With over half of us in the UK nowadays being classed as overweight or obese, it’s not surprising that so many of us turn to a whole host of solutions to shed those unwanted pounds. Whether it’s weight loss groups, fad diets, medication, surgery, or just good old exercise and a healthy balanced diet, losing weight is something that can be extremely difficult for many people, and not everything will work for everyone.
68% of men and 60% of women in the UK struggle with obesity or being overweight, these numbers increasing across age groups up to 75 years of age.
And when it comes to children, nearly 20% of boys and over 10% of girls in the UK struggle with obesity or being overweight. So how many of us are looking to shed the unwanted pounds?
In November 2021, we used Censuswideto run a survey of 2,000 UK adults with the intention of finding out just how many of us struggle with our weight. We asked:
How often, if at all, have you felt uncomfortable about your weight?
It seems that the majority of us seem to struggle with our weight at some point in our lives. The results showed that:
There are no shortage of reasons why so many of us struggle with our weight, whether because of our health, images and portrayals in the media, comparing ourselves to airbrushed celebrities, or outside comments made by friends and family. But do these things, along with slimming/diet culture and high beauty standards, affect women more than men? Or are the effects of these more evenly spread over the two sexes? This is what our research showed:
As you can see from the chart above:
With our metabolism slowing down as we age and social media more popular than ever with young people, does this change the way we view our bodies and our weight? We were curious as to whether age would affect the ways in which participants responded to our survey, so we asked contributors to specify their age range when they gave their answers. These are our results:
So it seems that both the youngest and the oldest groups of participants in the survey felt the most comfortable with their weights.
If we go to the Google search engine and type in ‘how to lose weight’, these are the search predictions that appear:
Out of ten predictive search suggestions, five of them are about losing weight quickly. The remaining five results include losing weight in specific areas, and losing weight without exercise.
If we look at the Google trends graph for search terms about losing weight, we can see that there is a regular spike around December/January every year, with the searches going right down in popularity just before this as people become less interested in losing weight as the year progresses. But regardless of how low the searches go, it seems almost guaranteed that we’ll be freshly determined to lose weight once again at the start of each year.
The only year that doesn’t show this exact pattern is 2020, when searches for ‘how to lose weight’ spiked again in March 2020, presumably in time for the national lockdown when people stayed home and either didn’t have work or worked from home, meaning they most likely had more time to exercise or to focus on their fitness and weight management.
UK Google searches for ‘how to lose weight’ from Nov 2016 to Nov 2021. Source: Google Trends
According to Keyword Finder, we searched for weight loss-related terms quite a bit more than usual in the months just after the lockdown of 2020. Since the lockdown began at the very end of March 2020, it’s understandable that many of us would be trying to lose weight that April and May. We found that:
*this is out of the search terms we analysed, which include: ‘how to lose weight fast’, ‘how to lose belly fat’, how to lose weight’, ‘best exercises to lose weight’, and several more related search terms.
Google searches for ‘diet plan’ seem to have a similar pattern to ‘how to lose weight’, in that they spike up significantly each January, presumably when everyone decides to go on a new diet at New Years. Though it’s clear that in the last year, even the upsurge of searches in January was lower than previous years.
Diets like the keto diet, the juice diet, the 7-day detox diet and the military diet can be tempting as a ‘quick-fix’ solution, especially if there is a specific goal such as losing weight for a certain event or in a certain amount of time. Medical professionals usually don’t recommend such restrictive diets for the long-term though, so this is something to keep in mind.
UK Google searches for ‘diet plan’ from Nov 2016 to Nov 2021. Source: Google Trends
Judging not only from the Google Trends graph, but from the data found on Keyword Finder, we can see that diet plans seem to be losing some of their popularity as of late.
We decided to take a look at some diets popular with Brits, and see how many of us have been searching for them. Using Keyword Finder, we found out what diets are searched for most often. Here is what we found:
|Diet||Average Monthly Searches (last 12 months)|
As we can see from the table:
When it comes to medication for weight loss, there are a few different options available both over the counter and on prescription to the English public, such as Orlistat (also known by brand names Xenical and Alli), Saxenda, and Mysimba.
Because Orlistat is by far the most popular medication prescribed to those of us with a BMI over 28 who are trying to lose weight, and since 2010 it is the only drug available in the UK that is recommended specifically for the management of obesity, we used OpenPrescribing.net to analyse the NHS prescription data for it, to see in which areas it was being prescribed the most and how much the NHS tends to spend on it.
Data obtained from Open Prescribing
Looking at the stats for Orlistat in September 2021, we can see that:
There has been a long-term downward trend in prescription of Orlistat over the last years, with 371 thousand items prescribed in 2018, 355 thousand items prescribed in 2019, and 294 thousand items prescribed in 2020. These figures are based on the calendar year, of which there is no data for 2021 just yet.
We also used Open Prescribing to see how much money is spent by each region every year on treating patients with Orlistat.
Since Orlistat is a prescription-only medication that is only used to help people lose weight, we can be sure that there won’t be any other reasons the drug could be being prescribed to patients. Not to mention Orlistat is only used for patients with a BMI of 28 or over, and is used with an individualized low-calorie, low-fat diet and exercise program to help patients to lose weight.
In other words, Orlistat isn’t just for those of us looking to shed a couple of pounds after a Christmas of eating a bit too much chocolate—it’s for folk who are really struggling with beng overweight or obese, and are finding it near-impossible to lose the weight on their own, whether this is due to comorbid health issues that can rear their heads when we put on too much weight, such as:
Or due to the reason for the weight gain in the first place, whether this is genetics or a condition such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), Cushing syndrome or an underactive thyroid.
Data obtained from Open Prescribing
In this graph, we can see the amount of money that is spent on Orlistat by the NHS by each region in England. Unsurprisingly it is similar to the last graph, but there are a few differences:
If you’re worried about your weight and feel that Orlistat is right for you, we have both Orlistat and the branded Xenical available on our dedicated Weight Loss Medication page. As these are prescription-only medications you will need to either upload your own prescription, or we can charge a fee to ask a doctor for a prescription for you if you provide us with some personal details. If you have any queries or concerns, please contact us.