GP’s refer to Weight Watchers

“The NHS has spent £4million on sending fat people to Weight Watchers over the past five years. GPs now routinely refer patients to the classes, which cost ‘private’ visitors around £45 for three months.” (daily mail)

Another delightful article from the Daily Mail that will no doubt soon be littered with hideous comments about fat people. But from my point of view it’s literally once again just another example of a government who have literally no idea what they’re doing and no idea how to deal with the ‘obesity crisis’ or how to understand weight and ‘fat people’.

GP’s referring patients to Weight Watchers for classes is incredibly flawed and it’s wasting my tax money. While I think out of the many possible ‘diet plans’ WW is one of the better plans (if dieting is your thing) as it is less restrictive and tries, well supposedly attempts to look at a balance diet. A GP referring a patient there however is simply a cop out and more to do with government statistics and to be seen to be ‘acting’. How is this an NHS plan? With all the constant WW advertising and the fact that their products are splashed all over the supermarket there isn’t a fat person in the UK who hasn’t heard of WW, surely if said patient had wanted to go they’d simply have taken themselves?

WW and other ‘diet plans’ can work (although not for everyone) if you want to lose weight but it is the long term keeping it off that is the struggle and the idea that the GP’s and the NHS haven’t seemed to grasp. Statistically when you regain the weight you’ve lost on a diet you tend to put even more back on, now that surely isn’t what the government want is it? We need to stop focussing on LOSING weight and instead analyse our diets to check that they are HEALTHY and we are ACTIVE.

Plans like WW take incredible will power and drive to stick to, you have to WANT to do them just to even start – counting points is dull and working them out takes charts, wheels and calculators – who has the inclination for that? A referral isn’t enough to make me want to do anything. But most importantly by passing on the patient the GP is essentially suggesting that WW has the ability to do a medical professionals job. While WW leaders receive training, they are essentially WW graduates and use their classes to keep themselves on track as much as the other way round. However if you have an eating disorder of any kind the WW leaders are Not trained to deal with eating disorders or any other issues surrounding a relationship with our bodies and food, neither should they be. WW plans are simply a method of losing weight they do not concern themselves with long term needs or long term issues of subscribers. If the government were serious about helping people they need to understand where and what for the help is needed.

As someone who has been on Weight Watchers – I lost around 4 stone, while I have put some of it back on I personally found although for the period I was on it I was, well, a little crazy and a tad obsessive about points oh and I was hitting the gym 6 days a week because I was desperate to lose weight. However it was the weekly weigh-ins that I dreaded I worried I wouldn’t lose enough to justify the amount of work I’d put in that week. The week I stopped going? The week I put on 2 pounds after 9 months. I was 6 pounds away from my Weight Watchers target and it didn’t matter how much  I exercised or how strict I was with my points I couldn’t get any smaller and it was soul destroying. I could barely see the achievement I’d made by learning kick boxing and powering through aerobics classes, my fitness levels were fantastic and I was eating healthily but it was those last 6 pounds that haunted me. Sometimes I think about them and they still haunt me. SLiNK is neither pro or anti diet – we simply don’t feature them because we know there are plenty of resources available if you want to diet. I have never regretted doing Weight Watchers but it wasn’t until after I finished that I started to really understand what my body needed and it probably wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I really worked out a balanced and sensible way of eating. While I attended WW I never felt anyone was equipped to deal with the issues I had but equally when I had seen a dietician that was even worse, I didn’t stick to that for long. The only factor that was different was me. I was determined by the time I hit up WW and although I didn’t stick to their plan to the letter, I used it as a guide.

The truth is the NHS can refer obese patients to any programme they want but if the person has no drive to change they wont and if the patient wants to change with the right help and support they can. What I have learnt though is that we need to stop talking about FAT and SIZE. We need to start talking about HEALTH. We need to encourage both physical and mental well being, you’d think with so much discussion going on someone could slip a note to David Cameron and say ‘Hey, lets talk about getting healthy and stop relating everything to how one looks?’ Simply referring everyone that walks into a GPs surgery who’s a bit porky to their local Weight Watchers will not change things, it’s another 4 million down the drain. It just creates another stigma and another barrier between fat people and their Doctors, which is already at an all time high.

An inclusive society where everyone is encouraged and helped to exercise and eat better with less focus on physicality will improve the health of the nation and lighten the heavy burden on the NHS (all puns intended)


-- Editor-in-Chief SLiNK Magazine