Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Obesity in Malaysia

I have long been aware of the increasing number of people who are overweight in Malaysia. Just by observing ordinary people in the streets, one is able to tell quite easily. However, I was a bit surprised to read that about 30 per cent of Malaysians are overweight, and 30 per cent obese. [Bernama]

I did not realise that the situation is that bad in Malaysia. Some years ago, I had the opportunity to visit my mom in Vancouver, Canada. Back then, I had the impression that Canada must have been the fattest country in the world. If one were to throw a stone randomly, he is bound to hit an obese person. Then recently, when I was watching The Biggest Loser, it was said that the fattest country in the world is the USA!

I think it's quite obvious that the obesity problem has a lot to do with the richness of the country. I don't think Malaysia is "rich", but 60 per cent of its people is at least overweight. Imagine that—60 per cent!

Almost all of my siblings are fat—even obese. And of course when one is fat, it's just a matter of time before some of the common illnesses would develop. In my family, for example, my dad, my step mother, my sister Bridget, and my brother, Dennis have type two diabetes. My sister Grace is, I think, about 5'3", but she's over 100kg. So I think it's just a matter of time before she, too, becomes a diabetic. Dad has been relying on the insulin tablets for some years, but recently even those couldn't help him. He now requires daily jabs.

I don't know if obesity has very much to do with the so-called fat genes. For sometimes I feel I could gain weight by just looking at food. It takes a lot of discipline to balance a healthy diet and a healthy lifestyle, e.g. regular exercises. But discipline is a very tricky word—one that most of my family members have no clue as to its meaning. And as we all know, the vast majority of the human race almost always try to do something only when it's already too late—way too late.

My brother, Dennis, has 2 sons, Mohd Aqil and Mohd Arif. The latter, who's the younger one of the two, is fat, and I foresee would soon be qualified to fall into the category of obese. If I'm not mistaken, he's about 9 years old now, but his shirts are the size of teenagers'. If my grandmother is still alive today, she would be very happy to see this kid eat. And he can really eat—he can eat so much, and so fast, that he could be a good specimen for anyone wanting to learn more about the theory of the black hole. Well, it's not exactly the same thing, of course, but the similarity is there, if you know what I mean.

The good news is that recently the kid actually realised the downside of being fat. So he decided to control his food intake for a bit. I didn't think he had it in him to control his appetite, but the mere fact that he's trying to is already good news, you see. After all, his father, Dennis, has been trying to lose weight for something like 10 to 15 years, at least, and was never successful until he became a diabetic about 2 years ago.

Well, anyway, I thought it was quite amazing that Mohd Arif was able to control himself by refraining from eating his favourite noodles for a good 12 hours or so. And about 7 to 8 of those hours were spent sleeping at night. Still, 12 hours without food is a big deal for this boy. If only you've seen him eat, you would know what I mean.

I did, on several occasions, jokingly tell the boy to try harder to cut down on his food and do more exercises, perhaps play more games. But I try not to overdo it, because Dennis is not one who would readily welcome advice from people with good intentions for his sons. That is quite natural—we all tend to think that we know what's best for our kids. And perhaps I am also guilty of this same tendency!

Thankfully, they don't eat pork, I suppose a blessing being Muslims. After all, pork can kill you—especially dangerous for stupid people. [The Malay Mail] However, pork or no pork, Dennis is still not immune from the problem of high cholesterol and triglycerides. I just hope Dennis realises soon enough that Mohd Arif is not "cute" being fat. It's too late for him to do anything about being a diabetic—there is no cure for it—but he could do a lot to prevent his son from getting it too.

But then again, to solve this problem, discipline is required. How many people actually have it?


Unsettled Soul said...

I actually have heard if someone loses weight their diabetes will go away, if and only if they have diabetes due to being obese.

I don't know if I believe in the whole 'fat gene' argument. I think people just overdo it and cannot control their impulses. Food has become a drug/addiction for people just like anything else.

Too much of anything can make you an addict.

Cornelius said...


I doubt that there is a cure for diabetes yet, but I think as far as Type 2 diabetes is concerned, doctors talk about "management", rather than cure per se. Management in this case is strict adherence to diet and regular exercises etc, which of course usually have the side effect of losing weight.

In this sense, diabetic usually will find it extremely hard to "manage" their condition because they got into that situation mainly because of their diet and hardly any exercise in the first place.

So usually what would happen in most cases - at least that's the case I see in Dennis - is that they will suddenly become extremely careful in whatever they eat, and exercise regularly for about 2 - 3 months. After that they are back to their normal diet and inert lifestyle. Meaning THERE IS NO CURE FOR DIABETES.

Unsettled Soul said...

lol.. yes, if you look at it that way. Do you believe there is a fat gene, or do you think that is an excuse people use?

Cornelius said...

I'm inclined to believe that there is such a thing as the fat gene. "Fat gene" in the sense that the body is a more efficient machine, i.e. it absorbs and stores the excess calories much more than others. Some people can eat at lot and don't seem to gain weight, perhaps their bodies are not efficient or the metabolic rate is high or a combination of both.

I read somewhere there is sufficient evidence of the above in clinical studies. So maybe my body is somewhat too efficient in its caloric storage system, I don't know. Not a very big problem though, because I reckon for as long as I keep my active lifestyle, I can at least balance off all those excess calories. However, I try to control my food intake anyway, such as sugar and far intake. Can't take anything for granted, if you know what I mean.

Unsettled Soul said...

I've just noticed people who are obese using that as an excuse for their unhealthy lifestyle. They tell us not to judge them because they are fat by no choice of their own, and then they go to McDonald's and eat 3 burgers, 3 fries, 2 cokes, and a chocolate shake.

Cornelius said...

Yes, Sarah, I've seen many of those creatures. Indeed the "fat gene" can be used as a convenient excuse.

What I meant was two persons eating the same amount of food and doing more or less the same amount of physical activities, yet one is easier to gain weight than the other. It's in that sense that I can believe in a "fat gene".

Andrew said...

What i can say is that we have KFC, MacD, Pizza Hut all all thsoe food criminals to blame...eg i couldnt believe my eyes and ears a few years ago whwen KFC launched a promotion for their fried chicken meal which included a mayonaise soaked coleslaw, white fluffy fiberless bun and called it a "WHOLESOME MEAL". This , to lazy and stupid malaysians, was all the reason they need to tapau this meal for their kids..."i am buying a wholesome meal mahhhhh". Did all this diabetes, obesity and laziness come about after the explosion of fast food joints in Malaysia? you bet your fat ass!!

Cornelius said...


I'm sensing a bit of frustration in your tone. Perhaps you fell victim to that KFC promotion and allowed yourself to indulge in those glorious foods, hmmm? You seem to know the menu quite well!... hehehe.

But seriously, Andrew, I think the question is whether one allows oneself to be seduced by those advertisements. This world is after all full of temptations, of course, and I think we are responsible for our own wellbeing. It's a convenient excuse to blame KFC, McD etc, but actually we have the power to reject those foods! The real question is, would we exercise that power? Or are we strong enough to exercise it?

Unsettled Soul said...

I love McDonalds! I also know it is unhealthy and an occasional indulgence.

Come on, it's fast food! you can look at it and tell it is not healthy!

Fast food criminals? That is a stretch. Are we now blaming others for our own stupidity?

Fatin Eunhyuk 슈퍼주니어 said...

can I ask you something?
do you think obesity is also one of the economy problem?
because now, I am doing my economy assignment and I really interested in this obesity matter but I still not sure about obesity is one of economy problem in Malaysia..

Cornelius said...


I'm not sure if I understood the question correctly. But I'm gonna guess that you're asking me if obesity is caused by economic problem.

Before answering your question, Fatin, let me say here that I'm not an economist; and I'm not even an expert on the subject of obesity. Neither have I ever conducted any indepth research on the subject. So I hope my comment here won't make you fail your assignment!

Generally speaking, I think obesity is mainly a lifestyle problem, not so much an economic problem. But perhaps it could be said that if a country is rich, then the tendency for its people to be obese is higher than that of a poor country. In a way, I suppose it is possible to say that when the general population in a given country can afford to buy and consume more food, there is the tendency for that population to become obese people.

Personally, I don't believe that affordability is a major factor leading to obesity. An average income-earner can still become obese if he eats too much calories. It need not be fastfood. There are so many other food which are cheap but really fattening.

I think a bigger factor is habit - eating big portions up to 5-6 times in a day, for example; coupled with sedentary lifestyle.