Covid-19 and obesity

AUGUST 20 ― I know this is just a theory but is it possible that one reason — among the many — why Malaysia has for a few months now seen such a high number of Covid-19 cases is because our society is among the fattest in Asia?

Yes, that’s Asia. Not merely Asean.

According to the World Health Organisation in 2019, Malaysia was the fattest nation in Asia and has the second highest child obesity rate among children in Asean aged five to 19 years, with 7.1 per cent of children under the age of five being overweight.

Seeing the way my own kids gulp down carbonated drinks this hits home strongly.

Furthermore, how many people do you know who possess a regular and disciplined workout regimen? More often than not, they have a disciplined nasi lemak schedule.

And it’s not likely this is a recent phenomenon. In 2018, two specialists from UM Specialist Centre noted that we’ve been eating our way to the top for the past 30 years.

You can check out the links I’ve put below but it seems indubitable that as a nation we have serious weight issues.

Given the strong link between obesity and the severity of Covid-19 (see references below), it seems no surprise that we find ourselves in the situation we are in.

Long and short, you risk suffering more if you can’t keep away from all that kuih muih, cakes, triple Maggi Mee portions and stuff.

We’re already familiar with the risks faced by the elderly, those with comorbidities, those who aren’t vaccinated, but somehow we hardly register (let alone worry) that an overweight person is also vulnerable.

If this article does nothing else, perhaps it can inspire all of us to take a good hard look at our waistlines, our spare tayar, our double chins, and make a commitment to fix those?

Imagine the irony of sharing a million WhatsApp messages warning your friends about the coronavirus, about encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, but doing so just before chomping down five pieces of chicken with mashed potatoes followed by a cake dessert. It’s like taking two steps forward and one half step back.

This is why reopening parks and gyms is, in my view, an important priority. First, folks who work out regularly will be in better shape. Second, if the message that good health helps in building one’s immune system and overall protection against disease, then reopening exercise venues can only be a good thing.

According to the World Health Organisation in 2019, Malaysia was the fattest nation in Asia and has the second highest child obesity rate among children in Asean aged five to 19 years, with 7.1 per cent of children under the age of five being overweight. — Istock.com pic
According to the World Health Organisation in 2019, Malaysia was the fattest nation in Asia and has the second highest child obesity rate among children in Asean aged five to 19 years, with 7.1 per cent of children under the age of five being overweight. — Istock.com pic

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Of course, slimming down isn’t only about working out. It’s also, or even primarily, about what we eat.

For the love of all things polyunsaturated, Malaysians need to eventually learn to cut down on the carbs. And if a pandemic doesn’t drive this lesson into our heads, what will?

I think our lives can change if we take even baby steps to cut down just three or four of our usual high-carb meals per week.

Maybe on those days with only six letters in their name we can commit ourselves to eating only half a plate of rice, or going full-protein, or maybe a (tasty) salad, or do something lah.

In addition to this, or if it's really that tough, we can try intermittent fasting. That’s eating only eight hours a day and, uh, not eating the other 16. The simplest I can think of is skip breakfast and supper, eat only between noon and 8pm.

That’s it.

And start a workout routine. Find a fitness coach on YouTube whom you won’t mind dating. Put into practice 30 per cent of whatever he or she is teaching. And keep at it.

It’s not (only) about looking hot anymore ya? Your life, my life, our country’s life depends on it.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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