Ten measures to avoid obesity

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Tan Sri Ismail
Tan Sri Ismail Merican

Former Director-General of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Prof. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Hj. Mohd. Ismail Merican, gives useful advise on how to avoid becoming obese. Prof. Merican has a decades-long experience as a physicist and shares the concern of many that Malaysia has developed into the ASEAN country with the highest percentage of overweight and obese people.

Exercise

This is very important of course but should not be viewed as a chore. Let me explain. Most people enjoy exercising and have in fact included exercise as part of their daily or weekly routine. Exercises must be enjoyable and done incrementally. I tell my patients to do at least 30 mins of brisk walking three times a week. Some of us may not have the luxury of time or visits to fitness centres probably because of work pressure or financial constraints. That should not stop you as you can always incorporate exercise in your work schedule. How you may ask? Well, if I can be an example, I climb stairs and walk as often as I can. I climb stairs to my office and do brisk walking when I visit shopping malls. I do this because I do not have time to visit fitness centres or set aside dedicated time for exercising. The message I am trying to convey is that you can always find time to exercise if you have the will to do so.

Diet (what you eat and timings)

This is perhaps the most challenging for some especially when you live in Malaysia where the choice of food is astronomical. Few principles that I follow are to refrain from taking excessive refined sugars like sweets, chocolates and ice creams, not to overindulge in food even if the food is tasty and refrain from taking too much rice. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Malaysians and many others especially those in developed countries are consuming more calories without a parallel increase in physical activity. Many take food outside and food taken outside the home is generally higher in fat and lower in micronutrients compared with food prepared at home.

Sleep

Have good sleep and try hard to switch off when you get ready for bed. The mind is very powerful. Lingering thoughts can keep you awake and will certainly affect your quality of life. Minimum of 6 hours sleep is what I recommend.

Daily routine 

Always plan your day well and plan ahead but be prepared for the unexpected. Learn how to cope with stress which can come anytime in your life and if you are not prepared, you will crumble and may become anxious or depressed, both of which can lead to unhealthy eating habits..

What you drink 

Drink lots of water whenever you can, of course, the right kind. Mineral water is good. Fruits juices may be better but not necessarily a must if you consume wholesome meals.

Urban planning (parks, restaurants near condos etc)

The government must plan well especially in urban settings to allow people to embrace a healthy life style. Special lanes for walking or cycling, clean and well maintained parks,  measures to make people feel safe when they walk or exercise in the park, efficient control of traffic, good transport and  a clean environment all round will go a long way to encourage propel to go out and exercise.

Stress

I mention this earlier. Managing stress is very important.

Medication

One must always follow doctor’s orders and be compliant with medication for your medical problems if you have any. There are patients who stop taking medication because of side effects. The right thing to do is to inform the doctor about the side effects so that alternative treatment be given. Some prefer to keep quiet and not inform the doctor for fear of scolding from the doctors. Be ready to take charge of your life and do the right thing. I do not recommend any medication for weight reduction as most are not safe and may be counter-productive.

Education (funding + nutritional information)

More needs to be done on education. The Ministry of Health of Malaysia introduced many cycles and campaigns promoting healthy life style. Unfortunately hardly any was found to be effective no matter how hard the ministry tried. The people do not seem to bother or get inspired by the campaign. This begs the question as to why they remain unaffected. Perhaps the message sent is not clear enough. Maybe new ways of delivering messages need to be introduced especially for the younger members of the population. The food industry must also play a role in providing nutritional information for consumers so that they can make choices for themselves.

Public sector role

The government must introduce policies and programs to encourage healthy lifestyles. Although the Malaysian government is working very hard to do this, more support is needed from the public and like-minded NGOs. It is best for the public sector to encourage rather than be punitive. Get people motivated rather than saddle them with fines and compounds. The public can be galvanised into action if the Government and the community at large set good examples and practise what they preach. Communities, workplaces, schools can be encouraged to promote healthy lifestyle messages. Food regulation, food labeling and advertising can be done more meaningfully in consultation with stakeholders. Health care workers must also be trained regarding healthy diets and the right kind of exercises. Research can also be encouraged to look at human behaviour patterns and how we can motivate the public to heed advice on healthy lifestyle. The price of food especially fruits and vegetables must be affordable for the public.

Prevention is the best strategy. Healthy food choices and active lifestyles will help but may be difficult to achieve individually.

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[caption id="attachment_15131" align="alignleft" width="166"] Tan Sri Ismail Merican[/caption] Former Director-General of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Prof. Tan Sri Dato' Seri Dr. Hj. Mohd. Ismail Merican, gives useful advise on how to avoid becoming obese. Prof. Merican has a decades-long experience as a physicist and shares the concern of many that Malaysia has developed into the ASEAN country with the highest percentage of overweight and obese people. Exercise This is very important of course but should not be viewed as a chore. Let me explain. Most people enjoy exercising and have in fact included exercise as part of their daily...

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Tan Sri Ismail
Tan Sri Ismail Merican

Former Director-General of Health, Ministry of Health Malaysia, Prof. Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Dr. Hj. Mohd. Ismail Merican, gives useful advise on how to avoid becoming obese. Prof. Merican has a decades-long experience as a physicist and shares the concern of many that Malaysia has developed into the ASEAN country with the highest percentage of overweight and obese people.

Exercise

This is very important of course but should not be viewed as a chore. Let me explain. Most people enjoy exercising and have in fact included exercise as part of their daily or weekly routine. Exercises must be enjoyable and done incrementally. I tell my patients to do at least 30 mins of brisk walking three times a week. Some of us may not have the luxury of time or visits to fitness centres probably because of work pressure or financial constraints. That should not stop you as you can always incorporate exercise in your work schedule. How you may ask? Well, if I can be an example, I climb stairs and walk as often as I can. I climb stairs to my office and do brisk walking when I visit shopping malls. I do this because I do not have time to visit fitness centres or set aside dedicated time for exercising. The message I am trying to convey is that you can always find time to exercise if you have the will to do so.

Diet (what you eat and timings)

This is perhaps the most challenging for some especially when you live in Malaysia where the choice of food is astronomical. Few principles that I follow are to refrain from taking excessive refined sugars like sweets, chocolates and ice creams, not to overindulge in food even if the food is tasty and refrain from taking too much rice. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Malaysians and many others especially those in developed countries are consuming more calories without a parallel increase in physical activity. Many take food outside and food taken outside the home is generally higher in fat and lower in micronutrients compared with food prepared at home.

Sleep

Have good sleep and try hard to switch off when you get ready for bed. The mind is very powerful. Lingering thoughts can keep you awake and will certainly affect your quality of life. Minimum of 6 hours sleep is what I recommend.

Daily routine 

Always plan your day well and plan ahead but be prepared for the unexpected. Learn how to cope with stress which can come anytime in your life and if you are not prepared, you will crumble and may become anxious or depressed, both of which can lead to unhealthy eating habits..

What you drink 

Drink lots of water whenever you can, of course, the right kind. Mineral water is good. Fruits juices may be better but not necessarily a must if you consume wholesome meals.

Urban planning (parks, restaurants near condos etc)

The government must plan well especially in urban settings to allow people to embrace a healthy life style. Special lanes for walking or cycling, clean and well maintained parks,  measures to make people feel safe when they walk or exercise in the park, efficient control of traffic, good transport and  a clean environment all round will go a long way to encourage propel to go out and exercise.

Stress

I mention this earlier. Managing stress is very important.

Medication

One must always follow doctor’s orders and be compliant with medication for your medical problems if you have any. There are patients who stop taking medication because of side effects. The right thing to do is to inform the doctor about the side effects so that alternative treatment be given. Some prefer to keep quiet and not inform the doctor for fear of scolding from the doctors. Be ready to take charge of your life and do the right thing. I do not recommend any medication for weight reduction as most are not safe and may be counter-productive.

Education (funding + nutritional information)

More needs to be done on education. The Ministry of Health of Malaysia introduced many cycles and campaigns promoting healthy life style. Unfortunately hardly any was found to be effective no matter how hard the ministry tried. The people do not seem to bother or get inspired by the campaign. This begs the question as to why they remain unaffected. Perhaps the message sent is not clear enough. Maybe new ways of delivering messages need to be introduced especially for the younger members of the population. The food industry must also play a role in providing nutritional information for consumers so that they can make choices for themselves.

Public sector role

The government must introduce policies and programs to encourage healthy lifestyles. Although the Malaysian government is working very hard to do this, more support is needed from the public and like-minded NGOs. It is best for the public sector to encourage rather than be punitive. Get people motivated rather than saddle them with fines and compounds. The public can be galvanised into action if the Government and the community at large set good examples and practise what they preach. Communities, workplaces, schools can be encouraged to promote healthy lifestyle messages. Food regulation, food labeling and advertising can be done more meaningfully in consultation with stakeholders. Health care workers must also be trained regarding healthy diets and the right kind of exercises. Research can also be encouraged to look at human behaviour patterns and how we can motivate the public to heed advice on healthy lifestyle. The price of food especially fruits and vegetables must be affordable for the public.

Prevention is the best strategy. Healthy food choices and active lifestyles will help but may be difficult to achieve individually.

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