Obesity should be treated holistically, not defined by weight

Medical organizations in Canada urge doctors to take a new and holistic approach in treating patients with obesity, citing weight discrimination hampers treatment.

A new clinical guideline created by a group of Canadian physicians said that doctors should acknowledge and diagnose obesity based on a person’s health rather than by numbers or his weight.

Studies, as well as campaigns to tackle obesity among kids and adults, have been earning a lot of attention lately due to its possibility to aggregate the symptoms of COVID-19 disease. And recently, it has been found that those who suffer in obesity are likely to develop severe coronavirus infection.

Canada releases new obesity guideline

Under the new clinical guideline, the authors want obesity to be categorized as a disease that requires long-term treatment and must be modified according to the patients’ needs. And rather than asking patients to exercise and go on a diet, the authors advised medical professionals to take a holistic approach instead.

They also urged doctors not to depend on a person’s Body Mass Index or BMI alone when it comes to diagnostics. And that they should instead focus on how the patient’s weight affects its physical and mental wellbeing.

“This has nothing to do with size or shape or anything else. It’s simply the question, is your body fat impairing your health?” Dr. Arya Shama, scientific director of Obesity Canada and one of the co-authors of the guideline, told CNN.

As per the guideline, the physicians also argued that obesity is a complex chronic disease that cannot be easily cured by diet and exercise alone. And that the focus should be on the root cause instead of the symptoms.

The guideline was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal and was authored by a group of physicians working under the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons and a not-for-profit organization Obesity Canada.

Weight discrimination hampers treatment

In the U.K., however, Prime Minister Boris Johnson launched a campaign that aims to regulate the promotion and selling of “unhealthy meals.” The campaign is said to help Britons boost their immunity by keeping their weight and physical health in check, especially after the four-month-lockdown.

Yet, the director of research and policy at Obesity Canada, as well as one of the guideline authors, argued that “diets do not work.” Several studies suggest that those who go on a diet to lose weight gain it back again eventually.

The director also expressed her concerns about doctors who weight discrimination or simply do not treat their patients with obesity in a meaningful and non-discriminatory approach.

“Weight bias actually has an effect on the behavior of healthcare practitioners. […] For a long time, we have associated obesity as a lifestyle behavior. It has been a lot of shame and blame before,” Ximena Ramos-Salas told the BBC.

The guideline intends explicitly to break the stigma against patients living with obesity, in which Salas said could impede treatments or lead to more severe health results. And based on their research, they found that many doctors treat obese patients poorly.

Featured image courtesy of Jacob Lund/Shutterstock

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