Outdated NHS advice contributing to the UK’s weight crisis as 86% suffer low self esteem after obesity diagnosis


Experts call for end to fatphobic guidelines from Government and more understanding of weight stigma

New research has found that the UK Government’s failure to update flawed and outdated advice to help those living with obesity is preventing the NHS from effectively treating people and ultimately costing the already stretched health service millions.

The poll of 1,500 respondents, with 89% who considered themselves heavier than average,  showed that many people living with obesity have low self esteem, with two thirds (64%) being told they had obesity by a health professional and 86% feeling negative about themselves as a result. 

The report found that current advice on the official NHS website is based on incorrect fatphobic ideas, such as BMI measurements, weight loss groups, calorie counting and diet food alternatives, which shames people into trying to lose weight, creates low self esteem and ultimately has the opposite effect. 

This outdated approach to weight loss only contributes to the issue and ignores the psychological and behavioural factors which lead to obesity, as well as ignoring groundbreaking research into the role genetics plays in weight management.

Eight out of ten respondents have an active lifestyle doing at least the recommended 150 minutes of activity per week from the WHO and a third (35%) achieve double the recommended amount. And whilst half (46%) follow a healthy diet alongside an active lifestyle, 93% still said they would like to lose weight. 

Nearly half polled (46%) had previously joined a weight loss group, one of the methods advised by the NHS to slim down. Whilst 75% lost weight they ultimately put it back on, with only 7% managing to lose weight and keep it off and 40% feeling negative about themselves as a result of attending. 

However, less that 5% were aware of the role genetics play in weight management rather than scientifically unfounded myths around how much food and drink we eat or a sedentary lifestyle. 

Commissioned by inclusive cycling wear brand FLAB, who are urging the Government to stop using archaic weight loss advice which undermines people’s ability to have a healthy relationship with their body and what they eat, the research proves that current policies used for weight management fail to work and only add to a cycle of shame which amplifies the issue. 

Dr Stephanie de Giorgio, an expert in obesity issues commented: “We need to get serious about the science behind obesity to help those who are living with the condition, rather than telling them they simply need to eat less and exercise more. By giving advice that only makes people feel bad when they ultimately lose and regain their weight, or don’t lose enough to reach a “normal BMI”, we are adding to weight stigma which is prevalent through society.

Lynn Bye, Co Founder of Fat Lad At The Back added: “The effects of weight stigma take a huge toll on people who aren’t deemed to be average size and whilst those living with obesity are being given archaic and outdated advice these stereotypes are being reinforced by the Government. 

Our community is living with overweight and obesity but although they are active cyclists with balanced lifestyles the research has proven that the tools provided by the NHS do not work for them.”

To help break the cycle of the weight crisis, where people who have obesity are failed by advice that doesn’t stack up and leaves them in a system that won’t solve the issues, FLAB has teamed up with Dr Stephanie de Giorgio to understand the challenges that people face and create new advice for people to follow: 

SUPPORT EARLY EDUCATION – Education around obesity and the issues people face in society is key and subjects like food preparation and nutrition should be added to the national curriculum to help children understand how to enjoy a balanced diet from an early age

FIGHT BIG FOOD – The role of Big Food in the obesity crisis is tantamount and without the tactics used to keep people buying unhealthy food, including advertising to children, we won’t be able to break the cycle   

HIGHLIGHT THE IMPORTANCE OF ACTIVITY – Activity is anything that helps to raise your heart rate or gets you breathing more but we need to move away from the parallel of weight and exercise directly affecting each other. People of all shapes and sizes can be involved in different activities but acceptance into these areas is key to help open up barriers. 

DROP THE CALORIES – The NHS is still stuck in a world of calorie counting and there have been so many damaging diets that are cult-like in their obsession with calorific values. However the biggest barrier in helping us to eat a healthy balanced diet is poverty and this needs to be addressed. It is a societal issue that includes tackling the food industry and opening access to cheaper fresh food. 

IMPROVE COMPASSION – Whilst we know that having obesity is a risk to health, that does not mean that people living with obesity should not be free to enjoy life in exactly the same way. The misguided belief that you can shame people into losing weight must end so people can live happily in their body. 

MINIMISE USE OF BMI – A hangover from the 1970s, BMI measurements are not specific enough for women or non-white ethnicities. The fat that makes the most difference to our health, and puts us at the most risk, is visceral fat that can be found around our central organs and we don’t have a way of measuring that yet. For now, the most important thing is to look at the patient holistically. 

FLAB’s community includes thousands of cyclists across the UK of all sizes, who are proof that your weight doesn’t define your fitness or ability to get active and enjoy physically challenging cycling.