In line with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) call for obesity to be recognised as a disease, I was asked by Sky News to discuss my thoughts on this and to provide some of my own experiences of living with obesity.
One of the most interesting things about this is that the majority of people, including many Health Care Professionals (HCPs) are not aware that obesity is already classified as a disease in the UK; despite this classification obesity is not recognised as a disease. This lack of recognition means that currently HCPs are not mandated to support, and where appropriate provide treatment, to people living with obesity.
Research evidence shows that people living with obesity have not received the advice, support or treatment they are entitled to. Indeed, perspectives from members of HOOP UK and my own personal experiences support this view. I have personally been left feeling helpless and out of control on many an occasion. In the UK obesity is frequently portrayed as a lifestyle choice, where people with obesity are blamed, ridiculed and suggested to have a lack of will power. This shows a basic misunderstanding of the complex causes of obesity. In reality, obesity is a very complex disease; over one hundred factors can be contributing causes of obesity.
In addition, people rarely talk about psychological aspects of living with obesity, the feeling of failure, the low self-worth, the self-hate… or physiological aspects, such as weight “set point” and hormonal imbalance. A simplistic view of obesity has contributed to wide spread weight stigma and discrimination that people with obesity experience on a daily basis.
Obesity is not a simple and easily modifiable health condition; this public narrative is insulting and inaccurate.
I have received a barrage of negative comments as a result of my Sky News interview, telling me to eat less, to stop blaming other factors and to stop being lazy, some of which I totally expected due to the low level of knowledge the general public holds around obesity. I have however also received some wonderfully supportive messages, thanking me for being courageous in sharing my story and for being their voice. These supportive messages are why I do why I do, why I am passionate about sharing my voice as a patient and being an advocate in obesity; this is what will keep me going. I will never give up this fight until people take notice, the media changes their response, people get access to appropriate support and the overall obesity narrative changes!