Obesity should be defined by a person's health - not just their weight, says a new Canadian clinical guideline.
It also advises doctors to go beyond simply recommending diet and exercise. Instead, they should focus on the root causes of weight gain and take a holistic approach to health.
The guideline, which was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Tuesday, specifically admonished weight-related stigma against patients in the health system.
Ximena Ramos-Salas, the director of research and policy at Obesity Canada and one of the guideline's authors, said research shows many doctors discriminate against obese patients, and that can lead to worse health outcomes irrespective of their weight.
Although the latest advice still recommends using diagnostic criteria like the body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference, it acknowledges their clinical limitations and says doctors should focus more on how weight impacts a person's health.
"People living with obesity need support like people living with any other chronic disease."
But instead of simply advising patients to "eat less, move more", the guideline encourages doctors to provide supports along the lines of psychological therapy, medication and bariatric surgery like gastric-bypass surgery.