Describing someone as ‘overweight’ is wrong because it harms their body image and may discourage them from getting fitter, a health minister said yesterday.
Nadine Dorries said that ‘obesity’ was an ‘awful word’ and warned that focusing on the health risks of excess weight was ineffective.
She told MPs it was better to emphasise the positives of healthy living, including better relationships, improved sleep and a sharper brain.
The minister for mental health admitted the nation’s bulging waistline was partly to blame for the UK’s huge
But she told the Commons women and equalities committee that even those figures were unlikely to shock Britons into slimming down.
Mental health minister Nadine Dorries told MPs not to use say obesity, as it is an ‘awful word,’ while also warning ‘fat-shaming has no positive outcomes, it doesn’t encourage people’
She said: ‘Fat-shaming and talking about obesity and people being overweight is not the way to go about it.’
She added: ‘The way to go about it is to be positive.’ Two in three British adults are already overweight, increasing their risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and Covid. Charities last night warned Miss Dorries was wrong to shy away from the subject, saying it must be confronted head on and not ‘swept under the carpet’.
Miss Dorries said: ‘Fat-shaming has no positive outcomes. It doesn’t achieve anything. It doesn’t encourage people.
‘We know that obesity plays a huge role in the pandemic, and in coronavirus.
‘I think the data was published this morning that well over half of the people who have died of coronavirus have been in the obese category. We know it has a huge impact.
‘We know that we are one of the most obese nations in the Western world.
‘It has to have had an impact on our death rate from coronavirus, and yet none of that information is going to inspire anybody to have a positive body image or to get to a healthy weight.
‘And therefore the focus has to be… not on the word obesity – that’s just an awful word – not on shaming people, not on making people feel bad about their weight, but on emphasising the positive outcomes of healthy living, healthy lifestyle, healthy diet.
‘That’s what we should be talking about because the health benefits and the impact of a healthy lifestyle and a healthy diet are to do with more than obesity.
Speaking on Wednesday, Ms Dorries admitted the nation’s bulging waistline was partly to blame for the UK’s huge coronavirus death toll
‘They are to do with people’s cognitive function, how they sleep, their personal relationships, how they socialise.
‘The outcomes are more than just losing weight and so keeping that message positive, upbeat and trying to educate the public that fat-shaming and talking about obesity and people being overweight is not the way to go about it.
‘The way to go about it is to be positive. It’s like with all things that are positive, and you put over the good message, and you’re going to have better outcomes than if you try to do something which is negative.’
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, disagreed with Miss Dorries and said her stance could make matters worse. He said: ‘We absolutely must talk about obesity.
‘If you don’t tell people they are obese they will not know they have a problem and will do nothing about it.
‘What is important is that you tell people in a sympathetic, caring manner and give them the help and support they need to lose weight.
‘We cannot simply say, “Do not talk about obesity,” and just sweep it under the carpet or the health of the nation will get worse.’
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