Hard approach to weight loss deters people from seeking help

Obese or overweight people are being told that losing as little as three per cent of their weight can have significant benefits, in new NHS guidance urging a “respectful and non-judgemental” approach to the problem.

More than a quarter of adults in England are obese.

Stigmatising obese and overweight people with a “for goodness sake pull yourself together” approach does not work and can deter people from seeking help, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said.

In the watchdog’s new guidance, it acknowledges that there is no magic bullet to the complex problem of sustaining weight loss but evidence shows that an effective weight loss programme where participants receive support from ‘buddies’ and advice on lifestyle and behavioural changes can lead to an average three per cent weight loss.

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Carol Weir, guidance developer for Nice and head of nutrition and dietetics at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “Obviously, if you need to lose weight, the more weight you lose the better, and the health benefits derive from that, but even a three per cent loss, kept up long term, is beneficial and that is why we are recommending sensible changes that can be sustained life long.”

Under the guidance, GPs have been told to raise the issue of weight loss in a “respectful and non-judgemental” way and identify people who are eligible for referral for lifestyle weight management services by measuring their Body Mass Index, while Public Health England and other agencies should be a national source of information on effective lifestyle weight management programmes suitable for commissioning.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the centre for public health at Nice, said 42 per cent of men and 32 per cent of women are overweight and more than a quarter of adults in England are obese.