Health and weight

Finding advice and information about healthy weight

Where do you turn for advice when you realise that you have a weight problem? People we talked to said that they found out what they needed to do to lose weight from different places including school, the media or family).
 
The GP (Doctor)
People were often reluctant to go to the doctor, because they weren't actually 'ill' and that the GP was always busy seeing people who were really unwell (see also Treatments through GPs, dietitians, counselling and surgery). Mary, a parent, said that it did not seem right to take an overweight child, who was not unwell, to the GPs.

Holly wouldn’t think of going to the doctor with her weight problem and said, “I hate the doctors” – even though she had started to worry that she might have diabetes. Instead she used the internet to Google her symptoms.

School
Specific school or college projects sometimes helped people find out about food and exercise. Edward used Wikipedia, NHS Direct and his physiology text books to find out about healthy weight.
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Food labels
Everyone seemed familiar with the idea that you should eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and avoid too much snacking and ‘junk foods’. But when it came to packaged food and labels, there was more uncertainty. Some had found out that the labels that promote food as being ‘low fat’ can be  misleading if the product (cereals, for example) also contains lots of sugar.
Parents
Parents are often keen to encourage their child to eat a healthy diet. Some were able to give good advice but if they, as parents, were also bringing biscuits, cakes, ‘junk food’ and cereals into the house for the rest of the family this really didn’t help. Sometimes young people felt they were under pressure to eat up food at home to avoid waste, or that their parents were not supporting their efforts to control their weight.
 
Awareness campaigns 
Those who had found out about schemes to help young people with weight problems were amazed that these were not more widely advertised. Vicki thought this might be partly because, unlike the single message in some health-related campaigns (e.g. “Don’t take drugs”) messages about weight issues seem more complicated to get across.
The media
There are a lot of TV programmes about weight but the media often seems more interested in extreme or sensational stories about anorexia or someone who is vastly overweight. Gemma felt that she and her family had been badly misrepresented by the media when they appeared on a TV chat show. She pointed out that the journalists can edit what you say to make it seem like a more sensational story. She was appalled at the consequences for her own life, which involved more bullying and a constant worry that the media were after her. Despite this Gemma feels  it may have been a good thing to appear on the show as it  raised awareness of the problems of bullying and weight.

The internet
Some people said they were worried that information they found on chat rooms and commercial websites might be misleading. Sean said he’d like to be able to check out some of the opinions given on the internet with a professional because it was hard to know what was correct.
Sean found it strange that some websites say “that even though you are overweight, you should be like happy in yourself. So I’m thinking like, how could you be happy with something that you’re not, that everybody makes you feel unhappy about?”
 
Some young people were concerned about harmful contacts that can be made online but they also stressed that finding others who are going through similar struggles with weight issues could be a real support.
Holly explained how she decides which information to take notice of and which to ignore. She checks facts on different types of sites including those that are more ‘medical’. She avoids sites that are overtly trying to sell things or making ludicrous claims about ‘weight loss’ diets. 
 
The National Obesity Forum was also seen as a good source of information on obesity, nutrition, physical activity and health and weight management. It’s also useful to look for websites that have the Information Standard logo. The Information Standard is a scheme from the NHS England that shows that websites contain reliable information about health and social care.

Last reviewed July 2017.
​Last updated July 2017.

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