Obese patients ‘being weight-shamed by doctors ... - Thyroid UK

Thyroid UK

130,553 members153,796 posts

Obese patients ‘being weight-shamed by doctors and nurses’

helvella profile image
36 Replies

Yet again, a relevant article in a major UK newspaper.

Though the word "thyroid" appears in neither the newspaper article nor the research paper.

Obese patients ‘being weight-shamed by doctors and nurses’

Exclusive: Research shows some people skip medical appointments because they feel humiliated by staff

Doctors and nurses often “weight-shame” people who are overweight or obese, leaving them feeling anxious, depressed and wrongly blaming themselves for their condition, research has found.

Such behaviour, although usually the result of “unconscious weight bias”, leads to people not attending medical appointments, feeling humiliated and being more likely to put on weight.

The problem is so widespread around the world that health professionals need to be taught as students that excess weight is almost guaranteed in modern society and not the fault of individuals, so they treat people more sensitively, according to the authors of the study, who have shared their findings with the Guardian.

Rest of Guardian article here:


This is the paper behind the newspaper article:

Effective strategies in ending weight stigma in healthcare

Britta Talumaa, Adrian Brown, Rachel L. Batterham, Anastasia Z. Kalea

First published: 07 August 2022


Full paper freely accessible here:


Please try to keep replies on topic!

36 Replies
DippyDame profile image

Read that this morning.It's quite disgraceful.

The last time I was in a hospital what struck me was the number of overweight staff!!!

People who live in glasshouses etc!!

helvella profile image
helvellaAdministrator in reply to DippyDame

I can't accuse my GP of that. She is extremely thin. :-)

(Saw her this morning which is why it was still in my mind.)

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to helvella

Hyperthyroid perhaps?

JGBH profile image
JGBH in reply to DippyDame

I agree. I have always seen seriously obese medical professionals at the hospital, many nurses are waddling when walking. Some GPs are also obese. Yet they feel justified of pointing the finger at overweight patients. A ploy in delaying and refusing treatment for such patients. They should lead by example and avoiding sanctimonious judgment.

userotc profile image
userotc in reply to DippyDame

Absolutely! I'd say 90% of nurses are obese or at least overweight.

My mum was advised to lose weight by one at our local surgery. She looked at the nurse's excess "baggage" and smiled!

userotc profile image
userotc in reply to DippyDame

Of course, when I say "advised" to lose weight, I mean it was proposed as there was no advice on to how to do it (unsurprisingly considering the nurse's appearance). Fortunately for mum, I've studied Naturopathic Nutrition for past 3y so I advised her how to do it sustainably. She's lost 2+ stone and kept it off which she had always been unable to do with Weight Watchers etc.

Wired123 profile image
Wired123 in reply to userotc

What advice did you give your mum, would love to hear some tips :)

userotc profile image
userotc in reply to Wired123

It's based on healthier eating plus some other things but depends on several factors which are often specific to the individual (1 reason WW is flawed). And its sustainable largely by ongoing education of the patient.

So impossible to do successfully via an online forum, I'm afraid.

I'll probably specialise in that area when I start my practice early next year but meanwhile you could search for other NNs.

LindaC profile image

Appalling but what's new!? Please - ANYONE who might feel this way - ask whomsoever for a solution which does NOT include at its heart CI-CO and some trundled out diet sheet/ exercise program which have notoriously failed so many. 'They' are meant to help and assist patients... but in the main, on this issue, they seem to have little clue.

Weight gain is not always 'food stuffing', fast food, ignorance. HORMONES play a huge part... ask them what they know about that highly significant aspect. Genetics are also at play in the mix, affecting some more than others. Obesity is something they need to get their heads round... their own nurses are suffering too. When patients KNOW that they are doing their very best... push it back to them.

mrskiki profile image
mrskiki in reply to LindaC

I was also told to eat less exercise more, my age you know, we just take up too much room as we get to 50. Well it made me a lot worse, but did drive me to a hypothyroid diagnosis but not before some very bleak moments.

LindaC profile image
LindaC in reply to mrskiki

Sorry to hear that - I know too - someone needs to intervene in circumstances where they seem to know so little... including endocrinology and CFS/ME. Hope you've found your way through it? xox

Marz profile image

I am the heaviest I have ever been at almost 76. I was skin and bone at 27 after almost six months in hospital - five trips to theatre with a Gut TB diagnosis plus Crohns. More surgery with complications followed over the years and I remained slim-ish until my mid-50's. Hashimotos diagnosed at 59 in 2005in Crete. Then the battle with my weight really began !

My Health improved with good thyroid treatment and learning about good supplementation of B12 - VitD etc - so it seems to be a conundrum as I feel well but am FAM - Fat around the middle !!

My UK life is not as active as my Greek life ( swimming daily - tennis - yoga - dog walking - running a guest house business etc) On the other hand our social life has shrunk so less food and wine !

Tomorrow hubby and I are having a raft of private blood tests for Older People ? Results in 3 weeks - my BMI will have drifted upwards for sure and am dreading the stern words that will follow 😀 I am now prepared following this post !

I am T3 only on 50mcg and its only the spinal stenosis from an accident years ago that is holding me back .....along with eye issues. No other medications ! Hope I have remained on topic?!

All suggestions welcome 🌻

LindaC profile image
LindaC in reply to Marz

Such a struggle, Marz - Medicine simply isn't what it's cracked up to be, certainly not the chronic stuff :-( - seems we have only ourselves to 'fall back on'. Wishing you and hubby the very best - please let us know how your bloods go? xox

humanbean profile image
humanbean in reply to Marz

Can I make a prediction and say an "Older People" test, if the NHS is doing it, will include a test for diabetes, cholesterol, and a Full Blood Count, and not much else?

Oops - just noticed you said it was private...

Marz profile image
Marz in reply to humanbean

Yes tiz private ! Hubby had a few concerns so am keeping him company ! He has Hashi's too and T3 only - no other meds at 83 ! Can't remember the details as it was booked sometime ago ! No cholesterol test - I'm a Kendrick groupie -🌞

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to Marz

FAM for me too I’m like a ball of wool on knitting needles 🤣🤣🤣

Marz profile image
Marz in reply to TSH110

Now there's a description I have not heard before 😂

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to Marz

Yeah I’ve got really thin elongated limbs so if they don’t notice the belly they think I’m very skinny! But that belly is a big un 😱 my hips are smaller than the paunch so keeping trews up can be a challenge! I think I’m what they call an Apple 🍏 shape - heart attacks here I come!

Marz profile image
Marz in reply to TSH110

Me too - I'm an apple. Make the most of those slim legs - show then off with jeggings and a swinging tunic top ! At 5'11" my legs can help to create an illusion ! I also believe older ladies should wear bright 💋 so the wrinkles go unnoticed !!

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to Marz

Love it 🤣🤣🤣 I’m going to reconsider my penchant for black attire. I feel a bit vertically challenged at 5’8” but the legs are long and the body short 😁

humanbean profile image

I remember having an appointment with a doctor who had a physique like a matchstick. I'm in the overweight category for BMI. She couldn't hide her distaste when it came to examining me. (She is no longer a doctor according to the GMC register.)

I think that doctors use weight as a reason not to investigate and treat all sorts of conditions.

Fruitandnutcase profile image
Fruitandnutcase in reply to humanbean

Ha, call me cynical (definitely my middle name 😉) I sometimes think (some) doctors use all sorts of things as a reason not to investigate all sorts of conditions.

nightingale-56 profile image
nightingale-56 in reply to Fruitandnutcase

Probably because they don't know the answer Fruitandnutcase !

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to humanbean

It’s terrible withholding treatment because of weight. I was really shocked that things like knee and hip replacements are being withheld on this basis , but I suppose it saves a lot of money not treating a large portion of the population. It’s really not right.

Fruitandnutcase profile image
Fruitandnutcase in reply to TSH110

Especially as once the knees and hips are working again and the patient is no longer crippled with pain and unable to exercise they could hip get back to moving again.

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to Fruitandnutcase


birkie profile image

I'd love to weigh my gp he is very over weight and had a heart attack some years ago,🙄 my mum had a heart attack many years ago now (died from moto neuron) gp told her in a very rude manner she needed to loose weight, 😧 practice what you preach doctors🙄 also having to go through the NHS system for my thyroid condition I've seen plenty of nurses who are very over weight to!!

TSH110 profile image
TSH110 in reply to birkie

I call that projection! Cheeky beggar

mrskiki profile image
mrskiki in reply to birkie

My mum hadn't an ounce of fat on her, but she lost quite a bit in height so the nurse of course recorded that she needed to lose weight to keep her BMI same rather than being concerned at the osteoporosis ....

birkie profile image
birkie in reply to mrskiki

Yeah coz it costs money to treat osteoporosis 😠 I was diagnosed with ostiopeania in 2020 my gp said "ho your only in the orange zone... Like that made any difference, thank your lucky stars doctor you won't be in any zone😠 Drs we getting worse😩

Hennerton profile image

I absolutely agree that obese patients should not be shamed. This will never help them. Nevertheless, we have to accept that many people simply eat too much. Food is on every street in every town and city and meal deals in supermarkets, offering for instance, two pizzas for the price of one, simply compound the issue. Add to that the lack of, or poor teaching of nutrition in schools and one can see why the residents of many countries in the world, not just the U.K, are obese.

If you look at old footage of people on British beaches in the 1970’s, you will see no obesity. The problems arose with the easy availability of cheap food in supermarkets and the rise of take away or deliverable food.

Of course there will be patients with weight gain for legitimate reasons, such as hip or knee problems. The NHS needs to attend to these people as quickly as possible to get them back to an active life.

As for the many we know from this site, who are either not diagnosed or are allowed pitiful amounts of thyroid medication, because of the reliance of doctors on our hopeless TSH test, this for me is the saddest reason of all for obesity and doctors should be ashamed at their lack of thyroid knowledge and their refusal to see what is staring them in the face.

In many cases, however and particularly noticeable during our lockdowns, with many working from home, people are simply not moving around as much as they used to be. They are not walking to the tube or a bus stop and they may be simply sitting at home answering phone calls all day long. What chance have they of not putting on weight?

So in the end I see the problem as one of too much easily available food and of many people now being unable to move around energetically throughout their working day.

We need to encourage people to cook their own nutritious food. This alone means moving around in a kitchen, instead of simply undoing a box of delivered food and sitting down for the rest of the evening. Let’s try it?

Zephyrbear profile image
Zephyrbear in reply to Hennerton

“If you look at old footage of people on British beaches in the 1970’s, you will see no obesity”

That would be because in the 70s, the “let it all hang out regardless of what people might think” attitude had not happened yet and people who were overweight would not be seen dead laying on a beach like a stranded whale! My mum became very overweight in the 70s due, I now believe, undiagnosed hypothyroidism (she finally got a diagnosis after I got mine when she was in her 80s!) and wouldn’t have dreamt of going anywhere near the beach! She tried every fad-diet that came along and was devastated each time when not a single ounce was lost… Once she was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism and prescribed levothyroxine, the weight dropped off her…

Tugun profile image

My Darling Brother (I know he was only looking after me) suggested I go for a walk today as it would help to get me better. It's winter here where I am. I have the flu/ asthma/ breathing in cold air gives me asthma / I'm a frog whose temperature goes down depending on the outside air temperature and I have a low immune system. I am struggling to build my strength to defeat this thing (tamiflu and antibiotics not withstanding). NO, I will not go for a walk outside.

The look on his face :- "Well I tried. If she won't listen to me, I've done what I can."

Truly, if you believe me when I tell you I can't go for a walk when I am ill in winter - THEN you've done something for me.

Loose weight? Yes, a great idea. As a doctor, why don't they find out why it isn't happening?

Hennerton profile image
Hennerton in reply to Tugun

I doubt if anyone’s health would be improved by going for a winter walk when they have flu and sadly it would take a great deal of a doctor’s time to quiz you on your lifestyle and eating habits. In the end, our health is our own responsibility and we have to try to look after ourselves as well as we can in this very muddled world.

Batty1 profile image

I definitely believe this is true although my doctor doesn’t call me fatty I get the every issue your having is weight related chat and I refuse to get on the scale especially if my doctor has seen me just recently for another problem and she says we need to know your weight at every visit and I always reply why so you can do nothing about it like you have done for years now even though I plead and beg for help… sure.

I want to get a T-shirt with the saying don’t judge me until you have read my story! My body survived hell.

shaws profile image

How horrid are some of the above comments.!

If ONLY 'supposed to be experts on dysfunctional thyroid glands' would read this forum and research/statements where the hypo patients state they are puzzled when weight is gained whilst still eating as they did before being diagnosed, but GPs are blaming the patients.

GPs/Endos would also learn a lot if they joined this forum.

Where are the modern Dr Peatfields/Dr Skinners and Dr Lowe's who were fully aware of how best to diagnose and treat those patients who had hypothyroidism and not finding levothyroxine is helpful for many? Patients travelled some distances to consult with these knowledgeable doctors. These doctors also didn't need blood tests to diagnose/treat.

I assume that the 'powers that be' now insist upon a certain way to diagnose/treat but I was more unwell upon levo than when I diagnosed myself (TSH of 100 and told I had no problems).

I met a woman who was well and symptom-free on levothyroxine and praised it and she hadn't gained weight and looked fit and well.

My own experience of levo was constant severe palpitations and feeling very unwell.

I have recovered my health on T3 only, thankfully. I had also trialled NDTs (natural dessicated thyroid hormones) but didn't improve my symptoms.

From 1982 patients could be diagnosed/treated without any blood tests but by expertise on symptoms

I have had some stupid comments from GP and I told him 'that's incorrect doctor'.

diogenes and colleagues

You may also like...