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.

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