An Open Letter to the NHS
from Everyone Struggling With their Weight in the UK
I am writing to you as someone that is obese/overweight and extremely upset at how much weight I have gained over the past few years. I really appreciate all of the wonderful work that you do in saving lives and helping people – I know that your doctors, nurses, dieticians etc. all work really hard. I would really like you to help me too with my health issues but I am finding the advice and assistance that you are giving me is really getting me down.
I KNOW that I need to eat less and exercise more – in fact just thinking about how much less I SHOULD be eating and how much more I SHOULD be exercising – makes me want to binge eat chocolate and cake, because I feel like such a failure. I KNOW that my weight gain puts me at an increased risk of type II diabetes, cancer and cardio-vascular disease – in fact the more I think about this, the more I just want to give up on life altogether. I KNOW that I should be eating more vegetables and less processed foods – but just thinking about giving up all of my favourite foods makes me feel really sad. I KNOW what foods are healthy and what foods are bad for my health – and yet I just find all those unhealthy treats taste so much better and make me feel good. I KNOW that I need to lose weight – what I don’t know is how to do it.
You see, when doctors tell me I need to lose weight and eat less, it just makes me feel worse about myself – as though I can’t get anything right. When I feel bad my main comfort is always eating – it is what I turn to when I am stressed, when I am angry, when I am sad. So when you tell me how much of a failure I am, I always just end up eating more. I need help – not by you telling me to lose weight – but by you explaining to me why I have no control over my eating anymore.
I don’t think my over-eating can be cured with more nutrition advice or any restrictive diet. Asking me to count calories or points or to join a support group has never worked before. Diets don’t work at all anyway – I always just end up falling off the wagon. And why is your focus always on being slim and not on being healthy at all? I’m told to count calories and weigh my food – but that’s leading me to get obsessive – about my food, and my body and my weight and just how disgusting I am. All this calorie counting and focusing on energy-balance means I choose low-fat snacks and meal-replacement shakes over olive oil and avocado, when something tells me those low-fat snacks and shakes aren’t so good for my health long-term.
And why aren’t you telling the government how bad all these sugary, unhealthy, super-processed foods are for my health? They are so addictive and I can’t stop eating them yet I can find them everywhere - on every street corner, in every shop and on every supermarket shelf. It is almost as though these foods companies want me to get fat and addicted - we all know sugar is bad - and yet nobody is doing anything about it...sugar is the worst fully legal, poisonous drug mankind has ever had.
Did you know, I’ve also found I eat more food when I don’t get enough sleep. Yet the doctors I speak to never ask about my sleep or my happiness or anything else – all they tell me is that I’m obese and make me feel awful – don’t you see it’s actually my poor mood, my stress, my tiredness, my sadness and my boredom that’s causing me to eat so much. So why do you separate treatment for my mental health from treatment for my obesity. Anorexics and bulimics get psychological support but my issues with food are not seen as being worthy of psychological treatment at all – and yet I too obsess over food, I don’t purge but I often binge or eat for comfort. I know I feel out of control around food and that I turn to food when I need to feel better, a quick fix or a fast relief from stress. Surely that’s better helped with a treatment that fixes my relationship with food, gets to the root cause of the issue and finds out why I’m using food – not to satisfy my hunger but to satisfy some emotional need, maybe to help cope with stress or depression or something else. I know sometimes you might offer me CBT but this doesn’t really get to the root cause of my issues – I’ve tried it before and the therapist wouldn’t let me talk about my past – even though sometimes I wonder if that trauma, is what causing me to use food as a comfort blanket, to keep me happy and to keep me safe from any further harm.
Please stop telling me to eat less and exercise more because all it does is upset me and make me feel bad. I need help to change the way I use food, look at my body and think about my health – you see, I think obesity/my weight problem is mainly about what’s going on in my mind…
A person desperate to find good health and fed-up of being made to feel as though they are to blame for their inability to lose weight.”