Activity: Piecing the puzzle together

Overweight and obesity are increasingly being regarded as a health crisis in Canada, as well as in many other parts of the world. How do we make sense of the evidence and ideas, values and beliefs that are swirling around this subject? Researchers have generated a great deal of evidence about the health effects of overweight and obesity, and many people have opinions about the causes of and solutions for overweight and obesity. We can’t possibly look at all these ideas and evidence, but we can practice developing implications using a few pieces of information.

Let’s work with the following graphs, images and statements, imagining that this is all we know about overweight, obesity and health. Think back to our jigsaw puzzle. How do these pieces of information fit together and what is the picture that emerges when we assemble the puzzle?

When synthesizing this information, think about the following questions:

  • What do we know – or think we know – about the issue and/or population(s) affected based on the available evidence?
  • Does the evidence allow for a consideration of the core concepts of sex, gender, diversity and equity?

1. GRAPH: Self-Reported Body Mass Index: Percentage of population (aged 18+) who reported height and weight corresponding to a BMI in specified categories, by sex (age-standardized), Canada 2009 [1]

2. GRAPH: Prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, by BMI category for adults 18 years of age and older, Canada excluding territories, 2004 [2]

3. COMMENTARY: Gilman, S.L. (2 October 2009). A weighty problem. The Globe and Mail

“We are, supposedly, in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Everyone is getting fatter. Children are fatter than their parents. Epidemics caused by fat are now manifest: type 2 diabetes, increased rates of heart and cardiovascular disease, and notably more cancers, such as breast cancer. This “globesity” epidemic is seen in poor countries as well as in wealthy ones. But are people really so unhealthily fat? … The problem today seems to be that we have demonized “fat,” even among people who are labelled “overweight” rather than “obese.” Indeed, we have lowered the boundary for “overweight” to include people considered “normal” a generation ago. And we have deemed fat the major public health risk in our world and fat people the cause of a range of social problems, from placing stress on health-care systems to posing a risk to their own families.” [3]

4. RESEARCH STUDY: Mokan, N. & Tekin, E. (2009). Obesity, self-esteem and wages. [4]

“Wages of women are influenced by their body weight. There is a wage penalty for being obese in case of both white females and black females. Men’s wages are not impacted by their body weight. The results also indicate that self-esteem has an impact on wages in case of whites (both men and women). White women’s wages are also influenced by their bodyweight. Thus, the results suggest that obesity has the most serious impact on white women’s wages, because their wages are affected directly by obesity and indirectly through the impact of obesity on self-esteem.”(Mokan & Tekin, 2009:22)

Sources: [1] Margot Shields, Sarah Connor Gorber & Mark S. Tremblay. (2008). Estimates of overweight and obesity based on self-reported versus direct measures. Health Reports, 19 (2): 61-76; [2] Canadian Community Health Survey, Nutrition, 2004.; [3] ; [4]

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