The thorny issue of weight loss advice

Judith Wills / 04 November 2020

Diet and weight loss expert Judith Wills reveals her concerns about offering healthy eating advice in light of the Body Positivity movement.



Here’s a confession. For a while now, I’ve been finding myself actually worried about offering anyone advice on losing weight.

My head knows that being very overweight or obese is just about the biggest risk factor for most of our major diseases of the era, and for an earlier death. And yet the nervous side of my disposition, and the side that wants very much to stay out of trouble and have people like me, has been quietly panicking about whether it is OK or not to infer that a person’s weight is a little on the heavy side for health, even when asked by that person for an unbiased opinion.

And I’ve been giving some serious thought as to whether, by offering up, either here at Saga, or for other websites or publications, diet advice of any kind to people I don’t know and will probably never meet, I am disobeying all the recent rules of correctness regarding how we treat size – both our own and other people’s.

I refer, of course, to body positivity. Using a capital B and P, this is the movement that began several years ago in the USA, aiming to encourage people to love their bodies whatever their size and to castigate anyone who gave any hint of criticism to anyone about their surplus pounds or stones, should that be the case. Who is anyone to decide whether those really are ‘surplus’ pounds, goes the thinking. Why call them surplus? And so on.

In the past couple of years the idea of body positivity has become big (if you’ll forgive that word) here in the UK, with official advice to doctors to avoid ‘fat shaming’ their obese patients and tips on how to avoid using words that might offend.

There’s plenty more – I’m sure you’ve read about it and maybe you are one of the people who has stopped measuring your waist or getting on the scales because you now feel perfectly entitled to be whatever size and weight you want to be and it’s no-one’s business but yours. There is certainly a case for shaming those who make larger sized people feel bad about themselves.

So what we have now, especially in the wake of the lockdown, is a population getting less and less healthy via not only those s*****s pounds/stones I hardly dare to mention, but also by not getting enough exercise as we lounge at home wondering when the world will be ‘normal’ again.

And I have friends who now say to me that even if they do embark on losing a stone or so for their health’s sake, they don’t mention it to anyone anymore (apart from me of course) because they fear they will get ‘told off’ for being anti-body positivity, for not being proud of their bodies whatever shape or size.

If that should be you, I urge you – take some professional advice (yes there are still GPs who will pass an unbiased opinion on the measures you can take to help prevent, for example, heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and many other diseases, even if that advice includes the now-controversial idea of losing some weight). And act on what your professional tells you.

And if you do begin a healthier eating regime and get slimmer – please do not feel that you are letting down your sisters and brothers of the UK who are happy with their size whatever it may be. That is up to them. You have a choice. And, by the way, sometimes it’s easier to follow that no-puddings regime if you don’t tell the world you’re doing so. Just get on with it and keep quiet. When you feel better and your blood sugars are under control and your cholesterol is down and you can walk uphill without a struggle – and so on – that will be your reward.

And for the time being, I am going to try my best to continue offering what I feel is reasonable and healthy advice to those who want to read it. Even if I have to duck every time I go on Twitter….

The Food Bible

Judith Wills is the author of the bestselling The Food Bible, White Owl Publishing, out now.

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.