A new report from a Westminster committee has said the focus on BMI by medics causes weight stigma.
The report from the Women and Equalities Committee said the focus on BMI, or Body Mass Index, could mask serious health issues with patients simply branded “overweight”.
It also claimed people often felt shamed into losing weight as it called for the measure to be scrapped.
The committee also claimed GPs had “an over-reliance on BMI, particularly when diagnosing eating disorders“.
MPs on the House of Commons committee instead proposed a new “health at every size” approach.
Committee chair Caroline Nokes said: “We know BMI is an absolutely lousy measure of good health in an individual. It works as an average across populations, but for individuals, it really doesn’t help at all.
“We have seen instances of people who have been refused treatments because their BMI is too high or they have been refused access to eating disorder services because their BMI isn’t low enough – and what a dreadful target that is to set anyone with an eating disorder.”
The Conservative MP added: “We want young people to be enjoying their childhood, we want them to be healthy and active, not obsessing over numbers like BMI.”
The report’s recommendation was backed by the eating disorder charity Beat who said a sole focus on BMI in diagnosing eating disorders could lead to “dangerous delays”.
Whilst the committee focussed on England, BMI is a key measure made by GPs and other health professionals in Scotland.
A UK Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said its policies were guided “by the latest research and emerging evidence”.
They added: “We know poor body image can be a factor in disordered eating for both men and women and we are committed to improving outcomes for those with eating disorders and related mental health issues – with record funding to expand dedicated services in the community.”