Food Fax

March 2006

Obesity Through the Looking Glass --Part 1 of 4
By Carol T. Culhane, P.H.Ec. MBA

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King's horses, and all the King's men, couldn't put Humpty together again.

Who is Humpty Dumpty?
A misunderstood and sensitive chap immortalized in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass:

'It's very provoking,' Humpty Dumpty said after a long silence, looking away from Alice as he spoke, 'to be called an egg -- very! ' 'I said you looked like an egg, Sir,' Alice gently explained. 'And some eggs are very pretty, you know,' she added, hoping to turn her remark into a sort of compliment. . The equal girth of neck and waist raised an issue:
'What a beautiful belt you've got on!' 'At least,' she corrected herself on second thought, 'a beautiful cravat, I should have said -- no, a belt, I mean -- I beg your pardon!' [...] 'If only I knew,' she thought to herself, 'which was neck and which was waist!' [...] 'It is a -- most -- provoking -- thing,' he said at last, `when a person doesn't know a cravat from a belt!' .
Two Other Legendary Humpty Dumpties Suffered Mishaps
Humpty Dumpty was the nickname for a huge 17C wooden battering ram built to enable King Charles I's army to cross the Severn River. The ram was wrecked in midstream, "had a great fall", and toppled into the water, drowning hundreds of soldiers--and there was nothing all the king's men could do about it.

Humpty Dumpty was a powerful cannon used in the English Civil War. It fell off the St. Mary's at the Wall Church in Colchester during the siege of 1648, and could not be mended.

A Disease In and Unto Itself
Usually regarded only as a factor in the onset of chronic ailments, in truth, obesity entered the International Classification of Diseases in the 1950's.

A Closer View
For more than a decade, Canadians self-reported their own height and weight, which underestimated the prevalence of overweight and obesity. In 2004, the Canadian Community Health Survey: Nutrition (CCHS) directly measured respondents' height and weight, drawing a more accurate picture.

A Clearer Picture
Between 1978 and 2004, the rate of Canadian overweight/obese adolescents aged 12 to 17 more than doubled from 14% to 29%, while their obesity rate alone tripled from 3% to 9%. Obesity rates rose for every age group among adults except those 65 to 74. The most striking upturns were among people younger than 35 and those 75 or older.

A Similar Lens
Unbiased assessment of the Canadian population allows direct comparison to American statistics, which historically have been objectively measured. 30% of Americans aged 18 or older were obese in 1999/2002, significantly above the Canadian rate of 23%. Most of this difference was attributable to women. While 23% of Canadian women were obese, the figure for American women was 33%.

Through a Looking Glass
Research indicates that overweight and obese people often do not recognize themselves as such, particularly when they associate, live and/or work with people of greater weight than themselves.FF

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