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Fat City

Although scientists and supermodels have at last agreed that the Barbi/Ken doll physique is impossible for the majority of people to attain, a record numbers of Canadians are well on their way to emulating another famous doll – the one and only

Although scientists and supermodels have at last agreed that the Barbi/Ken doll physique is impossible for the majority of people to attain, a record numbers of Canadians are well on their way to emulating another famous doll – the one and only Pilsbury Dough Boy.

Fatty, high calorie diets, desk jobs, comfy couches, cable television and hectic fast food schedules are only partially to blame for this trend – our lack of knowledge and appreciation of the health risks is also at fault. The majority of us have little or no idea what we're doing to ourselves or how it can be avoided.

The statistics are mind blowing.

More than half of all Canadians are at least slightly overweight for their height, and 12 per cent are considered obese – 20 per cent above their recommended weight. Doctor's estimate that 61 per cent of Canadian children between the ages of five and 17 are so physically inactive that their future health and development will be threatened. One out of every five kids is obese, which is a higher per capita ratio of obesity than the United States, the land of the grease… and the ho-ome of the buffet.

We obviously know something's wrong – annual revenues of "self image" companies, including diet plan creators, gym memberships, and exercise equipment manufacturers top $50 billion globally each year, approximately $33 billion of which is spent in the U.S.

Healthy people do buy exercise equipment, and so do skinny-but-otherwise-healthy-types-who-are-sick-of-getting-sand-kicked-in-their-face-and-losing-their-girlfriend. It's a fair bet however that a fair chunk of that money is spent by overweight people who would pay just anything to fit the beauty ideal.

With spring and summer just around the corner, the quest for a healthy-looking physique, one that can whip its shirt off at the beach and wear Spandex, goes into overdrive.

While you can't undo a winter of abuse in a few weeks, any time is a good time to turn things around.

If you’ve ever crashed your car you know that before you can fix the damage, you have to get it appraised. Well in this case, you’ve totalled your body, and before you go to the body shop to hammer the dents out, you need to know what you’re up against.

Self Magazine, the same fitness and wellness periodical that you’ve probably seen from the grocery store lineup while stocking up on Haagen-Dazs, provides an online calculator to help you assess the damage and blue book value of your body. This includes calculators to determine your Body Mass Index (measure of fitness using height and measurements), your Body Fat Percentage, your Ideal Weight, and your level of Health Risk. It also has nutritional calculators to determine your daily Caloric Needs, your Fat Needs, your Protein Needs and you Carbo Needs.

Once you’ve made the commitment to exercise, there are calculators to determine your optimum Heart Rate and calculators to determine just how many calories you’ve burned.

While these calculators come with a warning to check with your physician before you start to exercise, they are a good place to start any regimen.

LifeMatters takes a holistic approach to fitness, attributing good health to a balanced lifestyle. That doesn’t just mean less food and more exercise, but mental, emotional and spiritual well-being as well – what’s the point of looking good if you feel like crap? There are sections on Health News, Health Matters, Fitness Matters, Nutrition Matters, Relating Matters and Parenting Matters. You will have to subscribe, but the subscriptions are free.

This is a good site because it is a work in progress and a compilation of ideas and proven formulas from professionals in all relevant fields.

This is the official site of Health Canada, with articles, facts and figures on almost everything that is health related, from public health care to childhood obesity. Almost everything you would ever want to know about fitness, nutrition, drugs and disease can either be found here, or through its comprehensive selection of health related links. Whether you voted Liberal or not, this is an excellent and knowledgeable site.

This is the home of the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute, and it has a kind of friendly Dr. Bunsen and Beaker/Muppet Labs thing going on that makes it a good site to bookmark.

It mostly contains statistics on fitness and lifestyle, but there is plenty of valuable information here that can help you, or at the very least frighten you into changing your habits.

Back in the day every school kid in Canada spent an afternoon in the Canada Fitness Program, doing sit-ups, running laps, jumping, and flexed-arm hanging from bars while the clocked ticked to determine how fit they were. The fittest were given awards of excellence, the next fittest gold badges, and so on and so to "Participant".

The government eventually did away with this program because of the psychological effect it was having on less physically capable children. I used to dread it, and I was consistently in the gold category.

While they can’t make you do anything, you are welcome to the program at this site. There is advice on sports and children, advice on how to get fit in summer and winter, and programs for Wellness in the workplace.