Dietitians want a new model of health that shifts the emphasis away from weight towards overall health.

"We want the focus to be on health gain rather than weight loss," Simone Austin, senior dietetic advisor at Dietitians Australia, said.

"It's about looking after the physical and mental and accepting there is a diversity of body shape and size. We want people to be in control of their health rather than just their weight," she said.

Federal obesity guidelines for health professionals suggest doctors routinely calculating a patient's BMI by measuring their waist with a measuring tape.

The guidelines suggest discussion of weight management with anyone with a BMI over 30 and healthy lifestyles with anyone with a BMI over 25. Depending on the patient's health, doctors and others are advised to discuss "intensive weight loss interventions".

But Dietitians Australia wants the guidelines from the National Health and Medical Research Council to be updated to adopt a "weight neutral" approach that is not about calorie counting or BMI.

"We should not be measuring health only on weight and we want to reduce the stigma of weight because weight loss doesn't always mean better health," Ms Austin said.

The call comes as the latest National Health Survey showed more than two-thirds of Australian adults were overweight or obese.

Dietitians want a new model of health that shifts the emphasis away from weight towards overall health Picture: istock
Dietitians want a new model of health that shifts the emphasis away from weight towards overall health Picture: istock

"We're all different, with differing health needs, lifestyles and goals," Ms Austin said. "The same approach won't be suitable for everyone, and the answer lies in empowering personal behaviour change."

"Accredited practising dietitians work with their clients to assist them to develop dietary patterns that support individual health outcomes, which may or may not involve a weight loss goal," Ms Austin said.

She said updating the guidelines, which date back to 2010, will help ensure Australians are supported with the best health management plan for their needs.

"The guidelines will help prompt conversations and engage the required health care professionals to ensure larger bodied people receive the right support to achieve optimal health and wellbeing."

An NHMRC spokesperson said the guidelines had been rescinded although some people still found some aspects helpful.

"The Australian Government recently provided $2.5 million to NHMRC to update the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines which will use best available scientific evidence to provide information on the types and amounts of foods, food groups and dietary patterns that aim to promote health and wellbeing, reduce the risk of diet-related conditions and reduce the risk of chronic disease," the spokesperson said.

susie.obrien@news.com.au

Originally published as Fat and healthy? Experts say it's possible



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