Why is obesity not discouraged

Obesity - Is The Message Failing?

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Author: Sabrina Rauth, Editor: Dr. Bertil Kluthe
© Kluthe Foundation for Nutrition and Health

Thursday June 16, 2011

Australian researchers found that many obese people underestimate the impact their weight has on their health. This is not due to a lack of knowledge about this connection, because there are enough awareness-raising campaigns. Rather, the messages conveyed in the campaigns seem to fail on certain points. And the expected successes do not materialize.

Health education for overweight people - why?

Obese people get sick more easily. You are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer of some tissues such as the breast, uterus, colon, and kidney. Their emotional health also often suffers more than that of people of normal weight, whereby social assessments are likely to play an important role here.

Other consequences of obesity ...

Obesity also has social consequences, as obese people are sometimes devalued and marginalized because of their weight. Prejudices about character and moral judgments do their part. With a strong overweight z. B. often associated with laziness and indolence as well as an unhealthy diet and a lack of personal responsibility.

The message of the pictures

For example, in the images used in Australian health campaigns B. are shown very overweight people who are unhealthy or eating too much, mostly sitting. The impression created by this is that very overweight people generally behave in a very risky manner in terms of their health. The conclusion could be that obesity is considered immoral and irresponsible. As a result, an actually well-intentioned message would miss the target.

Simplifying doesn't help

The Australian scientists concluded from the survey results of their study that simplified messages that lack helpful information do not support those affected. For example, a simple “eat less and exercise more” does not capture the complex causes, nor does it consider the obese's ability to respond to these messages. Such blanket messages do not empower those affected, but rather discourage them. If the messages are also in stark contrast to personal experiences, they lose credibility.

“… I think if… [obese] could have done anything about it (against their weight) they would have done it by now. So just to tell them: ‘you are too fat, you should lose weight’, what was the benefit? ” (39-year-olds, BMI 43.7)

If the conveyed impression of obesity triggers guilt and shame, those affected tend to withdraw or refuse to refer to themselves. This is e.g. This is the case, for example, when one's own responsibility is strongly emphasized or the image associated with obesity leaves a very negative impression that is to be rejected.

“Whenever you go to your doctor's office, you see pictures of tall, overweight men or tall, overweight women eating hamburgers and drinking milkshakes who say that one in three people over 45 who fall within that weight range is likely to have a heart attack will get. Well, I guess it's not me because I don't eat hamburgers and large amounts of french fries every day. " (48-year-old, BMI 31)

The Australian researchers found that many sufferers try to deflect a possible blame from themselves by claiming they are responsible and healthy and also active members of society. Unfortunately, distancing does not only lead to the void of health messages. The offer of help behind the embassies is not taken up either.


The quotes have been translated from English. The original text can be viewed via the link in the source information.

Lewis S, Thomas SL, Hyde J, Castle D, Blood RW, Komesaroff PA:"I don’t eat a hamburger and large chips every day!" A qualitative study of the impact of public health messages about obesity on obese adults. BMC Public Health 2010, 10: 309

written by Sabrina Rauth on June 16, 2011 at 6:06 am

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