68.8 kilograms. That's the average weight of the Belgians according to statistics supplied by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Romania has the best figures, with only 66.4 kilograms. At the other end of the table are Croatia, Britain and Greece with 75 kilograms, but it's Malta that tops the list with 77.
"Be careful with those figures", warns Theo Niewold, a food expert and Professor in bio-engineering at the Leuven university KU Leuven. "You can only interpret this correctly if you compare the weight to people's length, in other words if you calculate the BMI or Body Mass Index."
Croatians are generally heavy. "We often see overweight in the Balkan countries. This could be linked to the wars in the 1990ies. It's common knowledge that stress is one of the causes of overweight. It's possible that post-war stress led to overweight."
Other factors also play a role. "One study suggested that the Dutch weigh less than the Belgians because they take the bicycle more often. This is a result of the better cycleways in the Netherlands, where people consider cycling to be safer than in Belgium and are more eager to take the bicycle out."
"Change your behaviour and lifestyle"
Annemie Van de Sompel, a dietician at the Antwerp University Hospital, says that people are getting more aware of the importance of a healthy lifestyle. "But that's only a start. We Belgians in general don't take enough physical exercise and don't always eat what's good for us. In other words: awareness should result in more people changing their behaviour than is now the case."
Ms Van de Sompel is concerned about the rise in the number of patients being confronted with type 2 diabetes. "This illness is a soft bomb and is directly linked to our lifestyle. Many people are not aware of the dangers. They don't realise that type 2 diabetes causes a whole series of other physical woes. They have the disease for years without feeling anything. However, in the meantime their veins silt up with sugar."
About the wide variety of diets, often linked to a hype, Ms Van de Sompel says that people will have the best guarantee to a positive result in the long run if they really their attitude in life and change their behaviour."