‘It isn’t about willpower’ says Dr Zoe Williams on weight loss

Celebrity GP Dr Zoe Williams is discussing the weight-loss myth that bugs her the most.

“The one I hear time and again is, ‘It’s simple: just eat less and move more.’ But it’s so much more complex than that,” she says of the nation’s battle with the bathroom scales. “We shouldn’t just dismiss overweight people as lazy.”

Obesity rates in the UK have almost doubled since 1993, with one in four adults living with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or over. Zoe adds: “Only about a third of adults could be deemed to be living at a healthy weight, so the majority of people aren’t. That’s not just down to willpower or lack of it. Obesity’s a complex medical condition with over 100 contributing risk factors.

“Problems begin way before a person is even born, with triggers including everything from our genes to stress, medication or even lack of sleep.

“Where you live is one of the biggest risk factors, which is fascinating. People living in the country’s most deprived regions are almost twice as likely to gain excess weight than those in the least deprived areas, so it really isn’t about willpower.”

Social pressures and lack of understanding often stand in the way of success, with women afraid of being judged if they try to seek help to lose weight. Zoe says: “There’s been a real lack of understanding about the causes of excess weight. I’m a 1980s child and in many movies back then, the school bully would usually be a larger child.

“That idea goes into your subconscious and you start to make judgments about those who carry excess weight – even when that person is you. But stigmatising and being unkind doesn’t help; it makes the problem worse, because it stops people speaking up.”

Asking for help may feel daunting, but as Zoe says, you mustn’t let that hold you back: “Those with a BMI of 30 or over should talk to their GP, nurse or a pharmacist and try to say: ’I’m here because I’d like to be a healthier weight. I’ve tried lots of things and would now like some support. What services and resources are available locally?’

“Making that first step is so important. It’s very easy to get stuck in a cycle of failed fad diets. Long-term change is the only solution, so it’s time to ditch the stigma and ask for help to make lasting changes.”

Ready to change?

Talking about your weight may seem like a tough conversation – but asking for help can be even harder, particularly if you worry people will judge you because of your size. The good news is: help is out there! Developed with input from healthcare professionals, the Break Free checklist provides a reliable way to identify whether it is time you asked for medical support.

BMI close to or above 30, or carrying excess weight around the belly?

Regained weight, even after dieting?

Experienced excess weight-related health concerns for many years?

Assumptions about your lifestyle being made by others?

Knocked down by judgements about your size?

If you meet two or more of these criteria, speak to your GP, nurse or pharmacist about your weight, or visit breakfreecampaign.com for help, tips and advice.

To find out more, visit breakfreecampaign.com

This article was initiated, funded and reviewed by Novo Nordisk. The Break Free campaign has been created and funded by Novo Nordisk to increase the awareness of obesity among the UK public. All campaign ambassadors, including Dr Zoe Williams, were paid by Novo Nordisk for their involvement in the campaign. Opinions expressed in this article are all Dr Zoe Williams’ own, based on her personal experiences. March 2022. Job code: UK22OB00086

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