Never judge someone over changes in weight
WEIGHT is a hugely personal issue, but is still widely discussed, more so if the person is a celebrity – as they’re in the public eye, people often assume they’re ‘fair game’ to talk about.
Davina McCall has recently opened up about this in an interview with Women’s Health magazine, talking about weight loss after divorce.
“It happens to many people. It was nothing I did, I was just running on adrenaline,” she says. “Quite a few people understood, but there are some really mean people out there and some very uninformed people who don’t think about the story behind the sadness.”
There are plenty of hidden reasons why someone might suffer weight fluctuations – Dr Deborah Lee, from Dr Fox Online, outlines three. STRESS: “Chronic stress has numerous negative effects on health,” explains Dr Lee, as it can cause “alterations in the levels of hormones”. Other potential physiological side effects include “raised blood pressure and irregular menstrual cycles. Some of these directly affect weight,” she says.
“Stress has been shown to affect appetite. Autonomic function – the body’s unconscious functions – is stimulated by stress, which can affect
gastric emptying, transit time and absorption of food through the gut.
“Stress stimulates the immune system, and as the gut wall is full of clumps of immune tissue, this can cause inflammation. Stress can also affect water absorption from the bowel. Many people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), find their symptoms flare up with acute stress. This can then affect eating patterns and general wellbeing, and can result in either weight loss or weight gain.” CANCER: “Unexplained weight loss is a recognised symptom of many types of cancer,” says Dr Lee.
The medical term is cachexia, and Dr Lee explains: “Patients with cachexia report wanting to eat and knowing they should eat, but being physically unable. Some say they feel full quickly, or that swallowing food makes them feel sick.”
Unfortunately, cachexia is often a “biochemical and physiological outcome of the cancer process,” says Dr Lee. “It is not something the sufferer has any control over, and is exceedingly difficult to treat.”
The NHS recommends seeing your GP if you have unintentionally lost 5% of your body weight in 6-12 months.
Dr Lee says: “People either don’t realise their symptoms are serious or don’t want to waste the doctor’s time. Raising awareness of the importance of early symptoms that may indicate cancer, for example, unexplained weight loss, is important.”
EATING DISORDERS: “Far from helping people lose weight, stigmatising weight gain only increases unhealthy eating patterns and weight gain,” says Dr Lee. “As stigma increases, obese adults report more binge eating, more disrupted eating behaviours, and can develop more eating disorders.”
She says we need to “regard obesity in a more empathetic and positive light,” particularly as there are so many genetic abnormalities that can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
Many conditions cause weight changes. For Davina McCall, inset, it was stress