Are you carrying some extra weight?

By Lisa Felepchuk

We’ve got the lowdown on Canada’s fittest and fattest cities – how do you measure up?

Ten years ago, smoking was the national epidemic that had the country talking. Across Canada, anti-smoking campaigns were being implemented. The bar and restaurant industry began to prohibit smoking indoors, and cigarette companies were dropped from sporting events as lead sponsors.

Fast forward to 2008, there is a new national concern, – a more silent, yet equally as deadly epidemic – obesity. Although smoking remains the number one preventable cause of death among Canadians, obesity is a close second. By now, the majority of us are aware of the hazards which extra fat can cause, so why are more than half of Canadians either overweight or obese? According to Statistics Canada, a shocking 59 percent of Canadians are currently overweight or obese – that’s almost 6 in 10 adults who carry around extra weight every day.

Although the number of Canucks who are overweight or obese is high, some communities are on the right path to a healthier lifestyle – and smaller pant size. We’ve got the lowdown on Canada’s fittest and fattest cities – how do you measure up?

Western Canada
British Columbians, give yourself a pat on the back – you are one of the nation’s fittest provinces. Vancouver ranked the lowest out of all the Canadian cities, with only 12 percent* of their population suffering from obesity. This is great news, not only for the fitness and well-being of Vancouverites, but also since all eyes will be on the city in two years, as they host the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

The rest of the major western cities did not measure up to the healthy examples Vancouver has set. Sixty-two percent of Edmonton residents are either overweight or obese, and Saskatoon is just as alarming at 64 percent. Regina and Winnipeg rank slightly below, closer to the national average, with 58 percent of their populations being either overweight, or obese.

Central Canada
The news doesn’t get better as we move across the country, into our central provinces. In fact, the fattest city in all of Canada is located in Ontario. Hamilton residents had the highest amount of both overweight and obese residents – 74 percent. Kingston wasn’t far behind, with about 70 percent of its population being overweight or obese. Both Toronto and Montreal were moderately lower with each sitting at 51 percent. On a positive note, only 15 percent of Torontonians were dubbed obese. Sherbrooke was similar to Toronto and Montreal, with 52 percent of its residents being overweight or obese.

Eastern Canada
Halifax residents can take pride in knowing they are the healthiest on the East Coast – only 18 percent of these residents are considered obese. This is good news, especially when compared to Saint John, where an alarming 7 in 10 citizens in this city are either overweight or obese. St. John’s is equally as shocking with 71 percent of its population being in the overweight or obese category.

How does your province measure up?
Here’s a chart with several provinces and their estimated population and percent of overweight or obese residents.

Province Estimated Population Overweight/Obese
British Columbia 4,413,973 59.0 %
Alberta 3,497,881 60.9 %
Saskatchewan 1,006,644 68.1 %
Manitoba 1,193,566 62.5 %
Ontario 12,861,940 58.6 %
Quebec 7,730,612 56.3 %
New Brunswick 751,250 64.4 %
Nova Scotia 935,573 59.7 %
P.E.I. 139,089 66.5 %
Newfoundland 508,099 71.0 %

*All data courtesy of Statistics Canada. Source: Regional differences in obesity. Statistics Canada,, June 2008.

Why are we so fat?
Over the last 30 years, there has been a dramatic rise in obesity. Our culture shift is primarily due to the fact we consume foods that are too high in energy density, yet with little nutritional value. Fast food is at our fingertips. All it takes is one easy phone call to have a greasy meal delivered directly to your doorstep. This becomes especially tempting for those who believe preparing a healthy meal takes too much work. Movies, television, video games, and yes, even the internet, have made us lazier. We are more likely to spend our free time catching up on our favourite TV programs than putting in an hour at the gym, or going for a walk around the block.

The statistics are undoubtedly shocking, and there is a necessity for change. Carrying extra fat around your tummy, bum, or thighs is more than just a nuisance – it’s a serious health hazard for many Canadians.

Body mass index (BMI)
Body mass index is a simple calculation that is used worldwide to measure one’s health. It is important to remember that BMI does not take muscle mass, or bone density into consideration. For example, a muscular fit person may have a high BMI, but not actually be overweight.

To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches squared, then multiply that number by 703. The equation would look like this: (pounds) / (inches2) x703.

Sound like too much work? Use our simple BMI calculator (below) to learn if you’re at a healthy weight or not.

Enter your height in inches, and weight in pounds. A pop up will open with a number. Remember it, and scroll below to learn what it means.

Height:  inches

* 1 foot = 12 inches

If your BMI is….

18.5 or less: You are underweight
It is extremely important to make sure you consume a balanced diet, especially if you are underweight. Taking a daily supplement is a good way to ensure you get all of the nutrients your body requires. Speak to your family doctor if you have experienced rapid weight loss, or are having trouble gaining weight.

18.6 – 24.9: You are normal weight
This is the weight that every person strives for, so congratulate your self for being bang on. Continue to maintain the weight you’re at by getting daily exercise and eating a balanced diet.

25 – 29.9: You are overweight
You may be overweight, but you are definitely not alone. In fact, most Canadians will fall into this category. It is important to start taking your health more seriously and shed those extra pounds.
30 or greater: You are obese
This shouldn’t be taken lightly. Obesity has been linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer – just to name a few. If your BMI is higher than 30, consult your physician and start seriously working on a plan to change your lifestyle before it’s too late.

** Muscle affects BMI calculations. This means that a strong, athletic person will likely have a higher BMI, but not actually be overweight.