Obesity is a medical term used to describe being too heavy for your height so that your health is affected. Obese children and adults are at much greater risk of acute and long-term health problems. The World Health Organisation describes the worldwide prevalence of obesity as an epidemic.

New Zealand has among the highest obesity rates for both adults and children in the OECD, and our rates are rising. Almost 1 in 3 adult New Zealanders (over 15 years) is obese, and 1 in 10 children.

Read more about obesity statistics

Why is obesity a concern?

undefinedBeing overweight, or obese, can lower your quality of life as well as decreasing your life expectancy. It makes moving around more difficult, and is harder on your heart, muscles and bones. 

Obesity in adults is associated with a long list of health conditions including:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • ischaemic heart disease (IHD)
  • stroke
  • several common cancers
  • osteoarthritis
  • sleep apnoea
  • reproductive abnormalities.

Obesity in children increases the likelihood of:

  • being obese as an adult
  • abnormal lipid profiles
  • impaired glucose tolerance
  • high blood pressure
  • musculoskeletal problems
  • asthma
  • psychological problems including body dissatisfaction, poor self-esteem, depression and other mental health problems.

What causes obesity?

Excess weight or obesity is the result of an energy imbalance. This means too much energy (kilojoules/calories in the form of food) is put into the body and not enough is used (ie, through exercise). The excess energy is stored by the body as fat. 

Although some people are more prone to weight gain than others, the increase in the number of people who are obese in recent years has occurred too quickly to be explained by genetic changes. Most experts now believe that this 'obesity epidemic' is caused by our modern lifestyle, which promotes over-eating/drinking and limits opportunities for physical activity.

How is obesity measured?

Body mass index (BMI) is a commonly used measure that can be used to estimate if you are in the healthy weight range for your height and ethnicity. Your BMI is calculated by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (kg/m2).

Measure your BMI

Tips for losing weight

Losing weight normally involves a fair amount of hard work and determination. The key is to make slow, steady lifestyle changes, which over the long-term will help you to lose weight and keep it off. There is no quick fix – but the ongoing benefits in terms of your health and well-being make it well worth the effort.

If you are a parent you have an important role in shaping your child’s dietary habits. You can control what, when and how your child eats, as well as being a role model.

Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Make physical activity part of your day, every day. Find exercise you enjoy doing and try to work it into your daily routine. It's important you see it as an enjoyable part of your day not a punishment! 
  • Create a healthy environment for your family by limiting time spent in front of electronic devices. Less time in front of a screen gives you more time to be active.
  • Eating smaller amounts is the best way to cut down energy (kilojoules/calories). Don’t try to change too many foods at once. Build small changes into your everyday habits. 
  • Limit the amount of sweet baking, chips, fried foods and fizzy drinks as these are high in energy, fat and sugar. 
  • Quench your thirst with water – it's calorie free and essential for your body to function well. 

Read more about weight loss in our Healthy Living section.

Learn more

Obesity Statistics New Zealand
Obesity data and stats Statistics New Zealand, Annual Update of Key Results 2013/14

Credits: Health Navigator.