The risks of being told to lose weight
Slimming World write about the sensitivities around weight loss and how it can impact the work place.
The issue of weight is often a highly-charged emotional subject but one that health professionals increasingly need to talk to patients about. Being overweight carries with it a range of health risks including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnoea, musculoskeletal problems and cancer. Health professionals should be better informed than the general public about healthy lifestyle choices but are challenged just like everyone else by the wider environment. For employers, including the NHS, establishing better facilities and incentives such as healthier food in canteens and creating facilities for being more active can help to encourage healthier behaviour.
However it is essential to acknowledge that weight is more than just a physiological issue. Discussions about weight should be broached with sensitivity and understanding. Those who struggle with their weight often feel emotional and may have had negative experiences and suffer from feelings of guilt and shame. Health professionals are likely to be more prone than most because they are seen as role models so making them feel more guilty or culpable could be counter-productive.
Recent National Institute for Health Care and Excellence (NICE) guidance published in May 2014 recommended that health professionals should be aware of the stigma that those who struggle with their weight may feel or experience. Those health professionals who do struggle with their weight will have a greater understanding of how overweight people feel and may be aware of negativity they have experienced. Taking care not to criticise or judge themselves and offer appropriate, care, support and understanding is likely to have a great impact on health professionals’ own weight management as well as the advice and care that they give to their patients.
Slimming World is calling on government to develop and implement a national training standard for all health professionals to equip them with the skills to raise the issue of behaviour change and weight management compassionately and sensitively.