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Obesity refers to an excessive accumulation of bodily fat caused by an imbalance between energy intake and consumption. Obesity is often associated with several individual and societal factors. In Finland, about two-thirds of men and over half of women are considered overweight. Obesity increases the risk of developing many diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, depression and musculoskeletal conditions.

Medically, obesity and overweight can be assessed by determining a person’s body mass index (dividing the person’s weight in kilograms by the square of his/her height in metres, as shown in Table 1) and measuring waist circumference. A waist circumference of over 100 cm in men and over 90 cm in women indicates abdominal obesity. It’s important to understand that BMI and waist circumference are not direct measures of illness or health. The presence of any comorbidities is an important part of the overall assessment of the degree of obesity.


When aiming for weight control, it’s good to start by reflecting on your wellbeing. How am I doing? Am I getting enough sleep? Am I stressed? How good are my personal resources? After answering these questions you should examine whether your current eating and exercise habits support your wellbeing and day-to-day ability to cope. Do these questions highlight any areas for improvement? Start making the changes one or two at a time, as this is more likely to result in permanent changes.

When should you seek treatment?

Obesity can be detrimental to your health and wellbeing in many ways. Facing up to your weight may be so difficult that you might need outside support to come to terms with it. If you need help with weight control or want to discuss your situation, contact the FSHS.

Treatment of obesity

The primary treatment for obesity is lifestyle guidance. Lifestyle guidance deals with several individual aspects of life (eating habits, exercise, sleep, mental health, personal resources), and is provided in several individual or group coaching sessions. Lifestyle guidance can be complemented with other methods such as medical treatment. Obesity can be treated surgically if other recommended treatment methods are not successful. Treatment will be provided in primary or specialist healthcare depending on the treatment method chosen.

Obesity is classified by body mass index (BMI)

Normal weight 19-24.9
Overweight 25-29.9
Obesity 30-34.9
Severe obesity 35-39.9
Morbid obesity >40

References: The Finnish Medical Society Duodecim: Terveysportti ja Lihavuus (lapset, nuoret ja aikuiset). The Current Care guideline 2021 on obesity in children, adolescents and adults.

Registered dietitian 24 February 2023

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