Don't call them obese, they're fat: UK minister

Thu Jul 29, 2010 5:07am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Calling people fat rather than obese would be more likely to motivate them to lose weight, according to Britain's public health minister.

Doctors and health workers are too worried about using the term "fat," Anne Milton said, but doing so could help encourage people to take personal responsibility for their lifestyles.

"If I look in the mirror and think I am obese I think I am less worried (than) if I think I am fat," Milton, a former nurse, told the BBC. "At the end of the day, you cannot do it for them. People have to have the information."

The UK has one of the highest obesity rates in Europe, and the level has been steadily rising over the last 10 years. In 2008, almost a quarter of adults and 14 percent of children were classified as obese, according to the Department of Health.

While Steve Field of the Royal College of General Practitioners welcomed Milton's comments, saying doctors need to be more honest with patients rather than telling them what they want to hear, some health groups warned against using the term.

"People don't want to be offensive. There is a lot of stigma to being a fat person," said Lindsey Davies, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, which represents public health professionals.

"Obesity is something that happens to people rather than something they are."

(Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Steve Addison)