Stop Picking On Obese Nurses!

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‘How can we expect people to manage their own weight when healthcare professionals can’t manage their own?’I listened to a story on BBC breakfast radio where they were discussing the rate of obesity among nurses and other healthcare workers in the UK. 

The gist of the piece was ‘how can we expect people to manage their own weight when healthcare professionals can’t manage their own?’. I was so annoyed I nearly spat out my cornflakes! 

The basis for the discussion was statistics published by two universities that showed that one in four (25.1%) nurses is obese and the rate even higher among care home workers and nursing assistants. This compares to 23.5% for the population as a whole. So, in reality, the rate of obesity among healthcare workers mirrors that of the wider population. 

This comes as no surprise and it underlines just how much obesity is misunderstood by so many of the people who comment on it. 

Overweight and obesity is a behavioural problem and not a knowledge problem. Most of us know the difference between healthy eating options and unhealthy ones but we find it difficult or we are unwilling to change our behaviour to take the healthy option. Long in the past are the days when we could blame lack of understanding for our weight. In recent years we have seen an increase in the number of dietitians and nutritionists, and others who profess to be nutritional experts, but the obesity pandemic continues regardless. Knowledge is not the problem. All doctors tell obese patients that their weight is shortening their life but it doesn’t make a difference. 

Those with a proper understanding of the problem argue that the only way to deal with obesity is to take measures that will encourage and help people to change their behaviour. Unfortunately most of these will be long term solutions that require a coordinated effort from central government. 

There need to be incentives for manufacturers to provide healthier foods, encouragement for consumers to select them, education for children to get them on the right path early in life and, for those adults who are already obese, opportunity and encouragement to have the weight loss surgery that will provide a longer and healthier life, and one that will save the tax payer money on prescription medication and weight related treatment in the long term. 

Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum summed it up well when he said, ‘Instead of hectoring people to live healthily, government should be making it easier for them to do so!’. 

So, let’s stop picking on the obese, whatever job they do, and spend more time focusing on how we can help them change their diet and eating habits, whether through surgery or some other way. 

Rishi Singhal

Rishi Singhal

Rishi is an expert bariatric surgeon based in the West Midlands and also Medical Director at Healthier Weight

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