Dietitians' views of overweight and obese people and reported management practices


Emma L. Harvey,
Centre for Research in Primary Care,
Hallas Wing,
Nuffield Institute,
71–75 Clarendon Road,
Leeds, LS2 9PL
Tel.: 0113 3436968
Fax: 0113 3434836 E-mail:


Objectives  To examine dietitians' views of overweight and obese people, to explore the role of level of severity on these perceptions (overweight vs. obesity), and to explore the relationship between dietitians' views and their reported weight management practices.

Design  An independent measures survey, questioning dietitians about either overweight or obese people.

Participants  One-hundred and eighty-seven members of the British Dietetic Association.

Measurements  A questionnaire exploring beliefs about the causes, attitudes, perceptions of responsibility and reported weight management practices.

Results  Physical inactivity was identified as an important causative factor for both overweight and obesity. Mood, eating too much of the wrong foods, repeated dieting and interpersonal factors were also seen as relatively important for both groups. Attitudes were mixed, but were generally neutral to positive. The most negative attitudes were described in terms of perceived reduced self-esteem, sexual attractiveness and health. Dietitians rated obese people more negatively than overweight people. They viewed both overweight and obese people as being responsible for their excess weight. They also reported very similar management practices for overweight and obese people. Beliefs about the causes of overweight explained more of the variance in practice than dietitians' attitudes towards or perceived responsibility of overweight and obese people. However, these associations were not consistent and strong, and other factors not investigated here are likely to have a greater influence on weight management practices.