Commenting on another person's weight is dangerous. But medical experts agree that to say nothing is more cruel.
Because 63 per cent of New Zealand adults are overweight or obese, more people are facing the dilemma of how to say the other f word than ever before.
Almost every New Zealander is either overweight or knows someone who is.
According to associate professor Tim Gill from the University of Sydney, most adults do not see a problem in themselves but will see it in somebody else.
"You have got to be very careful in how you approach a friend or family member about this, because they could either ignore you or deny they have a problem," Gill said.
The university's associate professor of women's health, Suzanne Abraham, said blunt is sometimes necessary.
"It depends on the person of course, but it is better when you are speaking to family members or friends, treading on eggshells is not the approach," Abraham said.
"What they say needs to be straightforward."
Associate professor Gill said it is important to be clear that you are worried about a person's health.
"I've never seen any statistics that show that derogatory comments are of any benefit," he said.
"What you say needs empathy."
Associate professor Abraham suggests that honest comments about health concerns need not be cruel.
"Otherwise, the person can literally run away and refuse to even think about it, or do anything about it," she said.
In most cases, Abraham says a GP should be involved if a person is severely over or under weight.
"A GP can properly assess what is appropriate, be it a physiological condition, or a psychological one," she said.
In the UK, the Department of Health has produced a set of guidelines for doctors on how to raise the issue of weight with their patients.
It suggests highlighting:
- That further weight gain could cause future health problems like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.
- The benefits of even minor weight loss on mortality rate, diabetes and blood pressure.
- If a person is not ready to discuss their weight, raise it again in six months.
- The importance of monitoring weight and setting realistic goals. It suggests people should aim to lose between 2-4kgs a month for short term weight loss.
Have you broached "the f word" with a friend or family member? What approach did you take? Or, if you're overweight, would you like your loved ones to speak up?
-Sydney Morning Herald
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