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Q&A with Professor Lisa Kakinami

October 11 is world obesity day. Professor Kakinami shares her thoughts on the socioeconomic determinates of weight and health.
Posted on October 10, 2018

Prof. Lisa Kakinami, a researcher at Concordia’s PERFORM Centre.

“Half of all adults in Canada will be affected by a serious chronic illness, such as a cardiovascular disease or a form of cancer,” she says. “Those most at risk are people living on lower socioeconomic levels.”

What advice do you have for someone trying to lose weight?

  • Start small. Make incremental changes so that you are more likely to stick to the plan.
  • Be patient and don’t try to lose too much weight too fast.
  • Be kind to yourself. If you have a momentary ‘slip’ and eat an extra slice of pizza, or you don’t feel like exercising – it’s ok. Forgive yourself, re-focus your efforts, and don’t give up.

What are common mistakes dieters make?

  • Making too many drastic changes too quickly. We’re creatures of habit, and going from daily fast-food meals to plain salads will not work for most of us.
  • Following fads. There is no magic bullet and fads that focus on drastic, unsustainable changes are not healthy, and will not work in the long-term.
  • Related to the above, another mistake dieters make is to do what works for others. We are all unique individuals and we need to find the changes in our diet and exercise that work for us.

Why are the last 10 pounds so hard to lose?  

  • The more weight we have to lose, the quicker the pounds come off with small changes.
  • If you’ve made healthy changes to your diet and exercise, focus less on what the scale is telling you, and more on how you feel.
  • Re-focus your mindset on having a healthier life (long-term), rather than just weight loss (short-term) and the numbers on the scale will be less of the focus.

Where do you see the research headed?

  • We’ve known for decades that diet and exercise is the key to weight loss and weight loss maintenance. What we don’t know is why making these changes is harder for some people than others.
  • Differences have been shown in perception, emotional responsiveness, cultural influences, and societal pressures, to name just a few. Beyond that, systemic differences in the way neighbourhoods and cities are designed may also play a role.
  • Multidisciplinary research aimed at exploring the individual differences within these larger societal and structural contexts is needed.


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