Supersize Me meets Northern Exposure in My Big, Fat Diet when the Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay gives up sugar and junk food, returning to a traditional style of eating for a year to fight obesity and diabetes.

 

If you visit Alert Bay off the coast of Vancouver Island, you'll find a picturesque fishing village inhabited by two cultures, the Namgis First Nation and their non-native neighbours. Here an epidemic is undermining the health and vitality of community. Like most aboriginal communities across North America, the rates of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes here are up to five times the national average.
No one's life is untouched by this problem, everyone is related to someone who is either at risk, or coping with one of these health issues. Mainstream medical professionals cite sedentary lifestyles and a diet rich in fat as the underlying reason for the growing epidemic.

 
     
 
Alert Bay, B.C.
 
 
     
 
Making new food choices..
 

 

 

But after two decades of service in public health and a distinguished career, Métis physician, Dr. Jay Wortman, believes that the western diet which replaced the traditional diet is the primary cause of the epidemic. "Obesity, diabetes and heart disease were unknown in these populations until very recently. No aboriginal language has a word for diabetes."
Wortman's conviction comes from personal experience. Four years ago, he discovered that he had type 2 diabetes. "My immediate instinctive response was to stop eating any food that caused my blood sugar to rise. So I eliminated carbohydrates from my diet. Within four weeks, my blood sugar and blood pressure had normalized and I began to feel much better."

 

Directed by Mary Bissell, My Big, Fat Diet chronicles how the Namgis First Nation goes cold turkey and gives up sugar and junk food for a year in a diet study sponsored by Health Canada and the University of British Columbia. Through the stories of six people, it documents a medical and cultural experiment that may be the first of its kind in North America.

My Big Fat Diet, like Super Size Me, looks at the problem of obesity, through the eyes of a man who straddles two cultures, Western and First Nations. It also looks at the history and present-day status of traditional food gathering, and the link between individual health and that of the immediate environment.

 

 
     
 
Dr. Jay Wortman with one of the diet participants.
 
 
     
 
Cauliflower became a new 'favourite' in Alert Bay.
 

 

Bare Bones Productions is a collaboration between award-winning, First Nations film-maker, Barb Cranmer of Alert Bay and Mary Bissell and Christian Bruyere of Vancouver. My Big, Fat Diet was produced by Bare Bones Productions in association with CBC Newsworld.

 

www.cbc.ca/thelens/bigfatdiet

 
 
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