The UK Government has recently announced measures to encourage overweight people to lose weight. Now of course, as a Nutritionist and Mental Health Advocate, I am behind any campaign to help people to become healthier, both physically as well as mentally. I agree with the fact that overweight and obese individuals are of higher risk of many illnesses and afflictions. What I disagree with, is the fact that this seems to be another Governmental ‘one-size fits all’ campaign, many of which have come and gone in the past, and guess what – obesity is worse now than ever, so clearly previous campaigns have had little impact.

63% of the UK population are overweight or obese. This leaves them vulnerable to serious illnesses and diseases, aside from Covid19. Throw one of the diseases in to the mix, Type 2 Diabetes for example, and you begin to understand what a problem this is.

Safe and sustainable weight loss is difficult for many people. The difficulties faced can be complex. And strong personal motivation – not being told by the Government or anyone else that you need to make a change – is absolutely critical. If you don’t have that motivation, whatever steps you take to lose weight are unlikely to be effective, and certainly not sustainable in the long term.

When I take on new clients, I pre-qualify them to ensure that their head is in the right place first, and that they have a strong motivation to go on the journey to becoming healthier. I only work with those people I deem ready to make those changes, because change is not easy for many people.

So the first step in dealing with a problem is to recognise the problem exists – and we will use being overweight as an example here. The second step is to ask whether the downsides of being overweight are greater or less than losing the weight itself. It is a fact that humans rarely change until the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of change.

So, we have recognised the problem – we are carrying too much body fat. People who are overweight generally know that they are overweight, rocket science it is not. However, motivating overweight/obese people to lose that weight is a whole different ballgame, and this is where – in my opinion – the government campaign will struggle to ‘cut-through’, and where you – reading this article (on the basis that you are unfit and/or overweight) – can get an insight in to your own thinking and your barriers and motivators, and perhaps find that spark that will start the fire of change for you personally.

The Government’s main angle at the moment is “lose weight, reduce the risk of death or serious illness from Covid19”. This, in my view, is NOT a strong enough message to help overweight people to lose weight. The government focusing solely not catching or dying from Covid19 really is a missed opportunity to encourage people to become healthier, because it misses the point that the motivation to become healthier and lose weight is incredibly personal – and the Government has made a huge assumption that the threat of catching or dying from Covid19 will scare people in to making what are significant changes in their lives, and I fear it will have little impact at all. I also feel that restricting advertising for ‘unhealthy’ food companies to only after 9pm will have little effect on the buying habits of many, and after-all, when it comes to children eating ‘junk food’, it is often the parents buying it for their kids in the first place. Will making the fast-food outlets advertise only after the watershed stop adults going to buy burgers, chips and shakes? I doubt it. It takes a lot more than these ‘headline grabbing’ steps to change human behaviour.

So what now? Well, if you have identified that the problem is that you are overweight or obese, that  you are looking to lose a few kilos, or maybe more, how can this article help you?

We have established that the motivation (reasons) behind successful and sustainable weightloss is entirely personal – and not a one-size-fits-all solution as the Government seems to think it is. Catching or not catching Covid19, I feel, might be a motivator for change in some overweight people, but not a strong enough one to initiate the changes in thinking, diet and lifestyle required to achieve the goal of being at a healthy weight (remember the whole “it is not until the pain of same becomes greater than the pain of change, do we change” mantra).

The reason why you might want to lose weight will be personal to you, and what drives you might not be the thing(s) that drive other people. It might be self confidence, or perhaps self image. If might be wanting to reduce the risk of illnesses associated with being overweight, like Type 2 Diabetes or some Cancers. It could be that you want more energy, or better sleep, or for your joints not to ache so much. It might be, like it was for me, that someone close to you has died young, and you don’t want to go down that same route as them.

Hopefully you now see that the reasons behind wanting to lose weight and to keep it off are personal.

To go from the state of “I know I need to lose weight”, to “I am going to lose weight” requires some thinking on your part, and the use of my DBI – the decisional balance grid.

Imagine the DBI being like two sets of balance scales. We are trying to psychologically tip the balance scales in our favour, to come to the conclusion that change is better than not change. Until you do this, you won’t address the psychological issues around weightloss.

Balance scale one is entitled “No change”. Using the DBI grid below, on one side write down the advantages (box 1) of not losing weight (there should be at least one thing in this box – remember we are looking to dig in to all the pro’s and con’s here), and on the other side write down the disadvantages (box 2) of not losing weight.

Balance scale two is entitled “Change”. And again, on one side write down the advantages (box 3) of losing weight, and on the other side write down the disadvantages (box 2) of losing weight (yes, there will be disadvantages! Like, for example, it will take effort).

You have now dug deep in to the pro’s and con’s of losing weight and not losing weight, and yes you do need to do this exercise if you want to be successful. 

If there are more items in boxes (2) and (3), then you are ready to make a change in your behaviours and habits, and are ready to lose weight. You have looked at both sides of the equation, and concluded that change is the right thing for you. So now, go and make those changes!

Equally, if there are more items in boxes (1) and (4), you are probably going to struggle with whatever you try to do in terms of losing weight, and it might be better to re-evaluate the DBI grid, or to revisit it a bit later to see if you are able to get it balance in your favour.

The reasons behind losing weight will be personal to you, if these reasons are imposed on you by someone else, or they are not strong enough motivators, you set yourself up to fail. Using the DBI grid above can put you on a really strong footing for successful, safe and sustainable weightloss.

I hope you have found this article useful. If I can be of assistance to you or anyone that you know, please make contact with me via the ‘contact’ button above.

Neil