Skip to main content
Home » Diabetes » Having difficult conversations about obesity and Type 2 diabetes

Having difficult conversations about obesity and Type 2 diabetes

Conversation talking diabetes
Conversation talking diabetes

Dan Howarth

Head of Care at Diabetes UK 

The UK is facing a diabetes crisis. In the last 20 years, the number of people living with diabetes has doubled; today there are 4.6 million people with the condition. Of these cases, around 90% are living with Type 2 diabetes.

While our already-stretched health service deals with this explosion in diabetes diagnoses, the UK is also sitting on a Type 2 diabetes time bomb. Diabetes UK estimates that as many as 12.3 million people in the UK are at an increased risk of the condition which, without careful management, can lead to devastating complications that include blindness, amputation and heart disease.

We don’t fully understand what causes Type 2 diabetes. We know that family history, age, ethnic background and weight can all contribute to a person’s risk of developing the condition. While you can’t do anything about age, ethnic background or family history, that doesn’t mean that the public and healthcare professionals are powerless to turn the tide of Type 2.

3/5 cases could be prevented by lifestyle changes

After all, we know that as many as three in five cases of Type 2 diabetes could be prevented or delayed by encouraging people to make simple lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing regular exercise.

That’s why it is so important that healthcare professionals are equipped with the tools to empower those at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes to make positive changes to their lifestyle, and in doing so reduce their risk. Having these conversations isn’t easy; discussions about weight and lifestyle choices are emotive and loaded with feelings of stigma, blame and guilt.

So, this year, to mark Diabetes Week (11 – 17 June 2018), Diabetes UK has developed a list of top tips to help healthcare professionals and patients alike navigate these sometimes-tricky conversations.

Navigating the sensitive topics of weight, obesity, lifestyle and Type 2 diabetes can be equally – if not more – challenging for the patient as they are for the professional. Talking about lifestyle changes, learning you’re at increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, or facing a diagnosis of the condition can all be incredibly difficult for patients, and each will inevitably bring up lots of tough, burning questions.

Make the most out of appointment times

Whether they’re at risk of Type 2 diabetes, or have been diagnosed with the condition, the time a person spends with their healthcare professionals is limited and precious, so it is important they get the most out of it.

The most important thing a patient should remember is that, regardless of how embarrassed you might feel about asking certain questions, healthcare professionals have heard it all before. They’re not there to judge, they’re there to help, but this can only happen if the patient feels comfortable, empowered and confident to talk about their health. To support this, Diabetes UK has also developed some simple, top tips to make talking to the healthcare team easier on the patient.

Handled well, an honest, open conversation between patient and practitioner can make all the difference to someone at risk of, or diagnosed with, Type 2 diabetes. On the grand scale, having these conversations could help in a very real way to begin turning the tide on the diabetes crisis.

It’s good to talk, which is why this Diabetes Week, Diabetes UK is asking people to share their top tips and experiences of talking to people about their diabetes on social media using the hashtag #talkaboutdiabetes, or via the website at

You can find out more about Diabetes UK’s work at

Next article