World Obesity Day

Next Tuesday, 4 March 2025

On March 4th World Obesity Day raises awareness of the global obesity crisis and the health dangers of being severely overweight. The day is organized by the World Obesity Federation, whose goals are to change the way obesity is looked at across society, and end prejudice against overweight people. The day also highlights the social, environmental, and medical factors that contribute to a high obesity rate and the ways in which we can change them. 

Yellow background behind: scales, a flask, dumbbells, a photo of the world and the words ‘World Obesity Day’

History of World Obesity Day

Obesity is a medical condition characterized by the accumulation of excess body fat. It is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. BMI is a measure of body fat based on an individual's height and weight.

Obesity is considered an epidemic in many countries and accounts for the cause of death of many people, as it puts them at risk of diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

World Obesity Day was founded by the World Obesity Federation, with the support of the World Health Organization and the collaboration of the Lancet Commission on Obesity. It was first observed in 2015. 

For the first five years, World Obesity Day took place on October 11, but in 2020 this was changed and the event moved to March where it has been celebrated ever since. The primary reason for the move was so that World Obesity Day could coincide with other events, and in doing so hopefully make a bigger impact. 

History of themes

Every year on World Obesity Day there is a different theme to highlight an issue related to obesity. These themes highlight the different aspects of the obesity epidemic and the importance of taking action to address it.

These themes are intended to raise awareness and encourage people to take action to prevent and treat obesity. They promote a healthy diet and physical activity, as well as address the social and environmental factors that contribute to the obesity epidemic.

  • In 2020, the theme was based on the pandemic: Obesity and COVID-19: Uniting to move the world to action
  • In 2021 the world was still being challenged by the ongoing pandemic, and so the theme was a message of unity: Every Body Needs Everybody
  • In 2022, the theme, or 'message' was that: Everybody Needs to Act

In 2023 World Obesity Day will have the theme: ‘Changing Perspectives: Let’s Talk About Obesity'. 

Why is World Obesity Day Important?

According to the World Obesity Federation, obesity is a disease around which there is still a lot of stigma and prejudice. They aim to bring awareness to what causes obesity, and the ways in which it can and should be addressed and treated. To do so, they are working around the globe to change policies and ensure that obesity is prioritized as a health issue. 

Obesity rates have consistently grown in past years, and according to evidence:

  • The WHO (World Health Organization) estimates there are over one billion obese people in the world, which includes 650 million adults, 340 million adolescents, and 39 million children.
  • The United States is one of the countries where the obesity crisis prevails the most, with an adult obesity rate of 42.4% (as of 2020), one of the highest in the whole world.
  • According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), obesity is estimated to cause around 112,000 deaths per year in the United States which means that obesity is responsible for around 9.4% of all deaths among adults. 

World Obesity Day promotes resources and practical solutions that can help people treat obesity early and maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle, to avoid it turning into something serious and potentially fatal.

The good news is that, in some cases, preventing obesity can be achieved by doing some minor lifestyle changes. It is important to eat a lot of healthy foods such as fruits and veggies and avoid anything processed. Exercise is also crucial, and just 30 minutes of it a day - such as a daily walk - can make all the difference. 

A large woman exercising, with tattooed arm, on a Gazelle machine while a smiling man supervises
Exercise: An important weapon in combating obesity

Global Obesity

As a global problem, it is interesting to note the spread of obesity and how much it varies across the world. For example, according to data the most obese countries officially are:

  1. Nauru: With an obesity rate of 61.0%, Nauru has the highest obesity rate in the world.
  2. Cook Islands: Has an obesity rate of 55.9%.
  3. Marshall Islands: Has an obesity rate of 55.3%.
  4. Palau: With an obesity rate of 55.3%.
  5. Marshall Islands: Has an obesity rate of 51.6%.

These statistics, however, may not represent the true extent of the problem. They are all small island nations with a small overall population, and the number of obese people is relatively low compared to other countries with a larger population. According to the OECD, the five most obese developed countries in the world are:

  1. Mexico: With an obesity rate of around 32%
  2. United States: With an obesity rate of around 31%
  3. Chile: Has an obesity rate of around 27%
  4. Greece: Has an obesity rate of around 25%
  5. Canada: Has an obesity rate of around 24%

The UK is slightly further down the list at number 10, with an average obesity rate of 21%.

Showing the way

On the other side of the spectrum countries such as Japan and Vietnam have some of the lowest rates of Obesity in the world. Japan with only a 3.3% obesity rate, and Vietnam officially has the lowest global rate, with a mere 2.1% of the population living with obesity. Both countries have a culture that values a healthy lifestyle and diet, this could be a contributing factor to the low rates of obesity in these countries. Additionally, both countries have relatively low incomes and lower consumption of processed foods, which are often high in calories and contribute to weight gain.

What to do on World Obesity Day

This day should be a reminder of the importance of always keeping yourself healthy and fit. Take the opportunity to cook a healthy meal from scratch, and go for a walk or a run in the park. Perhaps even bite the bullet and finally join the gym! Make a commitment to a healthier lifestyle. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, and muscle-strengthening activities on at least 2 days a week. The WHO has similar recommendations. It all begins with one step! 

One more thing you can do is learn about obesity and the challenges people that suffer from it face. Then, question the opinions you may have formed about obese people, which can sometimes be prejudicial. You can then start influencing your friends and family to do the same, and maybe play a part in creating a more understanding society. 

World Obesity Day
World Obesity Day

World Obesity Day - Next years

Wednesday, 04 March 2026

Thursday, 04 March 2027

Saturday, 04 March 2028

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