A weight management expert called for a change in eating behaviour to curb the problem of overweight and obesity. This is because 1 in 2 Malaysian adults suffer from being overweight or from obesity.
Dr Kirubakaran Malapan, General, Breast, Endocrine & Bariatric Surgeon of Gleneagles Hospital Penang, was speaking today at an online talk titled ‘Take charge of your eating habits’. Over 70 people attended the virtual event organised by WOU and Gleneagles.
He said that obesity or being overweight is linked to over 50 different disorders such as asthma, gallstones, gout, thrombosis, sleep apnoea, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease and cancers (e.g. colorectal, renal and upper stomach). Obesity is also found to double the risk of hospitalisation for Covid-19 and increase its risk of death by 48%.
He said foods high in carbohydrates and fats taste good but make us less full, highlighting that the reward system in the brain increases our pleasure when we eat certain foods. “This reward system can over-ride satiety to increase our consumption of highly palatable foods.”
Dr Kirubakaran stated that the hormones produced from the pancreas, intestines and the fat cells cause satiety, but“unfortunately, whatever we eat now is not promoting the release of these hormones”.
He said access to fast food, education level and knowledge, social media, TV food channels, social events and stress can affect our eating behaviour. He continued, “Food influences our mood. Some people feel happy when they eat. Others snack when studying or because of food cravings.” He cited a consumer survey which listed the top 5 influences on food choice as quality/freshness, price, taste, trying to eat healthy, and what my family wants to eat.
He informed that individuals develop eating disorders due to a distorted self-image, low self-esteem, non-specific anxiety, obsession stress or unhappiness. “You need to see a psychologist or psychiatrist to stabilise your weight and get rid of all those negative emotions, and perhaps a one-to-one psychotherapy.”
Dr Kirubakaran provided tips for healthy eating, namely regular exercise, being attentive when eating and not while watching TV or working, not skipping meals, planning meals/snacks ahead of time, keeping track of eating habits, limiting night eating, drinking plenty of water, and distracting oneself when experiencing cravings.
He further suggested eating in certain settings, at fixed meal times, to watch the portion sizes, eat a range of foods, and have a support person to stay motivated.“Make healthy food choices as part of your lifestyle change. Weigh yourself not more than once a week. Dietary change is not easy, give yourself time.”
He summed up: “To lose weight, it’s helpful to change your thinking. Weight management is about making a lifestyle change. It’s not going to happen if you rely on short-term diets to lose weight. Be aware of the role that eating plays in your life, and learn how to use behavioural coping strategies to manage your eating and your weight.”
During Q&A, he said the best time for dinner is between 6pm and 8pm to allow 3-4 hours for food to get digested and for metabolism to drop.
On what causes the yo-yo effect when dieting, he said cutting caloric intake will send craving signals to the body, making you feel more lethargic while the metabolism slows down, and so people may be unable to sustain this and end up eating more.