Overweight: Public disease number 1

In the Netherlands, approximately half of the inhabitants are overweight. 12 percent of them are seriously overweight, also known as obesity. Of the children, 14 percent are overweight. That makes obesity the number one disease. We may wonder why obesity has become such a big problem in our country. So big in fact that the government is getting involved. What is the cause of this?


  • What is obesity?
  • How did this originate in the Netherlands?
  • Causes of getting fat
  • Consequences of being overweight


What is obesity?

Obesity is usually measured using the Body Mass Index (BMI). The BMI is calculated by dividing the body weight in kilograms by the square of the body height. This applies to adults. For children, the limit values are corrected for age to obtain an accurate result.
The results are valued as follows:

  • a BMI of 18.5 or less is underweight
  • a BMI of 18.5 to 25 is a healthy weight
  • a BMI of 25 to 30 is overweight
  • a BMI of over 30 is obesity
  • a BMI of over 40 is morbidly obese. Morbid obesity may already exist with a BMI of 35 or higher if this BMI is associated with physical problems such as joint complaints, heart or lung complaints, diabetes or high blood pressure.
  • a BMI of over 50 is super obese

The BMI gives an indication. The method alone does not provide sufficient information to actually determine obesity. For this, one must also know what the amount of fat is compared to the fat- free mass. This can easily be measured with a measuring tape around the abdomen.
When a person is overweight, this is usually clearly visible.

How did this originate in the Netherlands?

Obesity is a problem that we have been hearing more and more about in recent years. It seems like it wasn’t that big of a problem before.
After the Second World War until about 1960, the average body weight increased, but few people were overweight. From 1960 to 1980 the population was well nourished, but generally not overweight. Only since 1980 has obesity become a major problem. From 1988 to now, the number of overweight people has doubled.
Since 1980 there have been a number of changes that are clearly related to people becoming heavier.

  • Food then became considerably cheaper
  • From then on, there was much more advertising.
  • Fast food restaurants have grown enormously. There are many more customers and turnover is much higher.
  • The number of sedentary professions is increasing.
  • More households have two incomes. This makes it easier to eat in a restaurant or buy a ready-made meal.

We can conclude from this that the problem of obesity arose at the same time as the increase in prosperity . Obesity is a lifestyle disease.

Causes of getting fat

Simply put, obesity occurs because your body takes in more energy than it uses. This leads to the excess food being stored as fat, causing you to gain weight. Various things could be the basis for this.

Wrong eating habits

  • Overeating : Every person should not eat more than their body tells them it needs. That is often difficult in a country like the Netherlands, where we come into contact with food or food advertising all around us. Many people still eat three times a day, just as they did in the past. The difference between then and now is that much more is now eaten per meal. It is normal to serve a second plate. Actually, we usually don’t need that second plate of food. By taking this anyway, we gain weight.
  • Wrong food : Ready-made meals, fried food, sweets, cake and the like can be eaten occasionally, but it is unhealthy if eaten regularly. Maybe you don’t even eat very much. However, eating a normal amount of food that is very rich in carbohydrates such as fat and sugar can make you fat. Moreover, you deprive your body of the necessary building materials by not eating healthy. You can become too fat and still suffer from a form of malnutrition. Eating the wrong thing doesn’t just mean choosing the wrong foods. It also means eating from wrong habits and patterns.
  • Eating too quickly : We usually eat quickly and in a hurry. When you eat quickly, the risk of being overweight increases three times! This is because your brain cannot send a signal to your stomach that it is full. When you eat slowly, this does happen. In addition, your digestion will start much better.


Too little exercise

In our prosperous society, much exercise is no longer necessary. People who exercise little gain weight more easily. This is because they burn less food, but often continue to eat the normal amount.

Side effect of medications

Medications such as antidepressants, birth control pills and prednisone have the side effect of gaining weight. Sometimes people cannot do without certain medications. They must learn to manage their weight as best as possible, but complete control of their weight often proves difficult or impossible in these circumstances.


People can be overweight due to diseases such as diabetes, Cushing’s disease or an underactive thyroid gland.

Eating disorders

Being overweight in itself is not an eating disorder, but it can be a consequence of an eating disorder. This is often the eating disorder BED. The person eats large amounts, even when he is no longer hungry.


The older someone gets, the greater the chance of being overweight. Older people usually use less energy, but still eat the same amount. This makes them easier to gain weight.


Your weight is partly determined genetically. If your parents are overweight, you are more likely to suffer from it too.

Not enough sleep

Too little good quality sleep causes metabolism to run less smoothly. This causes people to become overweight more quickly.

Unconscious eating

This is perhaps one of the most important causes of obesity. Often all kinds of psychological and emotional factors play a role in our eating pattern. Unconscious eating happens, for example:
When you watch television with tasty chocolate or chips next to you. You unknowingly eat an entire bowl.

  • At parties: You enjoy a meal with your friends.
  • When you eat while doing other activities
  • Out of emotion: You may eat out of boredom, tiredness, sadness or loneliness, or because you are cold or because you are looking for comfort or coziness. There are many more reasons. It gives you a good feeling to eat something tasty and pamper yourself.
  • Stress: This is a common cause of overeating in our society. After a busy day you want to sit on the couch with a piece of chocolate, a bowl of chips or a glass of wine with toast. This is how you find distraction. You eat to relieve stress, but gaining weight increases stress.
  • When it is a habit: For example, you believe that chips should be enjoyed with watching a movie, that a cookie should be enjoyed with coffee and that a glass of wine should be enjoyed with dinner.
  • When you see food: Some people eat almost automatically when they see food. These people in particular have a very difficult time in our society.


Prosperity disease

Eating is often related to habits and patterns in our lives, but also to emotions. Moreover, we encounter it everywhere and it is in abundance. This in fact makes it a lifestyle disease.
Science is still considering the question of whether obesity is a disease. They haven’t found a clear answer yet. It is clear that society and prosperity do not at all contribute to a healthy weight.

Consequences of being overweight

The consequences of being overweight depend on how serious the excess weight is. Examples of known problems are:

  • Diabetes
  • High bloodpressure
  • Heart and vascular disease
  • Cancer
  • Fatigue
  • Increase cholesterol
  • infertility
  • Sleep disorders
  • Lower back pain
  • Perspiration
  • Knee pain
  • Arthrosis
  • muscle strain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Depression and low self-esteem


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