Obesity has been called an epidemic by hundreds of articles and publications worldwide. But with so much noise happening, little has changed in the way we address weight in the UK.

According to the NHS, having a BMI of over 30 is labelled as obese. However, we all know that BMI’s are just a rough guideline and shouldn’t be adhered to religiously. But they do give you a general idea of where you are at physically. Perhaps, a more reliable stat to measure your physical health is waist size. This is partly because it allows for a little more space between different categories and is a more reliable indicator of actual physical health.

Again, according to the NHS, your weight should be reviewed by a GP if your waist is over 47 inches for men or 42 inches for women, excluding people who are weight-lifters or participate in such activities.

As a result of these stats, since 2017, 27.4% of men and 30% of women are categorised as obese in the UK with numbers only rising.

When more isn’t better?

But why are there more categorically obese people in the UK, compared to the previous 10 years, even with healthy food trends dominating pop culture? (we have all heard the satire following Gwyneth Paltrow’s detox diet). The problem lies not in the food or pop culture industry, but in the way the health industry and consequently the public addresses obesity.

Michael Burek recently encapsulated the generalised negative perception of obesity, as he labelled obese people as ‘weak’ and ‘couch potatoes’.

And these kind of thoughts are not uncommon with even some GP’s expressing negativity towards obese patients while treating them for separate illnesses.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the apparent ‘laziness’ which festers hostility. Instead, some people base their opinions on the cost of obesity in the UK.

Recent stats from Public Health England estimated that £6.1 billion is spent on obesity-related illnesses in the UK annually. Seems shocking right? The problem with these stats is that they aren’t paired with comparatives for relativity, so people are left feeling out of pocket.

Why so negative?

All these different factors paint a pretty bland picture for people with obesity and often leads to segregation or isolation for the person in question.

But what would happen if we approached obesity differently?

Currently, obesity is not labelled as a disease or disorder in the UK meaning any recovery or improvement plans are not being pursued.

If you are obese in the UK you are on your own.

Back to the NHS site and in isolation it states that obesity is caused by ‘eating too much and moving too little’. The article does touch on genetic and medical causes, such as an under-active thyroid, but what it fails to address is the impact poor mental health can have on your weight.

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Much like the rest of our body, our minds can become ill causing depression, anxiety and a heap of other illnesses. One well-known way in which, mental health affects our body is through weight loss or weight gain.

Looking at this from the other end of the spectrum, we encounter people who suffer from bulimia or anorexia. For these people, there is a set treatment program which offers Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and specialist therapies to aid a person into recovery. Unlike the obesity NHS page, the anorexia nervosa page labels it as ‘an eating disorder and serious mental health condition’.

Imagine, if we had that kind of support for people with obesity? Instead, obese people are looked down upon and sent to weight loss groups which deal with the physical, not the mental causes.

In the end

Labelling obesity as a disease will help the UK address obesity in a more positive light, aiding the development of treatment programs. As a country with a developed health care system, it’s shocking that we still approach weight with such naivety and negativity, and it needs to change.

Written by

Content executive, charity co founder and (almost) published author for 2021.

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