Tackling obesity begins in the home.

According to a recent report in the NST, Malaysia has the dubious honour of having the highest obesity prevalence in Southeast Asia. This conclusion was based on the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Tackling Obesity In ASEAN report, which covered Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

The report stated that the prevalenceof obesity in Malaysia was at 13.3 per cent, while the figures for “overweight” was at 38.5 per cent. It also showed that only a third of Malaysian adults had ever exercised, while only 14 per cent exercised adequately.

This is alarming news as not only adults are affected. Malaysian children too seem unable to escape the problem. According to a Bernama report, based on monitoring by the Health Ministry through the School Health Team in the first quarter of last year, a total of 7,278 Standard Six pupils are obese.

Before we start pointing fingers, let’s look at what we can do to ensure our children do not belong to this statistic. Like everything else, healthy living begins at home. Some of the factors that contribute to the obesity problem include our love of food and our strong culture of entertaining guests with food.

Children rely on us to provide them with a healthy and nutritious diet. Unfortunately, this isn’t so easy to do anymore. With parents becoming busier than ever, fast food seems to be the obvious choice. After a while, it becomes a staple diet in the family. I know of families who rely on fast food on an almost daily basis.

As if that’s not bad enough, we seem to be very lazy when it comes to exercising. Just ask most people why they don’t exercise frequently enough, and they’ll come up with answers such as lack of time, no energy, no place, no gear and even no shoes. Are these really answers, or just excuses? Why not adopt the Nike tagline that we should all “just do it.”

This is an important attitude to adopt because our children are watching us. If we overeat, they’ll eat more. If we do not exercise, they’ll be idle too. In no time, the whole family will gain more weight.

TAKE CONTROL

It’s time we reverse the trend and take control of our weight. A friend told me recently that to become fitter and healthier, the secret formula is 80 per cent diet and nutrition, 20 per cent exercise and 100 per cent determination. I couldn’t agree more.

Let’s start watching what we eat. We must educate ourselves and the family on the food pyramid. Watch out for food intake quantity and frequency. Dieting isn’t about denying ourselves food but rather going for the right food in the right quantity. It’s not that difficult but it does require lots of determination.

The good news is that we don’t have to do it alone. Let’s engage our spouses and children as our partners. Do physical activities together, which can also be your bonding time. Be creative and have lots of fun. Together, we can create a healthier future, “one kilogramme” at a time!

Zaid Mohamad coaches and trains parents to experience happier homes and more productive workplaces. Reach him at zaid@smartparents.com.my

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