Consider the following sources of information about sex, gender and obesity and answer the related questions.
Question: How does taking sex into account affect our definition of the obese population?
Graph 1: Obesity rates, by age group and sex, household population aged 18 or older, Canada excluding the Territories, 2004 
Graph 2: Overweight and obesity rates, by sex, household population aged 2 to 17, Canada excluding territories, 1978/79 and 2004 
The first graph shows us that in most age groups women and men have similar rates of obesity. But young adult men, between the ages of 25 and 34, are more likely to be obese than women in the same age group. The opposite is true for women over the age of 75, who are much more likely to be obese than men of the same age. The second graph shows us the boys between the ages of 2 and 17 are slightly more likely than girls to be obese. Adding information on sex into the analysis helps to refine our understanding of who is most affected by obesity. But we also need to remember that these graphs only address the dichotomy of sex – female and male – rather than the continuum of sex. (See Module 1 for a fuller discussion of the concept of sex as a continuum).
Question: How does taking gender into account affect our definition of the obese population?
Adding information about gender to the task of defining a population can be tricky because gender tells us as much about why something is happening as it tells us about who is affected. For instance, the first video shows us that gender can influence who is likely to become obese – boys with obese fathers and girls with obese mothers. The narrator points out that this pattern is not biological (sex), but social (gender). At the same time, the video suggests why this population of children is at greater risk of becoming obese: children learn gender roles from their parents, modeling their behaviour after the parent of the same sex. As a result, girls with obese fathers and boys with obese mothers are not more likely to become obese than children whose parents are both at a healthy weight.
The second video similarly tells us that gender norms and expectations about exercise may create a greater risk of obesity for girls than for boys because they affect if and how parents encourage their children to exercise.