When Belgian soldiers are packing, people mean food. (Photo by Jimmy Pozarik/Getty Images).


Not fit for duty: Almost 50 per cent of Belgian soldiers overweight


While Europe scrambles to rebuild and strengthen its defence forces, Belgium’s troops pose a hefty problem; some 46 per cent of soldiers are overweight, according to newspaper La Dernière Heure. Just 47 per cent are deemed to be of a “normal” weight.

Of Belgium’s professional army, 37 per cent are overweight and 9 per cent are obese. On the other hand, 7 per cent are deemed underweight.

The bloated figures cover last year and have been confirmed by the Ministry of Defence.

It has developed a voluntary physical reconditioning process and offers a preventive and curative programme, Ludivine Dedonder, Minister of Defence, told the paper on April 5.

“The most affected age groups are naturally those aged 40 and over, in less active and more sedentary services,” the minister said.

“Being overweight is a societal problem more than a problem related to defence.”

“That being said, the good health of military personnel is crucial, otherwise they cannot carry out their mission if the body does not follow.”

The defence department reconditioning programme, alongside standard medical care for military personnel, integrates physiotherapy, exercise and nutrition counselling aimed at attaining or restoring the required level of physical fitness for duty.

The defence ministry additionally provides a preventive and therapeutic programme for training and overall wellbeing.

Belgium is notorious for underinvesting in its army. In 2024 it only ascribed 1.17 per cent of GDP into the military, far from meeting the domestic military spending threshold of 2 per cent as is agreed with NATO.

Early in December last year, Lieutenant General (retired) Marc Thys, the former Belgian Vice-Chief of Defence, claimed Belgium was not at all ready for armed conflict, saying that within hours of any attack, its troops would be rendered unable to shoot back and would have to rely on “throwing stones”.