Malaysia is reported to have the highest obesity rate in Asia. The National Health and Morbidity Survey 2019 reported that one of every two Malaysian adults are either overweight or obese.
The World Health Organization (WH)) has defined obesity as “abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that presents a risk to health”. Obesity is linked to higher risks of developing other chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even certain types of cancers; not to mention the decline in work productivity and quality of life as well.
In light of the current Covid-19 pandemic, individuals living with obesity are reported to be twice as likely to be hospitalised if tested positive. All this will eventually lead to a higher health care burden.
Obesity is a multi-factorial disease driven by genetics, environment, and biological factors. As such, obesity should not be attributed to a personal responsibility that leads to weight stigma and stereotyping of people living with obesity as having a lack of willpower or discipline to maintain energy balance.
It is time to move away from the narrative of sticking to fixed diet plans (e.g., Atkins diet, Keto diet, low carbohydrate diets, etc.) or restrictive eating. This method is not only unsustainable, but also may lead to the development of eating disorders and takes away the joy of eating.
As Malaysians, food is beyond just calories and nutrients. Food is part of our culture. Certain foods can trigger memories, while others treat food as a form of reward or satisfaction.
Thus, it is important to be mindful of what and how much we are eating. We would like to remind you to stop labelling foods as good food or bad food. All foods contain nutrients that are beneficial when taken in the appropriate amounts. Remember to include a variety of foods in your daily intakes.
In conjunction with World Obesity Day that falls on March 4, 2022, we would like to share MyDietCam, an Android-based diet application. It functions as a mobile food diary that monitors your food intake through image capture with artificial intelligence.
Through dietary monitoring with MyDietCam, you can be more aware and mindful of your food intake. By taking photos of our meals, we can overcome the problem of recall bias as we may have difficulty remembering what and how much we ate previously.
MyDietCam will compute the calories and nutrients of our meals and through visualisation in the form of graphic presentations, users will be able to gauge the quality of their diet instantly. An overall diet quality score will be generated based on the food intakes categorized in food groups.
Therefore, it is important to not be too focused on only including or excluding certain food items or specific nutrients.
The calorie values generated by MyDietCam serves as a rough guide for your daily intake. Tracking daily food intake over time may help users to adjust the food quantities they eat and finally develop healthier eating habits through mindful eating and making more informed choices for future meals.
Think of diet monitoring as a sustainable lifestyle change for life rather than a three-month goal. Diet monitoring in the long term will slow down the rates of obesity and prevalence of some chronic diseases.
Note: MyDietCam is in the final beta testing phase, and is not yet available for public use. You may visit our social media platforms on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for a general overview of the app.
Nadine Kong is a MMedSc research candidate and Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming is from the Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.
- This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of CodeBlue.