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Canadians are viewed as very welcoming of immigrants. In fact, Canada’s immigrant population recently surpassed 40 million people, with immigrants making up almost one-quarter of the population. Canada also placed first in Gallup’s Migration Acceptance Index in 2019. Today, Canada’s dynamic immigration system — including its refugee resettlement and private sponsorship programs — is celebrated as a model for other countries.

Despite all the praise for its immigration system, however, there are still specific pressing issues the country’s immigrants continue to face. These include barriers to finding jobs that use their skills and qualifications. Research also indicates that immigrants face discrimination in different domains, such as when accessing housing, education, and healthcare. However, another often overlooked aspect of immigration to Canada is the trouble immigrants face in maintaining healthy weight management. Below, we’ll look at some of the factors impacting Canadian immigrants’ weight management and some tips to help:

Access to healthcare

In a previous post discussing four weirdly specific things about Canada, we highlighted the country’s healthcare system — and the difficulty people may have accessing it. Indeed, compared to the US, Canadians don’t usually have to worry about medical bills, and they have access to great healthcare professionals. However, accessing health services is one of the difficulties Canada’s immigrants often face. Instead of having a family doctor, most people rely on walk-in clinics where the wait lasts hours, and you are less likely to see the same doctor twice.

Additionally, Canada is known for its “one issue per visit” policy, limiting patients to discussing only one medical issue per doctor’s visit. This can make healthcare access incredibly inconvenient and delay essential medication or treatment for people with multiple conditions. For example, patients who are overweight or obese may struggle with other weight-related illnesses or conditions such as type 2 diabetes.

Colder weather

Another feature of living in Canada is its extreme weather conditions and generally colder weather. While this may be a simple inconvenience or mere adjustment for some people, immigrants from warmer countries may have trouble adjusting. For some, it may even result in developing seasonal affective disorder. Like depression, seasonal affective disorder can cause symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, increased irritability and stress, changes in appetite, and weight gain. Additionally, it may be difficult for people to stay active and receive vitamin D from sunlight when it’s too cold outside.

To help combat the weight gain due to colder weather, you can do as much physical activity as possible at home — where it should be warmer. Learning home workouts, for example, is a good start and can be a more cost-effective alternative to a gym subscription, especially if the weather may hinder you from going out. You can also learn healthy recipes to help keep you warm in the seemingly long winters without leading to unwanted weight gain.

Tips for weight management

As mentioned above, while most of the factors impacting weight management for Canadian immigrants may be out of their control, small lifestyle changes can be made to help boost weight management.

Changing your dietary habits is a good start. Remember that weight management should be health-focused and not all about the numbers. Modern weight loss programs encourage mindful eating by tracking your meals and planning them ahead of time to prevent mindless snacking. By practicing nutrient-based tracking, you can eat anything anytime without adhering to restrictive diets and fixating on calories. Focus on healthy fillings of fiber, protein, and vitamins to enrich your diet without negatively affecting your weight.

Aside from changing what and how you eat, working physical activity into your routine is essential. This is also an excellent way for immigrants and newcomers to get involved in the local community. In 2022, the Minister of Health announced an investment of more than $970,000 to increase physical activity and healthy living among immigrant populations in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax. The project matches immigrants and refugees with local cycling experts who will provide them with support, resources, and ideas for activities and help organize group events. Newcomers could familiarize themselves with their city’s cycling routes, rules, and culture while exercising regularly to help prevent chronic disease.

Immigrants have plenty of opportunities when they arrive in Canada, but challenges as well. Regarding weight management, simple solutions can go a long way in keeping immigrants healthy.

 

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