May 19, 2024

The Nhs Needs To Change The Way It Talks About Weight

The beginning of a New Year is tough on our bodies and minds – particularly our body image, as the pressure of fitness and diet-related “new year, new you” resolutions pervade our social media feeds.

And this isn’t just a January problem.  According to YouGov, half of Britons report feeling somewhat pressured to have a certain body type, with women in their 20s and 30s feeling it the most.

To compound this problem, our healthcare system isn’t doing all it can to ensure that our body image values are as healthy as they can be.

Beyond the devastating impact of the gender health gap on female-identifying bodies – conditions such as PCOS and endometriosis are under-researched, and 57% of women fear they have been misdiagnosed, a quarter of which believing this is due to being female – the way in which weight loss and gain is discussed during healthcare appointments is also being criticised.

Women are increasingly speaking out about unsolicited and damaging advice from the NHS when it comes to their weight, and how triggering and unhelpful it can be.

Laura, 28, recently tweeted a screenshot of an unsolicited text message she’d received from the NHS informing her “you have extra weight”, and referring her to “weight management programmes tailored to your needs and lifestyle”. She tells GLAMOUR that receiving this message left her feeling “upset” and “offended”.

“We already have to endure endless conversations about weight around Christmas and diet culture in January, which could be triggering for a lot of people,” Laura says.

I experienced my own version of this harmful bias myself a few years ago during a routine contraception appointment with a nurse. She took one look at her screen, which detailed various elements of my medical history, and smiled. “Well, congratulations,” she said, “the good news is you’ve lost weight since the last time you were in. ”

I smiled back, trying to make sense of my discomfort. I called my mum immediately after, trying to work out why a woman (who has undoubtedly faced the pressures of body image herself, because what modern woman hasn’t? ) would congratulate me for losing weight, without having any idea why this might have happened.

I tend to lose weight most rapidly when I’m stressed, depressed, heartbroken or all of the above. So when a healthcare professional saw nothing but positivity when it came to me dropping a few pounds, I felt pretty uncomfortable at this evaluation. It didn’t feel like it was grounded in medical progress, but internalised fatphobia.

“Weight loss and weight gain have been taboo topics amongst the population for many years, and is still an area that is often overlooked and misunderstood within the healthcare sector,” Rhiannon Lambert, a registered nutritionist and master practitioner in eating disorders, explains.

“The way we speak to people who have disordered eating or eating disorders is of utmost importance, because when in this vulnerable situation any passing comment may potentially trigger more of these negative thoughts or emotions towards their relationship with food or body image, and lead to further complications down the line. ”

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