Battling the bulge
Placentia native filming documentary on obesity epidemic
As a personal trainer with an interest in examining the deeper issues that impact a person’s health, Tonya Whittle is eager to help shift the mindset of those she works with.
Now, the Placentia native is turning her attention to the camera for a web series that will look at one of this province’s longest running health issues.
“One of the things I’m really passionate about is helping end obesity, especially in Newfoundland,” Whittle told The Compass during an interview at her home in Holyrood.
A Statistics Canada report released last year ranked Newfoundland and Labrador higher than any other Canadian province based on an obesity rate of 35 per cent. That ranking has been consistent for decades.
“When we switched from overweight to obese, the health impact is horrifically worse,” said Whittle. “Even in overweight you’re at an increased risk of all kinds of things, but once you move into that obese category, you’re getting a lot more fat around your main organs.”
Whittle has created video content for her online T.W. Fitness gym, but with this project she’ll be working with Newfoundland and Labrador filmmaker Roger Maunder. Just Change St. John’s recently provided her production with a $1,000 grant, and they are continuing to raise funds needed to make the documentary series.
She expects to have the series ready to air online in 2016. People will be able to view it for free.
Through the documentary, Whittle hopes to educate the public about areas people do not often talk about within the fitness industry. Whittle believes television programs like NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” set unrealistic expectations for people.
“I have people who come into my studio who have 150 pounds to lose. They think they can lose it in three months. Even if you moved in with me, it’s not safe nor is it healthy to lose that kind of weight in three months time. We live in an instantaneous, quick-fix society where everyone wants everything instantly.”
Whittle wants to explore the root causes of obesity in this province, including food security, weather and mental health.
“It’s going to be an interesting concept following around weight loss that really no one else is talking about … What happened in your life that made you get to be 400 pounds? Because people who get to be 400 pound don’t get to 400 pound because they like to eat chips. They get to 400 pounds because they’re eating as a coping mechanism.”
“We live in an instantaneous, quick-fix society where everyone wants everything instantly.” Tonya Whittle
Personal trainer Tonya Whittle is working on a documentary web series with St. John’s filmmaker Roger Maunder.