People who are obese need support, not shame, from Government to tackle UK’s weight crisis

Slimming World, the UK’s leading weight-loss organisation, is warning of the damage caused by stigmatising obesity following Lord Robathan’s comments in the House of Lords yesterday, in which he said that people need to be ‘shamed’ into taking personal responsibility for their weight.

Slimming World says that, as data continues to emerge showing that people with obesity could have an increased risk of dying from Covid-19, it has never been more important to treat people struggling with their weight with empathy and compassion and, vitally, to provide them with the right support.

Jenny Caven, Slimming World Director of External Affairs, said: “Shaming those who are overweight only serves to exacerbate the burden. It makes people feel humiliated – and, in the wake of Covid-19, fearful – which, in turn, can lead to anger, defiance and hopelessness and so the cycle continues.

“If the Government, including Lord Robathan, truly wants to help people to change their lifestyles, lose weight and improve their overall health, we must change the negative public perception of people who are overweight and ensure that everyone is treated with kindness, compassion, care, and respect. Politicians must choose their language carefully.”

Politicians must choose their language carefully.
Jenny Caven, Director of External Affairs

The Mind Your Language report, commissioned by Slimming World in January 2020, demonstrated the impact that critical language around weight and body image has on self-esteem. Participants in the research, who struggled with their weight, reported using words like ‘failure’, ‘shame’, and ‘hopeless’ to describe how they felt about themselves, their weight and body image. Far from helping with motivation, the report found that this self-deprecation can be exacerbated by external negativity and fat shaming, creating a vicious cycle of self-criticism that is difficult to break. However, Slimming World members reported that being a member made them feel more positive about themselves (91%), 89% said losing weight had helped them feel more positive, while 72% said their Slimming World group makes them feel like they are not alone.

Jenny Caven added: “Slimming World’s understanding of how people who struggle with their weight feel and, the challenges they face, underpins all aspects of our programme, which is based on a highly-developed support system to facilitate changes in behaviour to diet and activity, and provide members with the tools to be accountable for, and control of, their health. Our 19,000 in-person community groups are temporarily suspended, but we are poised to reopen our doors as soon as it’s safe to do so. Meanwhile, members continue to meet in a virtual group to receive care and support to lose weight and remain slim for life.”