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At a glance, our recent survey shows that: 

  • 78% of UK adults who are unhappy with their weight feel nervous ahead of visiting the doctor 
  • 87% of these reported suffering physical symptoms ahead of seeing their GP, such as sweating, needing the toilet, nausea and shaking 
  • Over half (55%) said they rarely visit or put off seeing their GP unless absolutely necessary 
  • In contrast, a survey of successful slimmers found 60% feel no nerves ahead of visiting the doctor, and three-quarters (77%) reported that their health had improved since joining Slimming World. 

New research** has revealed that of those people who said they are concerned about their weight and feel nervous about going to the doctor, more than a third (38%) worry that they could be diagnosed with a health condition, while 23% fear that they’ll be judged about their weight. As a result, almost a quarter of these people said that they’d rather Google health questions than visit the doctor, and 10% said they’d rather buy medication online. 

Our survey of 2,003 adults also revealed that 87% of people who are unhappy with their weight and feel nervous ahead of visiting the doctor suffer physical reactions often associated with phobias, such as sweating, shaking and nausea. And almost one in five of these (19%) would rather take a maths test, and 16% would rather pick up a spider, than pay a visit to their local surgery. 

One in 10 of all the people surveyed said they’ve had a bad experience at the doctor’s, leaving them feeling ashamed. 

“I worried I’d be told to just move more and eat less” 

Slimming World Marathon team member Lisa Doherty

Slimming World member Lisa Doherty can relate to the findings of the survey. She says: “Before losing weight, I’d avoid going to the doctor at all costs. It started when I was pregnant. When my midwife weighed me, she said, “Oh, you hid that well”. I know she wasn’t trying to be mean or upset me, but I was so conscious and embarrassed about my weight, it really put me off.” 

Read Lisa’s 4st weight loss story 

Carolyn Pallister, registered dietitian and head of nutrition, research and health at Slimming World, says: “While it makes sense that people don’t necessarily look forward to visiting their doctor, it’s a concern to hear that people who are unhappy with their weight suffer even more fear and anxiety around it. Some people also highlighted the use of stigmatising language and a lack of advice and support when they previously visited the doctor. 

With excess weight being linked to a range of serious health conditions, such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, the idea that people are actively putting off getting their health checked or seeking help because of this is alarming.” 

The Slimming World difference  

The survey shows that losing weight can not only improve an individual’s health and risk factors for conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, but it can also reduce the urge to dodge the doctor’s. 

A corresponding survey of Slimming World members found that 60% have felt no nerves ahead of visiting the doctor since losing weight, and more than a third (35%) now actually feel confident about visiting their doctor. More than three-quarters (77%) said that since joining Slimming World, their health has improved.  

Carolyn says: “People who are overweight or living with obesity need care, compassion and support, and not to feel stigmatised about their weight. At Slimming World, we know that a weight-related conversation between a health professional and a patient, when effective, can lead to life-changing results. That’s why we’re encouraging the next government to commit to providing training for healthcare professionals. This will enable sensitive and skilled conversations about weight, as we know healthcare professionals want to support their patients to lead healthier lives – they just need the right tools. 

The training must address the psychological and physiological impact that weight has on health. From our 55 years of experience, we know that it’s when people are being treated respectfully – with kindness and understanding – that they’re more likely to make the lifestyle and behaviour changes needed for them to lose weight.” 

In many parts of the country, we also help change lives with the Slimming World on Referral scheme: 12 weeks of free group or online membership (with the cost covered by the NHS and subsidised by Slimming World) offered to those who would benefit from it most, as decided by local healthcare professionals.

When you join Slimming World, you’re guaranteed a warm and friendly welcome, with absolutely no judgement and ongoing expert support to help you achieve your weight loss goals. You can find your nearest Slimming World group, or discover more about our digital service, Slimming World Online, here. 

In Slimming World’s recently launched manifesto, Five-point manifesto to support people and families living with obesity, we are calling on the new government to commit to helping more people living with obesity to lose weight through a personalised approach, and improve their health outcomes. 

*19% of people who said they are unhappy with their weight and feel nervous ahead of visiting the doctor. 

**The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,504 respondents (aged 18+) across the UK and Republic of Ireland, along with a self-selecting sample of 920 Slimming World members. 

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