(CNN)A group of physicians in Canada issued new guidelines this week urging doctors in the country to to take a new approach in the way they treat patients with obesity.
The physicians, who are part of the non-profit Obesity Canada and the Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons, believe doctors have not been treating patients with obesity the way they should be. In their view, weight discrimination impedes treatment and medicine has made little room for body positivity.
Obesity, they argue, should be defined by a person's health, rather than just their weight.
The guidelines, which were published this week in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, reccomend that obesity be classified as a chronic illness that requires tailored treatment and long-term care.
The authors also encourage doctors to stop relying on BMI (or body mass index) alone when it comes to diagnosing their patients.
By that definition, people would only be diagnosed as obese if their body weight affects their physical health or mental wellbeing, said Dr. Arya Sharma, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, and scientific director of Obesity Canada, who co-wrote the guidelines.
"This is a huge departure from this notion that you can step on a scale and diagnose obesity," Sharma said. "This has nothing to do with size or shape or anything else. It's simply the question, is your body fat impairing your health?"
Five steps to better obesity treatment
The new guidelines provide a five-step road map for doctors to follow when treating patients with obesity.