Highlighting Women in Science: A new CON-SNP initiative

Today’s post comes from Amanda Raffoul and Melissa Fernandez. Amanda and Melissa are the current Chair and Vice Chair, respectively, of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Amanda here and Melissa here

As members of the CON-SNP National Executive, we have the privilege of connecting with SNPs (students and new professionals!) across Canada. This year, we had a goal to grow these networking opportunities beyond our current network and develop even greater opportunities for professional development among SNPs.

In Canada, there are profound differences in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) program enrollment between women and men.  Beyond this, there exists a “leaky pipeline” in academia – although there are more women than men enrolled in undergraduate degrees, their enrollment and academic status tend to decline through their careers.

At a recent CON event, we found that, within the organization’s network of professionals, there were some incredibly talented and wise women scientists. As two women SNPs ourselves, we found their advice was invaluable, and were inspired to share some of their words with other trainees. With some help from the rest of the National Executive, we reached out to women scientists in obesity across the country to answer the following question:

As a successful female scientist, what advice would you give to your early career self?

We are launching this initiative in honour of International Women’s Day, but will continue to post their responses throughout the next few weeks. Follow along with the hashtag #CONWomenInScience, and feel free to share our first few quotes!

(click images to enlarge)


Amanda & Melissa

CON-SNP Chair & Vice Chair

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One Size Fits One

Today’s guest post comes from Ian Patton. Ian is the Vice Chair of the Canadian Obesity Network’s Public Engagement Committee. You can find out more about Ian here.

In mid-December I was asked to share my experience to a room full of obesity experts as we worked together to develop much needed new Clinical Practice Guidelines for the treatment and management of obesity in Canada.  It is my hope that we can create a set of guidelines that, while being clinically relevant and evidence-based, will empower the public and patients to drive the treatment themselves, making them aware of their options and enabling them to ask the right questions. From a population that has, in general, felt forgotten, belittled or ignored by the health care system, this is a breath of fresh air and a sign of hope that things will be changing for the better.

I am a three-year post-op gastric bypass patient who is passionate about eliminating weight bias and advocating for access to care while building a vibrant community to empower people living with obesity. I want to make sure that my children grow up in a world where body diversity is accepted, and clinical obesity is treated with the dignity and vigour of any other chronic disease.

My personal journey with obesity started in childhood.  I was the “fat kid” in school; I knew I was “defective” by grade two, because that is when the bullying began. Luckily for me, I was so active and competitive in sports that I grew to embrace my size and excelled where my weight was an advantage.

At my largest, I was over 350 lbs, a hypertensive with sever sleep apnea at the ripe old age of 30.  I was so far gone that I was waking up every morning thinking that “today is the day that the weight was going to kill me.” I literally felt as if the life was getting sucked out of my body.


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New, Accredited Case Study Modules for Obesity Management


CON, in collaboration with our obesity society affiliates and mdBriefCase, has been working to expand resources and case studies available to primary care clinicians on obesity management. This international initiative has resulted in accredited learning, along with valuable publications and resources closely aligned with the 5As of Obesity Management which are now available in Canada, Brazil, Italy, Denmark, Finland and Norway.

The additional modules are available for free using the links below. (If you don’t already have an account, you will be asked to register but registration is free!)


An Ounce of Prevention: Medical Management of Obesity-Related Comorbidity

Meet Marion. Marion is 28 years of age, and has been struggling with her weight. Marion’s main concern about her weight has to do with her appearance and how she is received socially.

Canadian Physician Module CLICK HERE

Canadian Allied Health Module CLICK HERE


Halting Obesity Progression

Meet Robert. Robert is 19 years of age and has struggled with being overweight since childhood. He has a family history of diabetes on both sides. Robert recently lost 10kg, but was unable to sustain the weight loss.

Canadian Physician Module CLICK HERE

Canadian Allied Health Module CLICK HERE


Sleep Debt in Adult Obesity in Brazil: A Critical Factor Often Overlooked

Obesity is associated with many forms of sleep disruption due to a variety of causes including, for example, body pain, disrupted circadian rhythms, depression or snoring and other breathing-related sleep problems.

Brazilian healthcare practitioners – CLICK HERE


All other international healthcare practitioners – CLICK HERE

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Smoking Prevalence is Decreasing…Now How Do We Increase Physical Activity and Healthy Eating?

Today’s post comes from Taniya S. Nagpal (PhD Candidate) and Matthew J. Fagan (MA Candidate). Dr. Harry Prapavessis (Director of the Exercise and Health Psychology Laboratory) also assisted with the editing. 

The prevalence of smoking worldwide in 1960 was over 50% for males and 10.6 % for females and ever since has been on the decline with current statistics indicating that the global prevalence is around 31.1% for men and 6.2 % for women (Ng et al., 2014). The steady decrease in smoking for the developed world was partially initiated by the plethora of research linking smoking with negative health consequences such as many different types of cancer (most documented: lung, throat, and stomach), heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and many others (U.S. Department of Health Services, 1988). As early as 1965, health warnings were required to be on cigarette packages in Canada (Stanhope et al., 1964). In Canada today, around 16 % of individuals are classified as smokers (Health Canada, 2017). Each year less people are initiating the behaviour and more are quitting the habit which not only impacts the individuals but their families and the general public (Ng et al., 2014). Certainly the goal is abstinence to prevent the harmful health outcomes that come along with the behaviour and through effective action-planning and persistence, achieving this goal is getting closer.


If smoking cessation rates have trended in the right direction, an important question to answer is…why? Canada, for instance, took an aggressive approach (i.e., equipping the country with tobacco control division in every health unit, countless non-profit organizations such as the Canadian Cancer Society and policy changes) to tobacco control after recognizing the undeniable harm to the population. The tobacco control units not only assist in smoking cessation but proactively target younger populations for prevention of tobacco use, and assist in the development, advocacy, and implementation of policy (Middlesex-London Health Unit, 2018). There are also free smoking cessation products available to the public to ensure universal access to all Canadians.  The Canadian Cancer Society actively looks for innovative ways to help individuals stop smoking. For instance, they currently provide a smoker’s helpline free of charge and are leading Walk or Run to Quit which is utilizing the benefits seen from exercise to assist with quitting (Prapavessis et al., 2016; Canadian Cancer Society, 2018).


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Family-Centered Care and Pediatric Obesity


Today’s post comes from Maryam Kebbe. Maryam is a PhD student in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Alberta. She is also the current Chair of the University of Alberta’s CON-SNP and the Bilingual Communications Coordinator of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Maryam here!

Patient-centered care is a form of care provision in which we observe a shift from the paternalistic role of a provider to a partnership with patients. This practice relies on patient-provider relationships, which are founded on elements of rapport, trust, communication, and collaboration, to enable patients to play an active role in their health care. The Institute of Medicine defines patient-centered care as: “Providing care that is respectful of, and responsive to, individual patient preferences, needs and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions”.1 More specifically, eight principles comprise patient-centered care2, including:

  1. Access to care
  2. Continuity and transition
  3. Involvement of family and friends
  4. Emotional support
  5. Physical comfort
  6. Information and education
  7. Coordination and integration of care
  8. Respect of patients’ preferences

Family-centered care (FCC) is nested within patient-centered care and involves the family of the patient as co-managers in the care pathway. FCC recognizes the family as a constant unit of strength and support in a child or adolescent’s life compared with turnover within service systems and personnel3. It strives to maximize care by acknowledging families’ strengths, individualities, and preferences, all the while respecting a child or adolescent’s choices.


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La Résolution Du Nouvel An!

Today’s post comes from Stéphanie LeBlanc. Stéphanie is a PhD candidate in Experimental Medicine at Quebec Heart and Lung Institute—Université Laval.  She is also the current National Chapter Representative of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Stéphanie here

L’arrivée de la nouvelle année est souvent synonyme de nouveau départ. Ayant surconsommé durant la période des fêtes, notre culpabilité nous incite à nous prendre en mains et une résolution populaire est d’améliorer son alimentation et d’être plus actif. Voici quelques conseils clés pour vous aider à élaborer votre résolution cette année.

Canadian Obesity Network

Augmenter la proportion de « bon » gras dans l’alimentation. Voulant manger mieux, le premier réflexe est souvent de couper les gras de notre alimentation. Toutefois, couper le gras de notre assiette n’est pas nécessairement la meilleure méthode pour réduire le risque de développer des désordres métaboliques ou une maladie cardiovasculaire. L’étude PREDIMED, réalisée dans les années 2003 à 2011, a comparé les effets de 3 diètes, sans restriction calorique : 1) une diète méditerranéenne supplémentée avec de l’huile d’olive extra-vierge ; 2) une diète méditerranéenne supplémentée avec des noix ; et 3) une diète réduite en gras1. À long terme, il

Calum Lewis

s’est avéré que les participants dans les groupes avec une diète méditerranéenne supplémentée en huile d’olive ou en noix présentaient une prise de poids moindre et une plus faible augmentation de la circonférence de taille en comparaison aux participants avec une diète réduite en gras2. De plus, le risque de diabète de type 2, de maladie cardiovasculaire et d’hypertension s’est vu réduit dans ces 2 groupes supplémentés en huile d’olive ou en noix1. Ainsi, la solution n’est pas de couper tous les gras, mais d’augmenter la proportion de « bon » gras dans notre alimentation. La diète méditerranéenne est caractérisée par une augmentation de la consommation de fruits et légumes, de noix, de légumineuses, de produits céréaliers à grains entiers, d’huile d’olive et de poissons, et une réduction des produits transformés, des viandes rouges et des sucreries1.



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Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: A Threat to the Health of Canadians

Today’s post comes from Alexa Ferdinands. Alexa is a registered dietitian and a PhD student in health promotion and socio-behavioural sciences at the University of Alberta. She is also the current Financial Director of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Alexa here



The dangers of sugar have plagued media headlines over the last several years. The evidence behind some of these headlines is questionable (no, sugar is not the same as cocaine). What is certain, however, is that sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are a major source of sugar in Canadians’ diets, and pose a serious harm to our health.

SSBs refer to drinks with added sugar, corn syrup, or other caloric sweeteners, including regular (non-diet) pop, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit drinks (not 100% juice). Unlike other foods and beverages, SSBs provide virtually no nutritional value, aside from energy. Furthermore, people don’t usually adjust their dietary intake to compensate for calories consumed from SSBs, leading to weight gain (1). Aside from obesity, SSB consumption has been linked to other serious chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease (2-4). Despite their negative health impacts, SSBs in Canada are inexpensive, widely available, and heavily marketed by industry.

Drawing on lessons learned from tobacco control (another harmful substance with no health benefits), SSB taxation has emerged as a potential public health tool to address obesity and other diet-related chronic diseases. Although there is no magic bullet for obesity, SSB taxation can serve as one piece of the prevention puzzle.

Breaking research from the University of Waterloo suggests that the health and economic benefits of a 50 cent per litre tax on SSBs


in Alberta could be substantial (5). According to the research, over the next 25 years, a 50 cent per litre tax in Alberta could postpone 1,200 deaths in the province, and prevent:

  • 61,300 cases of overweight and obesity
  • 21,700 cases of type 2 diabetes
  • 5,700 cases of ischemic heart disease
  • 2,100 cases of cancer
  • 750 cases of stroke


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Weight Loss Maintenance Takes Grit?

Today’s post comes from Melissa Fernandez. Melissa is a registered dietitian with a Masters in nutrition at McGill University. She is currently completing her PhD at Université Laval and is also the Vice Chair of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Melissa here



I have been fascinated with the concept of grit since I came across Angela Lee Duckworthy’s Ted Talk “The key to success? Grit”. Duckworth’s research has shown that in various contexts, from military academy to spelling bees, regardless of IQ, grit is a strong predictor of success. Essentially, according to Duckworth:

“Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”  

You can imagine my surprise when I came across a blog that applied grit theory to success in health matters, specifically weight loss maintenance.


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La Taille Hypertriglycéridémiante

Today’s post comes from Stéphanie LeBlanc. Stéphanie is a PhD candidate in Experimental Medicine at Quebec Heart and Lung Institute—Université Laval.  She is also the current National Chapter Representative of the CON-SNP National Executive. You can find more about Stéphanie here



Tissu adipeux abdominal

Le corps emmagasine le surplus d’énergie de différentes façons, mais la principale réserve demeure la graisse. On distingue deux principaux types du tissu adipeux : 1) sous-cutané et 2) viscéral. Alors que le tissu adipeux sous-cutané est généralement apparent étant localisé sous la peau, la graisse viscérale, entourant les viscères, peut être très peu apparente. Le tissu adipeux sous-cutané est peu délétère pour l’organisme, certaines études allant jusqu’à rapporter des propriétés protectrices contre les maladies cardiovasculaires1. Inversement, le tissu adipeux abdominal viscéral (intra-abdominal) est associé à des désordres métaboliques, augmentant le risque de souffrir de diabète de type 2, de dyslipidémie, d’hypertension et de maladies cardiovasculaires2, 3. La mesure de la quantité de graisse viscérale abdominale pourrait donc être très pertinente d’un point de vue clinique afin d’identifier les individus avec cette forme d’obésité à risque.

L’évaluation du tissu adipeux abdominal

La mesure de la graisse viscérale nécessite l’utilisation de méthodes d’imagerie couteuses pour lesquelles l’analyse requière des habiletés particulières (ex. imagerie par résonance magnétique ou tomodensitométrie). Il a été suggéré que la simple mesure de la circonférence de taille soit un outil efficace, informant sur l’excès de graisse abdominale, en plus d’être accessible à faible coût4. De plus, la circonférence de taille a été associée aux mesures de la graisse viscérale, soutenant son utilité clinique dans l’évaluation de surplus du tissu adipeux viscéral5. Toutefois, bien que la circonférence de taille soit un outil clinique très prometteur, celle-ci ne permet pas de différencier la graisse abdominale sous-cutanée de la graisse abdominale viscérale.


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One Size Does NOT Fit All: The Importance of Positive Body Image

Today’s post comes from Megan Lamb and Darcie Valois. Megan and Darcie both completed graduate studies in psychology at Carleton University. Darcie is a recent MA grad and Megan is currently a PhD student.



It’s time to come clean: many of us are guilty of letting a few of these phrases fall carelessly from our mouths from time to time. Whether it is a discussion with friends, or a conversation with yourself, negative self-talk and appearance comparisons are often present in our day-to-day lives. However, many people are unaware of the devastating impact these phrases and comparisons can have on the well-being of ourselves, and those around us.

Today, the majority of youth report being unhappy with their appearance or weight. Research suggests that children begin reporting body dissatisfaction between the ages of six and nine, which increases into middle and high school years, and may continue throughout life. These statistics are alarming, as research has shown that body dissatisfaction is associated with many negative outcomes such as lower self-esteem, disordered eating behaviours, increased symptoms of depression, substance abuse, and peer teasing. Given this, it is critical that parents, educators, and professionals aware of factors that can impact body image development in youth and demonstrate positive body image to aid in the healthy development of children. Here, I will first discuss why body image is important, then reflect on some things that influence body image development and provide tools to improve body image.

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