Lepak or not, balance is key - Fitness expert's guide to beating obesity

Crash diets doomed! Knowledge and companions key to winning Malaysia's obesity war

09 Mar 2024 10:02am
Photo for representational purpose only. - Photo from TW: myjoe_
Photo for representational purpose only. - Photo from TW: myjoe_

SHAH ALAM - Culturally ingrained practices like "lepak" are not inherently problematic when it comes to addressing obesity.

However, the crucial factor lies in making mindful choices about companionship and maintaining a balance between food consumption and calorie expenditure.

Obesity stands as a significant health concern, affecting millions globally, including individuals in Malaysia.

On World Obesity Day, celebrated earlier this week, esteemed fitness instructor Kevin Zahri offered valuable insights into Malaysia's obesity dilemma, aiming to raise awareness and advocate practical solutions to combat the global obesity epidemic.

"Obesity in Malaysia has been a prevalent issue since the 1980s, representing a global health challenge akin to the Covid-19 pandemic, albeit less visibly apparent.

"Sedentary lifestyles, easy access to food, and stressors like work pressure and economic instability contribute significantly to the problem, affecting both adults and children alike.

"Consistently ranking among the most obese countries in Asia, Malaysia competes closely with Brunei, highlighting shared cultural aspects between the two nations," he told Sinar Daily.

Kevin stressed that Malaysia's obesity challenge isn't solely attributable to the popularity of viral food trends or restaurants promoted through social media.

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Instead, it revolves around striking a balance between food consumption and caloric expenditure.

Kevin Zahri
Kevin Zahri

While succumbing to stress and finding temporary solace in food is easy, Kevin suggested that maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires a careful equilibrium of time, exercise, and stress management.

"Cultural practices like lepak are not inherently problematic, but the key lies in choosing companions wisely.

"If one surrounds themselves with individuals inclined towards overeating without adequate exercise, it's likely to influence their lifestyle negatively.

"Conversely, spending time with friends who maintain a balanced diet and exercise routine, even at a 'mamak' restaurant, is perfectly acceptable," he added.

Kevin believes that enjoying food and socialising with friends are blessings.

Despite advocating for healthcare and weight management, he, like any typical Malaysian, indulges in meals at 'mamak' restaurants, relishes treats like 'cekodok' and banana fritters, and enjoys social gatherings.

"Addressing obesity presents an opportunity for personal empowerment.

"By acknowledging the issue and committing to a sustainable, long-term strategy, individuals can take charge of their health.

"Rushed, crash-course attempts often lead to unfulfilled expectations, fuelled by unrealistic portrayals on social media," he warned.

He also pointed out that knowledge plays a pivotal role in adopting a sustainable, lifestyle-focused approach rather than succumbing to short-term, stress-inducing methods," he stressed.

Responding to challenges Malaysians face in accessing nutritious food options and engaging in regular physical activity, Kevin argued that minimal obstacles exist.

"People tend to complicate matters to the extent that it becomes overwhelming unnecessarily.

"The issue doesn't lie with the variety of food in Malaysia but rather with the excessive quantity one consumes," he said.

Recently, the National Health Screening Initiative 2023 revealed a worrying trend: over half (53.5 per cent) of Malaysians are overweight or obese (22.2 per cent obese and 31.3 per cent overweight).

Forecasts from the World Obesity Altas project a grim future, with annual increases in child (5.3 per cent) and adult (4.7 per cent) obesity rates from 2020-2035.

The economic impact is equally concerning.

Obesity and related health issues are projected to cost Malaysia over US$20.15 billion by 2035, representing a staggering 2.8 per cent of the national GDP.