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Fat Shaming: How Society Views the Obese

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At Healthier Weight we work exclusively with the overweight and obese. As such, we routinely see people in our clinics who are 5, 10, 20 or even 30 stone above what would be regarded as a healthy weight.

Every time we see a new patient who decided to take the bold step of having a weight loss procedure we are inspired by the fact that they have taken ownership of the problem and are doing something about it. They are not waiting for the NHS to deal with it for them (only about 5000 procedures are done per year in the NHS and these are reserved for the most extreme cases) and rather than continue as they are they have taken the brave step of making a change.

By contrast, the patient contemplating surgery will say they are ashamed that ‘it has come to this’. Almost daily we will hear new patients say, I feel such a failure that it has come to this.

It’s worth taking a little time to reflect on why someone who is taking such a positive step would view themselves so negatively and the answer lies in the way society view the overweight and obese.

We have all met people who are only too happy to tee off with criticism of any group of people, whether it’s for reason of skin colour, height or gender. These attitudes are regarded as totally unacceptable in a modern society. Taking a swing at people because they are overweight is viewed differently however, and almost acceptable. If you look hard you can see a logic to this as you can’t do anything about your colour, height or gender but you can do something about your weight. So, if someone is overweight its by choice and they must be lazy or feckless, and why should allowances be made. It’s nonsense but you could see why people might think that way.


We’re sure that these attitudes and the behaviour they encourage lead to the negative views obese people have of themselves, and that we see in clinic. Of course, those people who criticise the overweight and obese are usually ignorant of the facts. The truth is that there are many reasons why it’s so hard for people to manage their weight in today’s society.

It’s a fact that when you use more energy than you consume you’ll lose weight (Newton’s law of thermodynamics), but there are so many reasons why millions of people in the UK are unable to do this;

We are all genetically different, for example, our brains crave different foods and handle stress differently. Healthier food options are more expensive and unattainable for millions of people. Could a single parent holding down 2 part-time jobs to make ends meet really get to the gym 3 times a week, even if they could afford the gym membership? What about physically and mentally disabled people who are unable to or find it difficult to exercise?

This article isn’t designed to excuse those people who don’t do anything about their weight other than moan, and we know there are plenty of people like that. Instead, its targeted at those people who are contemplating weight loss surgery and feeling bad that ‘it’s come to this’. If we cut away the prejudice that society directs towards the overweight and obese, that person will see their decision to consider surgery for what it is, a bold step by an independent person who is taking responsibility for their own health and happiness. In anyone’s book surely that should be a source of pride! 

That’s the finding of a new article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association JAMA and reported in The Times today – Save One Heart and Break Another with Weight Loss Surgery.    

Researchers in Sweden undertook a study of weight loss surgery patients – that’s gastric band, gastric sleeve and gastric bypass – and found that those surgery patients who were single at the time of surgery were twice as likely to find love as the equivalent group who didn’t have surgery. Remarkably they also found that the more weight you lost the more likely you were to find love. The results were based on two groups, one of 3900 obese people who were followed up for a decade, and the second a cross section of 300,000 people followed up for 5 years. 

It’s no great surprise to me as so many of the people I meet in our clinic are very unhappy due to their weight. It has a negative impact on how they think others view them and, as a result, how they view themselves. Very often patients will have some history of treatment for low mood or depression. By extension this can affect confidence and its easy to understand why that would make it difficult to find a partner. 

In clinic, in addition to meeting single patients who have had surgery and gone on to find a partner, I can also point to patients who have had surgery, lost weight and developed the confidence to leave the bad relationship they were already in. The Swedish research backs this up and says that surgery patients who are married at the time of their operation are 35% more likely to get divorced than those in the equivalent group and who didn’t have surgery. It’s interesting we often find that partners struggle to deal with the weight loss of their partner and a lack of ‘husband support’ is a reason some female visitors to clinic decide not to have the surgery they need. I have to say its less frequent we hear of wives trying to talk their husbands out of it. That may be partly because 85% of private weight loss surgery patients are women. The imbalance of male and female procedures is topic for another blog. 

Anyway, I think the important thing we can take from this latest research is that there is now another very compelling reason to have weight loss surgery. 

If better health, better quality of life, higher earning potential and longer life expectancy are not enough to persuade you of the benefits of weight loss surgery, you can now add increased chances of finding love to the list! 

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