.
Need to set an example
The biggest step you can take towards a healthier diet is to ditch the empty calorie snacks like chips, and replace with healthier snacks like raw nuts and seeds, plain yogurt, berries or fruit, hummus or guacamole with raw vegetable strips, and even popcorn (just make sure you pop it yourself!) Challenge yourself to escape the grocery store without unhealthy snack food.
Likewise, challenge yourself to exercise more – each day. Make exercise time a part of your daily routine and set the example for your family. Get all the family involved by:
- Walking to the corner store instead of driving
- Taking the stairs instead of elevators
- Stretching whenever you get the chance (stretch 10 minutes first thing in the morning)
- Going for a daily family walk or bike ride after dinner
- Scheduling in your favourite exercise 3-4 times a week
Get moving and stay active through the week. Try to walk 10,000 steps day! You would be amazed at how quickly those steps add up with the little extra activities. Download a free app on your phone to track your daily steps!
Create new habits – starting today
It’s not easy creating new healthy habits and often must begin with changing your attitude and your belief that you can do it. Tell yourself daily that you enjoy making healthy choices, that you are fit, that you enjoy cooking wholesome meals. Write down these thoughts and say them daily for a month and see yourself begin to change. For more help with this I recommend an excellent book entitled What to Say When you Talk to Yourself by Shad Helmstetter.
No matter what your current health state, today is the first day to taking the steps to a healthier you. Consider some of the tips mentioned in this article and take a look at my blog posts such as “Developing Healthy Habits for Weight Loss” to get further ideas. If you need a health coach to guide (and prod) you towards a healthier set of habits, give me a call. It would be great to reverse the trends cited in the Parliamentary report and ensure you, personally, are not one of Canada’s statistics.
Lisa George, R.H.N., is owner of Creating Healthy Habits, a holistic nutrition consulting business based in Almonte