Malaysia was recently declared the most obese nation in Southeast Asia. Obesity can lead to serious medical conditions like diabetes. These expert tips will help us get out of the danger zone.
According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey of 2015, 17.7 percent of Malaysians are obese while 30 percent are overweight. This means that almost half the population is either overweight or obese!
Along with a clear increase in waistlines, more people are being affected by diabetes with an increase in cases from 11.6 percent of the population in 1996 to 17.5 percent in 2015. People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Prince Court Medical Centre’s Manager of the Lifestyle Modification Centre, Datin Farah DiBa Khan shares her expertise, insights about fighting obesity.
Three first steps
Obesity is a mostly preventable non-communicable disease that requires a person to lose the excess weight. According to Datin Farah the three first steps to fighting obesity are, “Adopt a healthy lifestyle, be more physically active and follow a healthy and balanced diet.”
A restrictive diet, portion-wise and calorie-wise may result in weight loss. “However, once a person’s body adapts to the low-calorie and small portioned diet, their weight loss will reach a standstill. Exercise increases the chances of losing more weight.”
“There are so many types of delicious food in Malaysia so temptation to eat them is everywhere. However, maintaining regular physical exercise is the key factor,” says Datin Farah. She adds that no matter what, diet and exercise must go hand in hand.
Exercise is an important part of losing weight but certain forms of exercises may not be suitable for an obese person. This is because the extra weight exerts more pressure on the joints and as such, an obese person runs a higher risk of getting injured.
Low impact exercises such as using a stationary bicycle, walking or swimming are appropriate exercises for an obese person. Swimming works almost every muscle in the body and is a form of cardiovascular (cardio) exercise. Cardio exercises are types of exercises that increase the heart and breathing rate. Besides weight loss, cardio helps improve the heart’s pumping efficiency and can lower the risk of depression.
As for diet, it’s best to see a dietitian who can then draw up a diet plan that has the appropriate amount of calories and nutrients that an obese person needs. In general, increasing the intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and nuts are encouraged whereas it’s best to limit the intake of sugars and fats from sources of saturated fats.
In your head
“In some cases, an obese person may have an underlying problem such as hormonal issues or depression that needs to be addressed before seeing a dietitian to lose weight. In certain countries, dietitians work closely with a psychologist or psychiatrists to help an obese person get to the root of their problem in order to help them lose weight,” explains Datin Farah.
Going to see a psychologist in Malaysia is still taboo but it can help with weight loss. Datin Farah adds, “If the obese person doesn’t address their underlying issue first, they won’t be able to achieve their weight loss goal.”
There has also been an increase in cases of childhood obesity. According to the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2015, the national prevalence of obesity for children below the age of 18 was 11.9 percent. Many of the obese children were from urban areas in affluent states.
According to Datin Farah, “Obesity in children are due to two factors. Some parents want their child to be chubby and cute so they feed the children lots of food. The other factor is that the parents feed their children a diet that pleases the child because mum and dad are too busy. Any food will do, especially processed food because those are easy to prepare.”
Datin Farah says that when children are brought in to see her, the parents will be counselled and depending on the child’s age, he or she will be taught what to eat and what not to eat as well. Besides that, the parents will be advised to increase the child’s level of physical activity and how to prepare healthier meals.
“Children may feel unhappy being told to go and exercise while their parents sit and supervise,” warns Datin Farah. The solution is for parents to turn physical activity into a family event because children imitate what their parents. Additionally, preparing and eating healthier meals together, ensures that the whole family is eating right and practicing good health habits.
Support and kindness
Datin Farah says that there are many facets to tackling obesity. “If in doubt, do a medical screening to find out whether the weight is something to be targeted in case there’s an issue. For example, if it is found that there’s a hormonal issue due to a thyroid problem, the obese person’s endocrinologist will can help solve the problem,” shares Datin Farah. After the hormonal issues are solved, the dietitian will step in to help with weight loss.
For some, it’s just mind over matter. Datin Farah stresses that as adults, we need to know that our health matters and losing weight shouldn’t be a goal only after a stroke or heart attack has occurred.
“Help your friends and family who are trying to lose weight by being supportive and kind. Try to understand their issue and go along with their diet and exercise plan so they don’t feel so alone,” advises Datin Farah. She adds that healthy eating doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money. Cooking at home and reducing the amount of salt, sugar, and oil while cooking is are great ways to save money.
Get a health screening in case you’re not sure whether you’re obese or not and bring the results to your doctor who will be able to explain them to you. A dietitian can then step in to help you with a plan that has the right amount of calories and nutrients to help with weight loss.