‘I’m obese and I want to do something about it’

Montague woman demands doctor’s attention while struggling with weight loss

Debbie Davis stood barefoot on the weigh scale as her dietitian keyed in her age and height. 

After a few moments the machine forced out a long receipt of paper with her weight, muscle mass and other body calculations. 

At the bottom of the page she saw a word that truly shocked her.  

Obese.  

In January, while taking part in a chair yoga class at Montague’s TCAP fitness centre, she noticed a sign asking gym members to take part in a transformation challenge.  

She had been putting weight on since she moved to Montague from Ottawa two years ago. Davis had always wanted to change but needed someone’s help. 

But weight loss can be hard for her because she has colitis, an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and sores in the lining of the colon.  

She’s had colitis for 15 years. She can manage the disease by avoiding certain foods, said Davis. 

“It’s not difficult for me to eat healthier, it’s difficult for me to balance carbs, fat and protein.” 

But as part of TCAP’s program, she worked harder than ever to beat the challenge. 

The challenge involved a list of weightlifting exercises they suggested she do three times a week as well as eating healthy and keeping track of her meals.  

She lost a couple of pounds but it wasn’t long before she put it back on without changing her routine. 

She started seeing Doreen Pippy, a dietitian who works at King’s Memorial Hospital in Montague. 

During her first appointment in March, Pippy walked Davis through healthy eating methods and suggested she start working out five times a week. Pippy told her to come back in a month. 

She was discouraged; she was already working so hard, said Davis. 

At her second appointment, she found out she was obese.  

Davis is only one of many Islanders with that label. 

Statistics Canada reported in 2015 that a study of obesity rates in Canada showed more than a third of Islanders are obese, with a BMI (body mass index) over 30.  

While those who are overweight with a BMI between 25 and 30, make up 45 per cent of P.E.I.’s population. 

Using BMI to determine someone’s health isn’t always accurate, said Kaitlyn Reher, a nutritionist with Simply for Life in Charlottetown. 

She sees it as a vague guideline because it’s possible for someone with a larger body mass index to be healthy, said Reher. 

“It doesn’t take into account someone’s body composition.” 

Reher works with clients to create a balanced meal plan. She teaches people about portion control and how to become healthier, she said. 

“They will either see weight loss or feel overall better. Some people don’t realize the impact it has on how they feel.” 

Typically, someone following the program will feel a change, but if the plan isn’t modified for the individual’s needs, it won’t work, she said. 

“But, if you’re not ready for the commitment, it’s harder to see a change.” 

The rate of obesity in P.E.I. has increased 40 per cent since 2004, which means there are now more obese Islanders than there are Islanders of an average weight. 

Even though rates of people with a BMI between 25 and 30 have slightly declined, overweight and obese Islanders make up about 75 per cent of P.E.I.’s population. 

But Davis doesn’t want to be in that 75 per cent. 

After her meeting with Pippy, she made an appointment with her family physician. 

Davis knew her weight problem was due to the medication she was taking for her colitis, she said. 

She sat in her doctor’s office for the first time. It had taken two years since moving to P.E.I. to get a doctor.  

She explained her problem with her medication. 

“We’re running out of options here,” she said. 

A timer dinged to alert that she was going over the time limit. 

“Come back in a couple of months.” 

The appointment wasn’t any help to Davis. She understands that doctors are overworked but thinks her health should be a priority when she had waited two years, she said. 

“I wanted to say here, I’m obese, and I want to do something about it.” 

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