Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Impact of Severe Obesity Felt Far Beyond Physical - Financial Burden and Emotional Implications Also Significant

Survey finds Canadians with severe obesity motivated to lose weight, but struggle to find access to credible, long-term weight management resources

EDMONTON, May 17, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The life-long struggle that most Canadians living with severe obesity (those with a body mass index of 35 or greater) experience as they try to lose weight, not only impacts their personal health, emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships, but it also poses a significant financial burden that can be crippling for some, a new survey from the Canadian Obesity Network-Réseau canadien en obésité (CON-RCO) finds.

The survey results, released today, suggest that while 95 per cent of severely obese Canadians want to lose weight, with over half (56 per cent) attempting weight loss between two and 20 times, only eight per cent have succeeded in attaining and maintaining weight loss. Those who spent money on weight loss methods in the past year, spent close to $900 on commercial weight loss programs; upwards of $750 on gym memberships; $600 on prescription diet pills; and close to $400 on special diets and meal replacement programs.

Nearly three-quarters (75 per cent) of these same people say they have been battling their weight for over 11 years and about one-quarter (24 per cent) say they have lost count of how many times they have tried to lose weight.

"There continues to be a misperception that obesity is simply a lifestyle issue; that obesity arises out of laziness or poor choices," says Dr. Arya M. Sharma, Scientific Director, CON-RCO. "But this survey clearly shows that patients with severe obesity want to lose weight, and that most are actively trying and have been for some time. It also highlights the frustration these individuals feel as they struggle to drop the pounds with minimal success."

Canadians Finding Motivation Through Family, Friends

In addition to the financial burden, the emotional and personal health impact of their condition weighs heavily on the minds of Canada's severely obese population. Nearly half of those surveyed say that relationships with their friends (48 per cent), family (46 per cent), children (46 per cent), and spouse or partner (44 per cent) are negatively impacted by their weight.i Just over half (55 per cent) suffer from low self-esteem, and more than one-third (37 per cent) withdraw from social situations as a result of their condition.i

Despite these setbacks, however, Canadians with severe obesity are motivated to drop the weight. The majority of respondents (84 per cent) say the main reason they want to lose weight is to improve their overall health. This is not surprising given that 75 per cent report having one or more accompanying conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, while nearly half (47 per cent) say they have two or more conditions. Other motivational factors to losing weight include: "improving self-esteem" (51 per cent), "improving mental/emotional health" (38 per cent) and inspiration from a spouse/partner (28 per cent) and children (21 per cent).i

Gillian Taggart knows first-hand the impact of living with severe obesity, experiencing both physical and emotional complications due to her condition.

"I recall having a real moment of truth one day, when I could no longer participate in everyday activities like grocery shopping or walking my children to school. At that moment, I realized how unhealthy I was, I would not live to see my children grow up," says Ms. Taggart, who has two children.

Through conversations with her physician and her own research, Ms. Taggart decided to pursue a medically-assisted procedure to help her lose weight. Since her procedure, she has lost more than 100 pounds and is now able to travel and participate in a more active lifestyle.

"Many patients come into my clinic, frustrated and depressed with their repeated failure to sustain weight loss. They feel like they've failed over and over again despite making their best efforts," says Dr. Chris Cobourn, Medical Director and Surgeon, SWLC. "It's critical that these patients understand that there is no 'one-size-fits-all' approach to weight loss. Only after understanding all the treatment options, including surgery and medically-assisted weight loss procedures, can these patients make an informed decision and start to feel empowered about living a life that goes beyond their weight."

Sixty-one per cent of Canada's severely obese population report that weight loss is an uphill battle for them as they have too much to lose and four in 10 (41 per cent) feel discouraged about trying another weight loss program for fear of failing again. In addition, 54 per cent say they feel trapped in an endless cycle of diet and exercise.

"The survey makes clear that Canadians are confused about where to go to find credible weight management resources," Dr. Sharma concludes. "Surgery wait times can be very long, the commercial weight loss industry is not regulated, so many of those products and services can be a waste of time and money, and employers are just coming around to the idea that obesity management has to move beyond simply telling people to eat less and move more. What Canadians with excess weight need most is clear guidance on how to find the help they need."

Full results on the survey are available on the CON-RCO website,

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