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Healthy living a time problem: expert

Too little time is the biggest obstacle for many of those trying to lose weight and keep it off, says Dr. Arya Sharma.

“Healthy living is a time problem,” the University of Alberta professor and its chair in obesity research and management told about 50 people at the Scott Block on Tuesday night.

There is the skipped breakfast, morning rush to work, vending machine snack for lunch because of a tight schedule, and then home, starving and ready to inhale the first pre-packaged thing in sight.

Sound familiar?

It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to register it’s full, but by then many people driven by hunger-induced hormones have over eaten.

“You can do a lot of damage in 20 minutes,” he said.

This is not the way we are supposed to eat. The problem is that to introduce three home-made meals, preferably from fresh ingredients, into your daily routine means finding room for a good couple of hours of preparation, eating and cleanup.

Throw in a little exercise, add at least another hour a day. Don’t forget to schedule for the extra two or three more hours of sleep you should be getting.

It all adds up to the reality that battling obesity is hard and means devoting some serious time to yourself.

“There’s no quick fix.”

Sharma has spent 25 years researching obesity and is founder of the Canadian Obesity Network, which brings together 8,000 doctors, policy makers and others interested in the problem.

His presentation came out of the discussions he has with his patients.

“There’s always a whole bunch of questions and there’s lots of things people want to know about obesity,” he said in an interview before his talk.

People want to know what drives the problem and why so many diets don’t seem to work for most people.

“So I’d thought I’d put together this little show so I could share some of my experience and some of the research we’ve done and talk about some of the issues that I thinking are most important that are really making it so difficult for most people to manage their weight.”

Sharma knows some will come away disappointed that there is no “magic fix.” Others are reassured to hear that their weight loss struggle is not unusual and their battle to lose pounds is not a result of personal failure or lack of effort.

“A lot of those people come away reassured, that here’s an expert telling them that it’s actually very difficult … that there are good reasons this is not easy.

“And that’s not a message they often hear. Even from their own family doctors they hear really this is just a matter of eating less and moving more and they’ll be fine.

“Most people have tried that and it doesn’t really work for them.”

The weight loss industry banks on selling the message that those who successfully lose weight owe it to whatever program they are on, and for those who fail that fault is theirs.

“It’s a great business to be in because they get a lot of repeat customers. People lose weight, put it back on, and come back.

“I always say it’s not people that fail treatment, it’s treatments that fail people.”

There are no simple answers. For instance, genetics play a role in how easy it is for some people to put on weight and how difficult it is for them to take it off.

Medical conditions, such as depression and sleep apnea, can also cause weight gain.

Proceeds of Sharma’s presentation went to the Canadian Obesity Network.

pcowley@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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