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TV medic and WW advisor says it’s time to stop using the ‘F’ word

TV medic Dr.Helen Lawal has criticised Kanye West for making comments about Lizzo’s weight and says that we have to stop judging people based on their body shape. She made her comments as a new survey by WeightWatchers reveals that 74% of UK residents think it is important to have positive conversations about weight.

When West made remarks about the singer at a recent Toronto concert, Lizzo said “I am minding my fat, black beautiful business” and Lawal says she was right to do so.

She says: “It is always women who are judged for their appearance and that has to stop. Lizzo is out there doing her thing and she’s fabulous. It’s always great to see positive black females portraying strong messages and when she stood on stage and had the words “my body my choice” projected across her that was a real moment. Nobody should be talking about anyone else’s weight or calling them fat – and that goes for our personal lives.

“If you are worried about a loved one because of their weight any comments made can be perceived as critical and judgemental which often feeds into harmful eating habits and add to the challenges they may already face. Wait for them to mention it, then listen, ask open questions, be kind and curious but avoid giving advice.”

Lawal also said that the criticism health minister Therese Coffey has received for smoking and being overweight is unfair. She says: “Rather than judge her, we should be considering how stressful her job is and showing support. We all have ways in which we cope with stress and emotions and developing health-based coping mechanisms isn’t always easy. “

As an advisor to WeightWatchers, Lawal stresses that people often find talking openly about their weight difficult. The organisation’s survey revealed that almost half (46%) of UK residents think that weight is a taboo topic and even though 65% are dissatisfied with their weight, with 52% worrying about it at least once a week, discussing it is so difficult, a quarter would rather confide in strangers online than a friend or family member.

In fact, most people would rather be open about their earnings, sex-lives, and politics than talk about their weight freely. It doesn’t help that 59% feel that weight is talked about negatively.

With 62.8% of adults in England overweight or obese, with the latter 3 times more at risk of developing diabetes* The research highlights the pressing need to talk more openly about healthy weight as just one of the critical health pillars, alongside mindset, activity, and nutrition that support health and wellbeing.

“WeightWatchers recognises that weight is a complex issue and so much more than a number on a scale. We need to shift conversations around weight so they focus on how we can develop healthier habits, whatever your size. That means good nutrition, getting enough sleep, movement, emotional support, and most importantly keeping a positive mindset. The worst thing people can do is look for a quick fix when it comes to weight loss – which is too often no fix at all. We know that short-term weight loss solutions might sound appealing, but they rarely work.

“The best thing people can do if they want to get healthier is to focus on progress, not perfection. So, start simply – for example, cook from scratch. That way you are more conscious of what you are eating and the likelihood is, you’ll consume less sugar, salt, and saturated fats. Getting into some good shopping and cooking habits is also a nice way to ensure you are getting the nutrition you need without depriving or restricting yourself. And most importantly treating yourself with kindness, particularly when navigating setbacks – that’s critical to making any long-term weight loss journey positive, not punitive.

“If you are really worried about somebody in your life and think their weight could be an issue, try and remember that unhealthy habits are a symptom of something else – the person might be stressed, bored, have had a bereavement or a relationship breakdown, perhaps they are working too hard or have a depressive disorder. Many of us turn to food to cope with life, it is completely normal and is just a sign that something is not right.”

The WW survey showed that over half of women are reluctant to talk openly about weight, (57%), even though over half (60%) of 35-44-year-olds and 53% of 45-54-year-olds are more likely to worry about their weight at least once a week.

When they do choose to open up about the topic, over a third of women prefer to speak to a medical professional (43%), with 41% of men rather discussing weight with their partner.

Furthermore, when both men and women talk to others about their weight, almost a third (31%) feel the need to justify changes in their weight, with a further 28% feeling the need to explain their weight loss to others.

“Your body is your business,” says Lawal. “If you see somebody who is drinking, smoking, or eating too much, you know they have struggles and that is their way of coping, so offer only kindness and support. As a doctor, I prefer to have lifestyle conversations with patients. If somebody is clearly unwell and unhappy, I give them the opportunity to talk about weight if they want to.

“New research shows that the correlation between weight and health is much less clear cut than we thought and what we need to be looking at is physiological health – things like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, the heart – how the body is functioning. We shouldn’t base our analysis simply on what we can see on the outside. It is possible to be fat and healthy.”


The conversation starts at home

Social media and celebrities are often blamed for negative associations around weight, but the research highlighted that the problem is closer to home, with family, friends, and parents (46%) having a negative impact on feelings about weight.


Anthony Miller, VP Marketing, WeightWatchers UK says:

“WeightWatchers is an advocate of evidenced-based healthy weight loss that is realistic and sustainable – that means no quick fixes. For more than 60 years we have supported millions of people, of all shapes and sizes, to realise their goals on our proven programme. And the reason that our members stay with us is because we offer a non-judgemental community that normalises conversations about weight, focusing on the positive behaviours and habits that support being healthy in body and mind for the long term, rather than simply what’s on the scales.”


Lorraine Kelly, WW Ambassador comments on the research

“As someone who is living proof that the WW science-backed approach works, I can relate to those who feel the need to justify their reasons for wanting to lose weight. I’ve certainly found myself playing down my achievements when in fact I’m really proud of my reaching my goals – which have extended way beyond what’s on the scales. In fact, it’s those non-scale victories that have made the real difference to me – whether that’s improved sleep, nutrition, more energy, or feeling more body positive – these are the real wins for my health and wellbeing.”





Image credit: Lizzo – Palace Theatre – St. Paul posted to Flickr by andywitchger at https://flickr.com/photos/42878734@N06/42090458422 (archive) and licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0