The complex reasons why women who are overweight feel reluctant to seek help.
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Julia* was just 22 years old when her sister dragged her – literally – to a weight loss meeting. The young woman had commenced an office job the previous year, changing her lifestyle from that of an active university student to that of a person tied to their desk for eight hours a day.

And then of course, there were nice lunches with colleagues, office birthday cakes…and before she knew it, Julia had put on 15 kilograms and felt less healthy. Her sister suggested a weight loss meeting, and Julia agreed to attend – but when they arrived, she remained frozen, inert, inside the car, until her sister finally took her hand firmly and pulled her toward the meeting.

Luckily for Julia, she had a sister who wanted to support her. But not everyone is so fortunate. For many people who find achieving a healthy weight challenging, they often discover that it is easier said than done – and it can be a very isolating experience.

Certain factors can prevent a person from getting help when faced with weight loss, such as self-blame, embarrassment about exercising in public, and potentially even sadness about their situation. (It is important to note, however, that there are many confident people living with obesity.) These factors are often overlooked as real deterrents to effective weight management for those who want to.

But Dr Georgia Rigas, chair of the RACGP Obesity Management Network, says that the effect of mental health issues associated with being overweight can impact the decision to seek medical help.

A General Practitioner can be an incredible resource for people wanting to manage their weight. Source: Getty

Some people find it difficult to embark on the journey to reach a healthy weight because they suffer under a cloud of shame, hopelessness and anxiety, which are commonly felt by people who suffer low self-esteem.

"A common misconception is that weight management is just about willpower, and a lot of us have heard the adage, 'just eat less and move more' to lose weight," Dr Rigas tells Mamamia. "When it comes to weight management, the story is much more complex."


Dr Rigas explains that while healthy eating and physical activity are important, research shows that when even a small amount of weight loss is achieved, due to hormonal changes, "the body fights to put the weight back on".

She adds, "This means that when you lose weight, to maintain the weight loss via diet and exercise alone can be very challenging as essentially you're fighting against your biology."

With so much stigma against people who are overweight and with obesity in society, through people's personal experiences - for example, comments from friends and colleagues - and from the media, it can be challenging for them to access support.

This is where a General Practitioner can be an incredible resource.

"GPs understand that losing weight and keeping it off is hard due to the body fighting to get it back," Dr Rigas says. "They will explain how your health may improve with some weight loss, and discuss the pros and cons of different approved treatments."

A doctor should be able to lend an ear and help you come up with a plan. Image: Getty.

For individuals and people with obesity who are reluctant to raise the issue of weight management directly, Dr Rigas suggests raising the topic with their GP in a less direct way.

"You could ask them things such as 'I'm wondering whether my weight might be affecting my sore knees and whether I should do something about it?'" she says. "Or 'I don't want to increase the dose of my current medication; would losing weight help?"

Dr Rigas also advises patients to come to their appointment with some key information, such as any medications they may be taking, and a food and drink diary, while remembering that a GP is not there to judge past behaviours, but to suggest modifications where necessary.

"Your GP often knows you well and so is able to tailor a management program to your individual health profile and needs," she adds. "We will help you get started, and help you navigate along this lifelong journey."


An appointment with a GP about your health is much more about future goals and feeling good than it is about guilting patients, or blaming them. The intention will be to identify issues, and areas that can be addressed, including any mental health barriers that may have developed, which have been preventing the patient from getting the assistance they need.

So for those who are not as lucky to have someone like Julia by their side to help motivate them to make a change, overcoming that initial hesitance to see a GP can make all the difference.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.

For more information on medical weight loss, including weight assessment tools and information on helpful options, visit

This article is sponsored by iNova Pharmaceuticals (Australia) Pty Limited. ABN 13 617 871 539. Level 10, 12 Help Street, Chatswood NSW 2067,, AU-2018-09-0040’

Controlling your weight can take more than diet, exercise and willpower. In fact, your brain can work against you causing you to put weight back on. Your GP can help.  Ask your GP how prescription medicine can help take the weight off your body and mind.

Controlling your weight can take more than diet, exercise and willpower.

In fact, your brain can work against you causing you to put weight back on.

Your GP can help.

Ask your GP how prescription medicine can help take the weight off your body and mind.