The fat problem

The other day my colleague, Sherine, told me that she and others are amazed I didn’t seem to put on any weight during my pregnancy. A lot of people have commented to me that they wouldn’t have been able to tell that I am pregnant from the chest up. Anyway Sherine continued, “when I was younger, I was rather slim. But as I get older, the weight creeps up!” I told her, as a person ages, metabolic rate falls. You have to make sure you combine a heathy and moderate diet with exercise to keep the fat away. Especially important for women is a combination of aerobics exercise like running and weights exercises like push ups or carrying weights. Running helps to burn calories, builds stamina and fitness, and good for relieving stress as well, and ultimately good for brain wellness. Weights exercises help to build muscles which in turn burn more calories, and provide a toned physique.

Anyway Sherine said she knows about eating well, citing having 5 small meals a day. I told her, “it’s not about having smaller meals, it’s what you’re eating.” She said she refrains from fast food and tries to eat healthy. I asked her if she takes whole grain bread or brown rice. Unfortunately as she stays with her in-laws, her mother-in-law wouldn’t wanna touch brown rice and thinks that only basmati rice should do. Anyway Sherine seldom have dinner at home, and so she can choose to eat healthy outside. It turns out she is referring to Japanese food. I pointed out to her, “do you know that Jap food uses refined rice and even the noodles are also made from refined flour?” In fact the ramen has hell of a lot of salt and oil (from pork bone) in the soup. Another problem is also Japanese food doesn’t offer a lot of healthy vegetable dishes. In fact I don’t recall seeing green leafy vegetables in the menu. There’s only the small side dishes like pickles, seaweed, and cabbage with mayo. The only Jap cuisine which does offer vegetables is the Okinawan, which is closer to Chinese cuisine. They have this stewed bittergoard with sliced pork which is really tasty and rather healthy too.

It’s actually very natural for the body to store fat. In fact that’s what it’ll try its darnedest to do. Since the beginning of mankind, there wasn’t enough food for everybody for gazillion years, and human had to work damn hard to get food. It’s only after the mid 20th century when farming production becomes efficient that there’s abundance. Yes there’re parts of the world which are starving, but it’s a problem due to poor distribution and governance and mismanagement, not because of insufficient food. So the human body has adapted over the hundred of thousands of years that it has to store fat whenever it can, to prepare for the next famine or drought; and it’s damn efficient at it. The thing is most of us don’t experience food shortage now but the body doesn’t know that. Plus the facts that food portion has since increased quite a lot, and our lives can be pretty stressful so much that we turn to food for solace. Unlike in the past, most people nowadays are living a sedentary lifestyle and hardly have much physical activity. With all the increased amount of food consumed (honestly nobody points a gun to your head to finish the whole plate or ask for upside), particularly refined, salty and fatty food, you can gain 5 pounds (about 2.3kg) a year without realizing it. And one day you wake up and have an ‘oh shit!’ moment.

My husband told me he had read a research study that the body will try to keep to the weight that you’ve been having for 6 months or longer. Let’s say you’ve been weighing 150 pounds (68 kg) for the past 6 months and you wanna lose weight. You may be able to gain some success initially through diet and/or exercise. But if you don’t continue the discipline of proper diet and exercise, you’ll find that you’ll rebound back to 150 pounds rather quickly and worst, the body will also wanna consume more and you’re likely to end up even heavier. The sad fact is the body will fight your effort. The reason being the body thinks you had gone through a famine and decides that double effort is required to store fat. That is why it’s so damn difficult to lose the weight and stay at the new lower weight, because it takes herculean discipline to do so. Most of all, a lot of people don’t realize that eating is a psychological thing. You’ve to understand why you keep consuming food and what make you consume certain food which is bad for you. If you can’t battle the demons in your mind, you can’t win the fight with the bulge.

So with all factors mentioned above, is it any wonder that obesity is an epidemic? Fat loss shows are sprouting up all over American TV; even Dr Oz has a segment on it in his show. In Asia, many people may not seem to be as big as the Americans, but Asians are generally smaller built anyway, and despite the appearance of being slimmer, they actually possess a lot of fat in their bodies. Using BMI as a measurement, Asians are measured on a lower scale. In Singapore, the obesity trend may not be apparent to foreigners, but we know that there’s an increasing number of fat people around us. The diet of most people is generally unhealthy, and this is because local food tend to be unhealthy stuff that were created for hard labor which the early migrants used to do. Even though time has changed, the food hardly evolved.

I don’t have to repeat here since we know the numerous negative effects of bad cholesterols, obesity and unhealthy diet have on health. Based on the Singapore 2011 yearbook statistics on population, out of the number of people who died in 2010, almost 94% died from various diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart failure etc. It’s a fact that we’re having a greying population, and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the number of people getting chronic diseases will increase over the years. In fact we’ve a healthcare crisis looming in the near future. Yet the government doesn’t even put in much effort in preventive medicine. Over here, almost everybody has catastrophic illness insurance coverage, paid using money from our pension fund. Even though it’s not compulsory, but the government make it into an opt-out scheme. Premiums will rise in the near future considering there’ll be more and more people requiring medical treatments. But if there’ve been effective preventive medicine put in place, we would be able to keep healthcare cost down. It looks to me that it’s not likely to happen, and the minority of healthy people will have to subsidize the majority of unhealthy people. I know it’s easy said than done, but if only people realize their quality of life doesn’t have to depend on drugs and medical treatments, especially in their old age. In fact there’s no quality to life when this happens. By putting in effort to eat healthy and moderately and exercise, you’ll feel and live much better. This is something which everybody should think about seriously, and unfortunately few do.

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