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Putting on weight is very easy, unlike losing weight, which proves more difficult. This is why prevention is still the best way of combatting obesity, which has a great many adverse effects on health, going beyond physical appearance.

What is obesity?

Obesity is the state of a person whose body mass is greater than it should be. The World Health Organization (WHO) considers obesity a medical condition and defines overweight and obese as an abnormal or excessive accumulation of body fat, which may have a negative effect on health.
The body mass index (BMI) is a simple measurement of weight in relation to size and is commonly used to estimate whether adult men and women are overweight or obese. The WHO defines being overweight as an BMI equal to or greater than 25 kg/m² and obese as a BMI equal to or greater than 30 kg/m².

Focus - Explanation of how the BMI is calculated

The BMI is calculated easily using the formula 
BMI = weight (in kg) / size x size (in m);

Therefore, for a person measuring 1.57m and weighing 61 kg: their BMI = 61 kg / (1.57m x 1.57) = 24.7
You can calculate your BMI very easily on the Internet using a BMI calculator.

What are the causes of obesity?

  • Type 2 diabetes: more commonly known as adult-onset diabetes.
  • Dyslipidemia or hypertriglyceridemia: very often presenting no symptoms but causing a variety of vascular complications.
  • Cardio-vascular disease: high blood pressure which may lead to a stroke, coronary heart disease such as a heart attack, and even heart failure.
  • Bone and joint complications: any increase in weight puts additional pressure on the leg joints and the spine in particular, leading to a deterioration such as osteoarthritis or frequent lumbago.
  • Skin complications: local infections – in particular fungal infections – caused by maceration in the folds of the skin.
  • Sleep apnea: with consequences such as fatigue but also potential strokes related to a lack of oxygen at night.

In which ways can obesity be prevented?

Combatting obesity is above all a matter of prevention as it is easier to avoid putting weight on (in particular during childhood and adolescence) than to lose weight in adulthood. This is a public health priority in many countries.

What you can do to prevent obesity
  • Take regular exercise to increase the amount of fat burned off: walk for at least 40 minutes per day or avoid taking the elevator.
  • Have a varied and balanced diet with at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Avoid foods which have a high fat/sugar/salt content. Be wary of ready meals, which often prove to be harmful to health.
  • Limit large portions.
  • Monitor the body weight curve of children and teenagers regularly: as soon as a departure from the curve is observed, take action quickly without making the child feel guilty. Conversely, parents should be aware of thinness (with a BMI lower than 15) – particularly during adolescence – which may be related to an eating disorder such as anorexia.

Focus - Tips for a better diet

- Cook your own meals.
- Add flavor to food with herbs and spices.
- Prefer cooking techniques which use less fat, such as stir-frying or steaming.
- Eat fruit and vegetables which are in season.
- Have 3 proper meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner. For younger people, an afternoon snack is also recommended.
- Children should not have sweetened drinks during meals and adults should restrict their alcohol consumption to one glass of wine.

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