Your practical guide to understand and tackle obesity

Discover some of the causes and health risks of obesity, how you can combat it, and what we can do to help on your journey.

As living costs rise, running has been picking up the pace as a free alternative to the gym Footnote [1], with a ‘get up and go’ attitude capturing our interest as a frugal way to fight fat. Brits are also becoming more calorie conscious Footnote [2], as staying healthy at home is often a win-win for both the body and the bank balance.

While these changes are a step in the right direction, unfortunately the obesity epidemic remains a ticking time bomb for increasing numbers of the population Footnote [3], not to mention the NHS Footnote [4].

In this article, we’ll learn how obesity develops and the health risks it poses, as well as how to moderate body weight (without resorting to obesity surgery), the bonus of breaking bad habits and how we can help those on a weight loss journey.


What causes obesity? And why has there been a jump?

Obesity rates in England have nearly doubled since the early 1990s, with around one in four adults having a BMI over 30 Footnote [3]. Digging up the root causes is like solving a jigsaw puzzle— first look how the pieces fit together to understand the bigger picture. Here are three big causes:

  • Digital technology has transformed how we work, rest and play. Easy access to affordable smart devices and speedy broadband makes venturing outside almost optional. We can do nearly anything, for as long as we like, without opening the front door.
  • Convenient access to junk can easily overload us with calories.
  • Rising living costs relate to rising obesity levels. England's most deprived areas have nine percentage points higher obesity or overweight rates than the least deprived areas Footnote [3].

How obesity affects your health

Regularly taking in more calories than you burn off can mean gaining weight and, over time, this can start to cause problems. The risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, stroke and cancer increases, while breathlessness, aches and pains, and feelings of isolation Footnote [5] are also common. People with obesity are also more likely to miss work Footnote [6], reducing their income and creating further problems.

Body mass index (BMI) is a way to measure if you're a healthy weight for your height, and we have a BMI calculator that can tell you exactly what that is. Simply input your weight and height (either imperial or metric, it's your choice!) to reveal your score. Try our BMI calculator

As a BMI alternative, a tape measure around your waist works well. And so does the ‘stand up and sit down test’ – a measure of how difficult you find it to move from standing to sitting and back to standing.


Benefits of losing weight and boosting your health

The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight go far beyond just dodging health problems.

  • Feeling good – Losing weight might improve how you feel about yourself and can also boost your general wellbeing Footnote [7].
  • Feed your mind – Nourish your noggin by replacing foods high in salt and sugar with vitamins, minerals and healthy fats. Your body and mind need these to perform at their best Footnote [8].
  • Keep it moving – Being physically active is the key to losing weight Footnote [9]. Finding time for hobbies like playing sport, or taking care of your garden means you'll burn calories while you’re enjoying yourself.
  • Now you're cooking! Creating healthy meals and experimenting with exotic recipes can help make the weight loss journey more exciting while wowing your friends and family.

Can obesity affect your insurance?

Even though obesity doesn't directly affect your policy, any related pre-existing conditions, such as heart disease, may not be covered.

The good news is that cutting the calories might also help to cut your renewal cost. That’s just one way our health insurance can help support positive lifestyle habits.


Making a change

Improving how you’ve got used to eating can be hard to swallow, but your past choices shouldn't dictate your future. That’s why taking advantage of any help and support will lead you in the right direction. 


How we can help

As well as health insurance, we can support you control your weight by helping you understand your lifestyle choices. Whether it's through MyHealthCounts, Get Active or Aviva Digital GP, we’re by your side for every hop, skip, and jump.

  • MyHealthCounts is a 12-week programme to help you feel your finest. Spend just ten to fifteen minutes telling us about your diet and how much you exercise to get a virtual health and wellbeing coach at your fingertips. You can also save up to 15% if you renew by updating it on your progress.
  • All our health insurance customers can take advantage of Get Active, offering to take the weight off your wallet as you race towards your fitness goals. Get access to 3,000 health clubs, online workouts, wellness checks and more, helping to beat your personal best, time and time again.
  • With Aviva Digital GP, you can talk to an NHS-registered private doctor, usually within 24 hours of booking. You can even choose who to speak to based on who you think suits your needs. And with no GP practice to travel to, you can make the living room your waiting room. 

Meanwhile, for top tips, guides, and general advice on looking after your health, browse our improving your health articles.

Ready to get a quote?

If you’d like a quote, we’ll ask you to provide us with a few personal details and the date you want cover to start. We’ll also ask you about customisable cover options, like if you want anyone else added to the cover, and about any medical history you may have.

  • Get a quote online

    Get a quote via our website

    Get a quote online
  • Get a quote over the phone

    Call us free on

    0808 239 7592

    • Our opening hours may vary

Calls may be monitored or recorded. Calls to 0800 numbers from UK landlines and mobiles are free. Our opening hours may be different depending on which team you need to speak to. At Aviva we operate a zero-tolerance policy on abuse of any kind. Our staff/colleagues are committed to treating you with courtesy and respect and ask that you do the same.