Today’s post comes from Malcolm Snow. Malcolm is a 4th year undergraduate student at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He is also one of the Chapter Representatives on the OC-SNP National Executive.

In mid-May, fellow Chapter Representative Joyla Furlano and I held a Zoom meeting with local Obesity Canada chapter chairs to try and understand the impact that the unraveling COVID-19 pandemic is having on their educational, professional, and personal lives. 

Several topics were discussed, but the most common, and ultimately most important priority, was to maintain mental wellness. As a society, we were presented with an unprecedented situation forcing us to deal with increased restrictions on our social norms. 

As a group, we decided on the importance of developing a webinar featuring experts in various fields to discuss helpful practices, and to really understand what people are going through during this time. The webinar will focus on weight bias and mental health, given the increased stigma that has been associated with obesity through social media during the pandemic. Additionally, the timing of COVID-19 ultimately resulted in us having to postpone our highly anticipated Canadian Obesity Student Meeting which was scheduled to take place in late June at York University. Therefore, this webinar will hopefully act as a platform for students from different chapters to learn, engage, and network.

The defining element of this event has been its collaborative approach. Fellow OC-SNP members Joyla Furlano and Khushmol Dhaliwhal and I have worked with chapter chairs from all over Canada throughout the development of this event. The webinar will be hosted by a panel of moderators representing institutions across Canada. Our three moderators are: Hannah Froom from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Benyamin Zagar from Simon Fraser University, and Wally Mir, from York University. Our  expert panel will feature four guest speakers. The panel will be presenting ideas and answering your questions through a discussion-based presentation. It is my pleasure to provide you with a synopsis of our guest speakers area of expertise below:

  • Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew, PhD, R. Psych: Dr. Shelly Russell-Mayhew specializes in the prevention and treatment of eating and weight-related issues. She is a Professor of Education at the University of Calgary and a registered psychologist. Within her research, she is bridging the gap between the two to transform how we think and act about weight. She studies weight-related issues like body image (perceptions, attitudes, and experiences about the body), disordered eating (e.g., unhealthy methods of weight change), weight-related disorders (e.g., obesity and eating disorders) and professional conversations and interactions about weight. She is a founding member of the EveryBody Matters Collaborative with Obesity Canada. 
  • Dr. Ian Patton, PhD: Dr. Patton is the Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement for Obesity Canada and a contract Faculty member at the school of Kinesiology at York University. As a global obesity patient advocate, Ian is passionate and determined to change how people think and talk about obesity as well as addressing discrimination. Ian’s tenure with Obesity Canada as an organization has spanned over a decade, first becoming involved as a student trainee to eventually become an employee.
  • Ms. Julie Sweeney, RSSW, MTC: Ms. Sweeney is a client-centered, solution-focused counselor specializing in supporting women find freedom for themselves. She is a registered social service worker. Julie offers openness, honesty, and a willingness to be a part of the journey in a way suited to your needs. Outside of her specialization in body image and self-esteem, Julie works with clients experiencing anxiety, mainly focusing on self-care and changing negative coping habits. 
  • Dr. Micheal Vallis, PhD: Dr. Vallis is registered Health Psychologist, and cross-appointed to Dalhousie University as an Associate Professor in Family Medicine and Psychiatry. His expertise notably includes behavior change, adult health psychology, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular risk and gastroenterology. Dr Vallis supports numerous initiatives and is involved within healthcare systems and industry, sharing his expertise to improve adherence to health behaviors as well as adjust to chronic conditions. Most recently, Dr. Vallis serves on the Executive of the 2020 Canadian Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Treatment of Obesity in Adults.

The webinar will be taking place on Friday, July 24th from 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. EST on Zoom. 

A link to the registration page can be found here:

Thank-you so much, and we hope to see you at the webinar! 


OC-SNP National Chapter Representative