Overweight people are in denial about their weight problems, taking more than five years to do anything about it.
New research shows that it takes four years and two months for an overweight person to admit to themselves that they have a weight problem.
And it takes another 17 months for them to discuss it with a friend or family member.
Experts warn that as many gain weight year-on-year delaying for more than five years increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other obesity-related conditions.
Around one in four adults is currently obese, and researchers believe this could climb to one in three by 2034.
The study of over 1,200 Slimming World members found that shame (22%) is one of the most common reasons for overweight people not discussing their weight struggles with others.
One in ten (12%) said they didn’t want to admit they had a problem, while a similar amount (11%) claimed they didn’t want to worry others.
And over a quarter (27%) said they preferred to deal with the issue themselves.
Leigh Greenwood, for Slimming World said: “Admitting that you have a weight problem is obviously the first step in dealing with it.”
Dr Jacquie Lavin, Slimming World Head of Nutrition and Research, said: “As a country, we are getting heavier. However, that’s no surprise at all when you consider the environment that we live in.
“High-fat, high-sugar food is cheap, easily available, and heavily advertised. Food has become something to celebrate with and to take comfort in, technological advances mean that we no longer need to be physically active and we have an abundance of choice when it comes to sedentary leisure activities.
“Since 1993 the number of overweight adults whose Body Mass Index (BMI) means their weight could affect their health has increased from around 15% to 25%, making the UK one of the most overweight countries in Europe.
“And as the average person’s weight increases, being overweight becomes ‘normalised’ which can make it harder for us to notice when we gain just a few pounds.”
Dr Lavin added: “No matter whether you have a few pounds to lose or you really feel like you’re struggling with your weight, taking a moment to reassess your health and wellbeing is a really positive step.
“While it’s clear from this research that people are hesitant to talk to someone about their weight worries, there is lots of evidence that getting support is the most effective way to make the changes needed to lose weight and keep it off for the long-term – so it is worth doing!”
The research comes as Public Health England are encouraging adults to complete a free online health quiz, through the One You campaign.
As the campaign’s partner, Slimming World conducted the research to assess how long it takes people to realise they have a weight problem.
Professor Kevin Fenton, National Director of Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “The demands of modern life make it hard for people to find time to prioritise their own health.
“One You aims to encourage people to put their health first as it’s never too late to take action. We’re delighted to partner with Slimming World to help support people looking to make the first step towards living a healthy lifestyle and losing weight.
“Making better choices today can have a huge influence on our health and could prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease, and reduce our risk of suffering a stroke or living with dementia, disability and frailty in later life.”