We're in an obesity epidemic, yet doctors aren't doing this one obvious thing.

Image via iStock

Like most people, I don’t exactly look forward to hopping on the scales. After all, who really wants to torture themselves about actually enjoying Christmas dinner or treating themselves to an extra scoop of ice cream or piece of cake now and then?

However I am well aware that ignorance isn’t always bliss – as well as needing to know your weight to fill out certain forms, it’s also important for keeping track of your health, particularly now that 14 million Australians are overweight or obese.

In fact, despite obesity being considered a national epidemic and new national guidelines requiring weight monitoring, a study has revealed doctors aren’t weighing three out of four patients. (Post continues after gallery.)


The study of more than 270,000 patients between 2011 and 2013 found just 22.2 per cent had their weight recorded by their GP, while only 4.3 per cent had their waist circumference measured. Women were also found to be the least likely to have their measures of obesity documented.

A person is categorised as obese if they have a BMI (body mass index) of 30 or more.

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The potential cause? Doctors had problems identifying obesity, had difficulty discussing it with patients and lacked appropriate training to manage it, say researchers in the Medical Journal Australia.

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The results have understandably alarmed health groups.

“GPs are busy but given the tsunami of obesity (27 per cent of Australians aged over 18), it’s very important doctors do measure,” Obesity Australia spokesman Professor John Funder told

He would like to see Australia adopt a similar time-saving scheme to Japan, where every doctor’s waiting room has a set of scales that electronically record a patient’s weight. Fancy.

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It’s no surprise that it’s considered the single biggest threat to public health – people who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of a range of diseases including coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, endometrial cancer, breast and bowel cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, liver disease and infertility.

Australia’s peak medical research body the National Health and Medical Research Council released the new clinical guidelines for the management of overweight and obesity in December 2013.


The guidelines require doctors to “routinely assess and monitor” the BMI of their patients, measure their waist circumference and talk to their overweight patients if their BMI increases. If a patient is obese, doctors are required to set up a weight loss program for them, and review and monitor their weight long term.

According to guidelines, doctors must measure waist circumference. Image via iStock

According to Professor Funder, the good news is that even a small amount of weight loss, as little as five to 10 per cent, can make a big difference to a patient's health and reduce their risk of diabetes.

The study recommends increased support for GPs in tackling the issue to improve patient care.

If you are concerned about your weight speak to your doctor, and in the meantime it doesn't hurt to hop on the scales yourself every few weeks to track how you're going. It won't bite, promise.

Healthy eating doesn't have to mean giving up the foods you love...

 How often do you weigh yourself? Are you concerned about Australia's obesity epidemic?