Would you be offended if a doctor said you are overweight?
- Credit: RUTH GOODFIELD
An Ipswich woman who has lost nine stone in less than a year has inspired health professionals to rethink the way they handle conversations with patients about their weight.
Ruth Goodfield ignited a debate about the sensitive topic when she told her story during a meeting of the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) governing body today.
The 33-year-old said: “If a doctor said to me I was overweight I would have probably walked out, cried and never gone back.
“For some people they don’t want to acknowledge they are overweight.
“Saying I’m fat would not help me in anyway. I don’t think that’s productive.
“I would be mortified. My instinctive reaction would be to defend myself.”
Ruth shed nine stone in nine months by going on a calorie-controlled diet, doing more exercise and attending weekly sessions with an organisation called LighterLife, which focused on what was going on in her head rather than her stomach.
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“We never spoke about weight,” added Ruth, who is now training for a marathon. “We never spoke about food. We spoke about us as people.
“I don’t think I would have gone to the doctor about it because I would have felt really judged.
“For me it was about learning how to deal with things. I don’t drink at all anymore. I don’t snack. So now when something bad happens in my life I have to learn to deal with that rather than turning to other means.”
Ruth said mental and physical health often went “hand in hand”, so the best way to address someone’s weight would be to tackle any underlying problems in their life first.
Advice from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence urges professionals to “be aware of the stigma that adults who are overweight or obese may feel or experience”. It also says any conversation about weight should be “respectful and non-judgemental”.
Dr Mark Shenton, chairman of the CCG’s governing body, said dealing with patients with weight problems was sometimes a “challenge” for GPs.
After hearing Ruth’s tale, Dr Shenton said: “It’s given a lot of insight to what we are involved in and the impact that we have each day.”
Pauline Quinn, the CCG’s patient and public involvement representative, said she had previously held the opinion that professionals should speak frankly about a patient’s weight, but listening to Ruth had “challenged my assumptions”.
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