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Let’s talk about… compassion

Let’s talk about… compassion

Weight is a very complex issue, and solving it is not as simple as telling people to move more and eat better or by putting everyone on a diet. As well as our individual biology, genetics and behaviour, there are many more factors that affect our weight. For example, how much money we have, where we live, our culture and our family. In decades of public health intervention, nothing has worked in the way we had hoped, including dieting and education.

So, we have taken a different approach! We want to stop blaming individuals and claiming the problem is simply lack of knowledge or willpower. We will support people, value and accept them, and work hard to make their lives fairer.

Our vision is to create an environment where everybody in Doncaster is fully able to pursue their own health goals and are fully supported to do so by society, without judgement or assumptions. They feel valued as an individual just the way they are. Compassion is at the heart of how we move together towards a healthier society for future generations.

To realise our vision, we need to change the way we think, talk and feel about weight and health, and bring everyone along with us.

What have we done so far?

In 2020, we began our Compassionate Journey at Doncaster Council.

This started with building an evidence base through a scoping literature review, developing our Compassionate vision and principles, including what we want to adopt and what we want to reject, mapping the approach locally and embedding our principles into other streams of work. Read more about this here: Doncaster's Compassionate Approach to Weight

We know that a lot of different settings are looking to implement more Compassionate approaches to weight and health, so we set-up a Practice Group, which brings together colleagues from across the country who are passionate about ending weight stigma. The group provides peer support, shares learning, and changes perspectives about obesity.

From November 2021 to January 2022, we ran a public consultation to inform the development of our compassionate approach. This consultation included two public surveys:

Survey 1 asked questions about food, eating, and physical activity, to understand the local factors that influence how decisions are made regarding health and wellbeing.

Survey 2 asked questions about experiences of weight management and weight stigma to understand local attitudes and beliefs about weight and health.

The feedback from the survey has helped to inform our services at Doncaster Council moving forward, and more details can be found on our ‘You said, we did’ webpage.

Using the community insight gathered by our public consultation, we have developed a Compassionate New Year communications campaign. We know that the New Year can be a great time to make an impact for our residents, but we also know that it can feel like there is a lot of pressure to change our lives overnight. Resolutions are a journey of wellbeing goals, not just for January. Sometimes, we blame ourselves for giving up on a resolution – but maybe it is the resolution that’s not working! This year, we provided our residents with positive messages, alternative inspiration, and support through our website, social media pages and in-person engagement, and created a set of resources which promote self-compassion when creating resolutions or goals.

What does 2023 look like?

Continuing our journey to change perspectives in 2023, on the back of our Compassionate New Year campaign, we have further public messaging campaigns in the works, as well as developing a toolkit of training and resources to support professionals to implement a Compassionate approach practically!

For World Obesity Day 2023, on the 4th of March we will be keeping the momentum going from our public engagement and releasing tailored comms to start the conversation with our residents about weight stigma. As part of this, we will also be spotlighting the lived experiences of our community, by sharing a case study from a Doncaster resident, about their experience of weight stigma and the Compassionate Approach!

Get Involved

If you are a health and wellbeing professional interested in implementing a more Compassionate approach to weight and challenging weight stigma in your setting, consider joining our Practice Group to learn from colleagues across the country. Get in touch with us by email: