Initiative participant April Wiebe in blue works out with a trainer. Kevin Martel/News Talk Radio
To battle some unflattering obesity statistics fitness and health professionals in Moose Jaw are trying something that’s relatively new to Saskatchewan and to the rest of Canada.
To help residents shed pounds and keep them off, a new program is being undertaken called the Healthy Weights Initiative. It doesn’t focus solely on just exercise, it also combines nutrition, behavioural therapy sessions, and social support for those wanting to make a change.
It’s something that April Wiebe wanted to give a try.
“I want to live a healthier lifestyle and demonstrate that for my children with the healthy eating and the activity levels and keeping myself active as well. I want to keep up with them for years,” Wiebe outlined.
To participate, you must be between 18 and 64 and have a Body Mass Index of greater than 30. To ensure you have a solid base of support, you’re asked to pick out a family member or friend who also meets the criteria so they can join you. Those who take part will get 72 workouts, 12 dietary sessions and 12 cognitive behaviour therapy sessions with a psychologist; all of it as part of a larger group and all of it completely free of charge.
“Obesity levels go up in every community every year. So it’s up, up, up. There’s no stop in sight,” explained Dr. Mark Lemstra, who heads up the initiative.
Statistics Canada released numbers for 2013 that showed 63.6 per cent of all adults in Moose Jaw were obese or overweight. That breaks down to 26.3 per cent who were obese and 37.3 per cent who were overweight.
Those figures are troubling to Mayor Deb Higgins, but what concerns her most is the growth among childhood obesity in the city. She believes adults act as role models and if they keep an active, healthy lifestyle so too will their kids.
“Healthy habits are picked up by children and by those around us. If your parents are active the chances are way more likely that your family and your children will be active,” she said.
A big part of the obesity problem, according to Dr. Lemstra, is that there’s too much advertising without an equal balance of programming.
“There’s lots of ads. You’ll see in motion ads, ParticipACTION ads, but no one is actually offering programming let alone social support to actually accomplish those goals.”
Dr. Lemstra said this initiative is a first for Saskatchewan and maybe even for Canada.
For Wiebe she knows it will be a challenge over the next few months, especially finding enough time.
“I need to just make sure that I have time for those things and make time for myself in terms of that we’re purchasing the healthy foods and that we’re preparing the healthy foods; giving myself time to go to the gym and to those therapy sessions.”
But between the workouts, dietary advice, social support and therapy sessions, she believes it’ll work.
“Everything all intermingling, it seems like a flawless program.”
The initiative’s aim is to help 1,000 participants over the next two years. Those who are interested can go to their family doctors in Moose Jaw for information since all but one have formally given their support to this program.