Norwegians are known for being sporty and active outdoor enthusiasts, but new statistics throw the old image into question. One in five Norwegians now suffers from obesity and more than half the population is overweight, according to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (Folkehelseinstitutt).
“During the last 20 years, the entire adult Norwegian population has gained weight,” Dr Haakon Meyer of the public health institute told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend. “There are fewer of us who are thin or of normal weight, and more who are overweight or obese. There is reason for worry when more than half the population is overweight and 20 percent are obese.”
Norwegians are eating much more meat than they did 20 years ago, consuming more sugar and especially more chocolate, reported Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). More Norwegians are also drinking more wine, while beer remains popular, and that adds on the calories. And while restaurant visits were relatively rare 30 years ago, increased affluence and more choices have made it common for Norwegians to eat out.
It remains socially unacceptable, however, to be overweight in Norway. Jørgen Foss, who leads a national group that represents overweight Norwegians (Landsforeningen for overvektige, LFO) told Aftenposten that obesity is a taboo that “society just won’t tolerate.”
Overweight Norwegians, he said, “are seen as inferior, often have trouble finding good jobs, receive less pay and seldom become top leaders.” The attitude, according to Foss, is “that if you can’t take better care of yourself, how can you take care of the company? If you’re overweight, it’s your own fault.”
One 21-year-old woman who readily admitted to being not just overweight but “fat” described a difficult life in which she’s often subject to stares, harassment and a constant feeling of defeat when she tries to lose weight, only to gain it back again.
“It’s difficult to be fat,” she told Aftenposten. “It will either destroy you, or it will make you stronger. I know that it’s my own stupidity that I have eaten the wrong foods and too much of them. I won’t blame anyone else. But no one should tell me how to live.”