In denial: people take more than half a decade to discuss weight worries

It takes an average of five years and seven months for an overweight person to discuss their weight worries with someone else, new data suggests.

The research by Slimming World reveals that it takes four years and two months for an overweight person to admit to themselves that their weight is a problem and another 17 months for them to discuss it with another person.

As most people gain weight each year, the five-and-a-half year delay is likely to see them become heavier and could increase their chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer and affect their emotional wellbeing, experts at Slimming World have warned. Currently, around one in four (25%) adults are obese, and it is estimated that by 2034 this will increase to one in three.

Public Health England’s One You campaign is calling for adults to take a moment to reassess their health by taking a free online health quiz, ‘How Are You’, and make changes to improve their health now, and in the future. Slimming World is a flagship partner of One You and conducted research of 1,262 slimmers to see how quickly people identify a problem with their weight and act on it.

As well as the five years and seven months delay to talk to someone about their weight worries, which could see many people gain enough weight to put them into a higher risk Body Mass Index (BMI) category, the research also looked at why many people find it so difficult to discuss their concerns. Common reasons included preferring to deal with things themselves (27%), feeling too embarrassed (22%), not wanting to admit they had a problem (12%) and not wanting to worry others (11%).


Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition & Research
Being overweight can have a huge impact on quality of life.

Dr Jacquie Lavin, Head of Nutrition & Research

“As a country, we are getting heavier,” says Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World Head of Nutrition and Research. “However, that’s no surprise at all when you consider the environment that we live in.

“High-fat, high-sugar food is cheap, easily available, and heavily advertised. Food has become something to celebrate with and to take comfort in, technological advances mean that we no longer need to be physically active and we have an abundance of choice when it comes to sedentary leisure activities.

“Since 1993 the number of overweight adults whose Body Mass Index (BMI) means their weight could affect their health has increased from around 15% to 25%, making the UK one of the most overweight countries in Europe. And as the average person’s weight increases, being overweight becomes ‘normalised’ which can make it harder for us to notice when we gain just a few pounds.

“No matter whether you have a few pounds to lose or you really feel like you’re struggling with your weight, taking a moment to reassess your health and wellbeing is a really positive step. And while it’s clear from this research that people are hesitant to talk to someone about their weight worries, there is lots of evidence that getting support is the most effective way to make the changes needed to lose weight and keep it off for the long-term – so it is worth doing! Realising that you’re not alone, sharing ideas for overcoming challenges and celebrating your successes with other people who understand how you feel can help set you on the right track for a healthier life now and for the future.”

Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, comments: “The demands of modern life make it hard for people to find time to prioritise their own health.

“One You aims to encourage people to put their health first as it’s never too late to take action. We’re delighted to partner with Slimming World to help support people looking to make the first step towards living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight. Making better choices today can have a huge influence on our health and could prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and reduce our risk of suffering a stroke or living with dementia, disability and frailty in later life.”

Case study – Georgina Wallace

Aged 27 Georgina Wallace was warned by a doctor that if she didn’t lose weight she was likely to die young, yet still it wasn’t until seven years later that she joined Slimming World and lost 8st 0.5lb.

Georgina, now 40, received the stark warning from a medical consultant after her mother suffered a heart attack in 2002. She says: “He explained that the main reason my mum was lying in that hospital bed at just 59-years-old was her weight. He warned me that at 27 I was heavier than her and, if I carried on the way I was going, would probably not even reach her age.”

Sadly Georgina’s mum passed away and her dad died the following year. However, it wasn’t until 2010 that Georgina, from Feltham in London, began the weight-loss journey that saw her drop from 18st 3½lbs to 10st 3lbs and a dress size 28 to a 10.

Georgina, who is now a Slimming World Consultant, says: “I was terrified of walking into a room full of strangers and worried everyone would judge me because of my size. I couldn’t have been more wrong though; straightaway I felt like I belonged in that room.

“Now I’ve been at my target weight for more than a year, I’m fitter and healthier than I have ever been in my life, so I always say that losing weight hasn’t only changed my life it’s saved my life. My only regret is that I didn’t find Slimming World sooner.”

Notes to Editors

Slimming World was founded by Margaret Miles-Bramwell (OBE, FRSA) in 1969. There are now more than 18,000 groups held weekly across the UK and Republic of Ireland via a network of 4,000 community-based Slimming World Consultants, who receive specific training in the role of diet and physical activity in weight management, as well as sophisticated behaviour-change techniques.

Slimming World’s healthy eating plan, Food Optimising, is based on the science of satiety and energy density. Our phased activity programme, Body Magic, eases members into activity until it becomes an intrinsic part of their daily routine. The principles behind Slimming World’s philosophy are based on a deep understanding of the challenges faced by overweight people and a recognition that those who struggle with weight carry a double burden, the weight itself and a burden of guilt and shame about their weight. Slimming World’s programme integrates practical, up-to-date advice with a highly developed support system based on care and compassion, and Consultant training focuses on facilitating behaviour change in a warm and friendly group environment. Consultant training is delivered through the Slimming World Academy. Slimming World also invests in a comprehensive research programme to develop its support for long-term weight management. The group support provided by Slimming World is recognised as effective by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) and the NHS.

For more information about Slimming World’s approach visit www.slimmingworld.co.uk or call 0344 897 8000.

For the Press Office please email public.relations@slimmingworld.co.uk