Tag Archives: obesity

Fat and Me.

I have been obsessed about my weight for sixty years, since the age of 7. In my political and work life, I worked hard at pretending that my size was irrelevant.

Two instances have led me to finally talk about my size. As you know, I had difficulty advocating for a CTscan for my husband who was losing a lot of weight. I felt that I wasn’t believed by the doctor because I was a fat woman worried about my husband who was not overeating. This may not be true but it is how I felt. It did not come out of nowhere.

A surgeon refused to fix my hernia that was the size of a basketball unless I lost weight. As usual, no suggestions on how I would do that. The wonderful surgeon who eventually fixed my hernia and twisted bowel during emergency surgery has told me to come to her as soon as the hernia reappears. Three years and it has not.

Fortunately my husband did get the CTscan, unfortunately his weight loss did mean that he has cancer. Thank you for all your prayers.

Secondly, my dear older daughter’s post was taken down on a feminist progressive Facebook site for saying a cartoon of a very fat Trump was fat shaming. People have also complained about Anderson Cooper calling Trump an obese turtle. The point being that rather than talking about Trump’s many nasty faults, people laughed about his big stomach or big butt.

It is of course not just Trump who is called out for being fat. Stacey Abrams and other female politicans have had their share of fat shaming.

For me, the first instance of fat shaming as a politician occurred when I was a school trustee on one of the first chat rooms about education during the Harris years. A man on that board posted a picture of me where he had photoshopped me fatter than I actually was at the time. The idea being, I suppose, that if you are a fat woman, your opinion means nothing.

The second instance was at Regional council when we were approving the extension of Westmount Road from Lakeshore to Beechwood. A delegation called the road “My (Jane Mitchell’s) big fat road project.” Behind him, one of his supporters called out “Why don’t you try walking!” Fortunately Angela Vieth, now a long time Waterloo councillor, pointed out in her presentation for the road that she often saw me walking.

Overall, though I know people comment about my weight behind my back, I went on to become Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority and a long time Regional Councillor and people generally listen to my views.

Like smoking, taking drugs and alcoholism, there is a difference between making fun of a problem and working with compassion to help people solve it. I well remember how funny Dean Martin was in the 60s as a drunk, and the slapstick of drunks falling down. You don’t see that anymore.

I was skinny until I was 7 years old. We moved to an apartment while waiting for a new house to be built. Less exercise and I suddenly developed an appetite. It was the 50s, my thrilled mother gave me two hamburgers every lunch and I quit ballet when a little kid said, “Look at the fat dancer.” The lifelong struggle began.

In my teens and twenties, I was slim but I did not know it. I could have slipped into anorexia. I thought I was fat after my second daughter was born, but I wasn’t. I jumped on the scale three times a day and tried every weight loss scheme going. The weight loss industry made thousands off me. What did I learn? Diets make you fat. It is very difficult or impossible to lose weight. Please don’t tell me to push away from the table or take up running.

Obesity is an epidemic in North America. So is type 2 diabetes. Everywhere we look there are cheap high fat, high sugar and high salt foods, the triple threat humans are designed to crave. Our cities are built for passive car driving rather than active walking and cycling.

I have had a lot of stress in my life, from family members with epilepsy, parents with cancer, to the good stress of politics. Dear departed Mayor Lynn Woolstencroft once told me that many Mayors and senior level politicians become alcoholics. Some of us eat.

I continue to struggle with my weight, but I am working on a new change. Lifestyle. Retired, I am walking the dog, learning piano, writing and taking a diabetes course from the YMCA. Lots of at home exercise ideas in this time of COVID. This means accepting my body as it is.

I have learned from my daughters not to jump on the scale and to enjoy a new lifestyle. This does not mean that my own daughters have not struggled with body image. That is our society. I worry about my 7 year old granddaughter when she wants ice cream with her pancakes, yet she is thin and bounces on her exercise ball, not a care in the world. I don’t want her to grow up worrying about her weight and how she looks.

When I talk about stopping the fat shaming, I am not asking you to be politically correct. It is like Trump telling Laura Ingraham she was being politically correct for wearing a mask. I am asking that people be civilized and try not to hurt other peoples’ feelings.

As the meme going around social media says: Be Kind.”

Some good resources about women’s body image and fat shaming.

Fat is a Feminist Issue: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/468872.Fat_Is_a_Feminist_Issue

The Beauty Myth: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39926.The_Beauty_Myth#:~:text=It%27s%20the%20beauty%20myth%2C%20an%20obsession%20with%20physical,impossible%20definition%20of%20%22the%20flawless%20beauty.%22%20More%20Details

When You Talk About Donald Trump, Every Fat Person Hears You: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/anderson-cooper-donald-trump-obese-turtle_n_5fa5a221c5b64c88d4005111?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003&fbclid=IwAR0m6NV6VO9IJPcyq4BPKP0vEiSLvABjGMmVaLOCFRlDONyziienN9ms4fE

The Left Has a Fat Problem: <a href=”https://medium.com/@thefatshadow/maralard-ss-and-the-lefts-fat-problem-4dc57c498252″>https://medium.com/@thefatshadow/maralard-ss-and-the-lefts-fat-problem-4dc57c498252</a>

Food Deserts and Food Swamps

Food Deserts (Not desserts!)

Imagine riding a bus for an hour to get to a supermarket to buy fresh fresh fruit and vegetables. This happens in the low income centers of a number of American cities and is called a food desert.  A few years ago, Waterloo Region Public Health and Foodlink tried out a pilot project that located temporary farmers’ markets in various neighbourhoods, many low income, throughout

Preston Towne Market

Preston Towne Market

Waterloo Region. The ones at St. Mary’s hospital and the Preston Towne Square come to mind. The pilots were not continued for various reasons, except for the market at Preston Towne Square which has grown in popularity over the years. It should be noted that supermarkets do exist in Preston, it is not a food desert.

Food Swamps (Includes desserts!)

Which leads to the interesting NEWPATH report on Diet and Food Environment Findings presented at Community Services yesterday. The Region participated in a project from three universities that analyzed 1,334 retail food establishments and 1,170 individuals from 690 households in Waterloo Region in 2009.

People kept two day food diaries and the researchers  looked at what kind of food establishments were near the individuals. The study participants had a range of income, walkability from their home and number of occupants. They reported their weight, height and waist circumference.

The study found that the availability of healthy versus unhealthy food influences our eating behaviors and and health outcomes. An extremely small proportion of residents in Waterloo Region eat a good diet, .3%. The percent for Canada is .5% so we are slightly worse. But everyone is truly bad! No wonder overweight and obesity is an epidemic.

The researchers found that the vegetables and fruit in Regional retail food establishments are of excellent quality and that Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, rather than gaps in access to healthy food (food desserts), have an overabundance of unhealthy food and beverages (food swamps). We are swamped with bad food and beverages.

Within one kilometre of study participants’homes:

There were five times as many convenience stores and fast food outlets as grocery stores and specialty stores.

There was over three times as much shelf space dedicated to energy dense snack food (chips and candy for instance) as compared to shelf space for vegetables and fruit. 

Convenience stores were on average 521 meters away, fast food outlets 582m and grocery stores 1001m away.

  Food stores with fruits and veggies close in price to junk food had less fat people living nearby. Those who shop at health and specialty stores were less impacted by price.

Food Deserts Versus Food Swamps

The study showed that in Waterloo Region, people do have access to healthy food and we do not have food deserts. However the results of the study suggest that exposure to unhealthy food is associated with poor diet. Also if healthy foods are priced the same or lower than unhealthy foods, they are likely to be purchased.  The current environment in the region is a food swamp, an overabundance of poor nutritional choices.

What can we do?

It is a strange thing to purchase medications to control obesity induced diseases then walk down an aisle filled with junk food and beverages to visit a cashier surrounded by chocolate bars for sale. Pharmacies gave up cigarettes, shouldn’t they also think about the selling of junk food? Parents across the region would thank our stores for removing junk food from the check out area.

Public Health will explore improving the affordability of healthy food and  beverages with such ideas as zoning by-laws, recreation centres, and healthy corner stores.

Temporary Food Markets

This brings me back to the temporary farmers’ markets. I asked the presenter if temporary food markets are  necessary since we don’t have food deserts, we have food swamps. She said that actually, they are still a good idea as long as the food is comparable in price to the junk food. Interestingly, this was one of the reasons given for a failure of the temporary food market pilots in low income areas.

The City of Waterloo has a Thursday evening market in Uptown that has become quite successful and of course bargains are to be had at the St. Jacob’s

St. Jacob's Market

St. Jacob’s Market still buzzing the Thursday after the Fire last year.

Market, Cambridge Market, Elmira Market, Kitchener Market and Preston Market (and how lucky we are to have these permanent farmers’ markets!) The City of Waterloo has just passed revised licensing by-laws and farmers’ markets are under flea markets with licenses valid at a particular location for 90 days on private property and 6 months on city property, and require public health approval. (Thanks Councillor Jeff Henry for this info)

The Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable is asking municipal candidates their opinion on zoning for temporary farmers’markets. The Roundtable wants broad zoning so the markets can pop up anywhere. Some candidates have privately told me they wonder if that is too broad. In any case, public meetings are coming up in the next year in Waterloo.

Temporary markets might help with locations for the strawberry trucks and corn sellers who park on the side of the road, sometimes causing traffic problems. Finally, after my questions in committee, Mary Ann Wasilka a citizen who was a delegation on another topic yesterday, sent me an interesting article about fruit and vegetable carts in New York city, basically pop-up vegetable stalls. They are for the poor in food deserts but they could be fun in the parking lots of our food swamps.

NEWPATH Research Project — Diet and Food Environment Findings. on page 24 of the Community Services Committee Agenda of August 12, 2014.

Food Spaces, Vibrant Places Campaign

Waterloo Region Food System Roundtable

Foodlink.ca