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Discussing Weight

Getting weighed is anxiety provoking for a person with an eating disorder

Discussions about body, weight and shape can be highly distressing for people with eating disorders.

Assessing a person's weight should be done sensitively, with consideration, and within a weight-neutral and non-judgemental approach to avoid weight stigma. 

When weighing a person with an eating disorder, these strategies may help: 
  • Ask for permission to discuss weight (i.e. “Would you be open to discussing your weight/weight history?”) 
  • Ask if they do or do not want to know their weight (i.e. ‘blind’ weighing) 
  • Allow time for the person to have and express feelings about being weighed 
  • Adopt a non-judgemental approach 
  • Refrain from making any comments about the number on the scale 

Avoid weight stigma 

The language that you use to discuss weight is important.  

The way that health professionals’ approach and talk about weight can negatively influence a clients’ body image. 

Experiences of weight stigma can contribute to body dissatisfaction and disordered eating and is associated with increased risk of other adverse physiological and mental health outcomes(1,2,3).

It is advised that GPs restrain from making comments or judgements based on weight, which may negatively affect body image. For example, avoid comments such as; “That was a low weigh,” “okay, that was a high weight,” “well done,” or “that’s disappointing.” 

Comments such as these could also influence what the individual chooses to share with you. 

GP Dr Linda Wallace discusses strategies to sensitively weigh a person with an eating disorder.

A healthy approach to weight 

Weight alone does not indicate health but comprises only one marker in a range of physical and psychological indicators of health.  

Adopt an evidence-based approach to health promotion, which focusses on overall wellbeing and is not weight-centric. 

A holistic approach to health promotion: 

  • Take the focus off weight, weight loss, shape, and appearance; instead focus on overall health and wellbeing. 
  • Refrain from using body weight or shape as sole indicators of health or physical fitness. 
  • Encourage the acceptance of a wide variety of different body shapes and sizes. 
  • Focus on eating for health; discourage extreme dieting and exercise behaviours. 
  • Avoid labelling food as either “good” or “bad”. 
  • Talk about exercise for strength, functionality and enjoyment; avoid talking about exercise for weight loss. 

Dieting has been shown to be a strong predictor for the development of an eating disorder4.

GPs can play a positive role in reducing risk dieting behaviours by promoting balanced and flexible eating and advising against extreme and restrictive diets and exercise programs.  

See: Dangerous Dieting

GP Dr Ashlea Broomfield explores taking a holistic approach to health.