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Overweight or obese occurs when the body stores excessive fat, which can lead to serious health issues. It is a major issue worldwide because it not only affects our health but also makes it difficult to perform daily tasks. Overweight adults are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and breathing and joint problems. 

Over the years, the number of obese men and women has increased dramatically. In 1975, there were 31 million obese men; by 2016, the number had risen to 281 million. For women, it was 69 million in 1975 and increased to 390 million in 2016. In Malaysia, a national survey conducted in 2019 revealed that more people are becoming obese. The percentage increased from 15.1% in 2011 to 19.9% in 2019. This indicates that the country is grappling with an increasing obesity epidemic. 

Body Mass Index (BMI) is commonly used to determine whether an individual is overweight or obese. It’s a simple weight-and-height measurement. In Asia, including the Asian-Pacific region, there are specific categories such as “at risk,” “Obese Class I,’ and “Obese Class II.” This helps individuals understand how much risk an individual may face based on their BMI. Understanding these weight-related issues is critical for an individual’s health, and using tools like BMI allows us to stay on track and take action as needed.

Table 1.0 Classification of BMI


Non-Asian (kg/m2)

Asian (kg/m2)


< 18.5

< 18.5

Normal Range

18.5 - 24.9

18.5 - 22.9



> 23.0

At Risk


23.0 - 24.9

Obese Class I


25.0 - 29.9

Obese Class II


≥ 30.0

Obese Class III

≥ 40.0



“Energy imbalance” occurs when the calories consumed exceed the calories expended by the body for breathing, digestion, and physical activity. This imbalance causes the body to store excess fat that it does not need right away or in future. However, it is not just about how much you eat; other factors influence the risk of gaining excess weight.

Lack of Physical Activity

Lack of physical activity, as well as spending a lot of time watching television, using computers, playing video games, or staring at screens, has been linked to a higher BMI. Individuals who are not active and spend too much time sitting in front of screens are more likely to gain weight, as evidenced by a higher BMI. 

Unhealthy Eating Behaviour

Unhealthy eating habits, such as consuming excessive calories, particularly from saturated fat and added sugars, contribute to the risk of becoming overweight or obese. Maintaining a healthy weight involves being mindful of these habits and making choices that support a balanced and nutritious diet.


The environmental factor influences an individual’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. For example:

  • Individuals encounter challenges to stay active when there are no parks, sidewalks, or affordable gyms nearby. 

  • Larger portion sizes have been served, necessitating increased physical activity to maintain a healthy weight. 

  • Not everyone has easy access to stores that sell nutritious and affordable foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables. 

  • Advertisements try to persuade consumers to purchase unhealthy snacks and sugary beverages, making it difficult to choose nutritious foods. 


Sleep also plays a role in weight, as studies suggest individuals who sleep less are more likely to be overweight or obese. This is due to the hormones released during sleep regulating appetite and energy expenditure. Not getting enough quality sleep, or consistently sleeping less than 7 hours per night, may have an impact on hunger-controlling hormones. In layman’s terms, not getting enough sleep may increase our risk of overeating or failing to recognize when our bodies are full. 


Stress, whether temporary or chronic, can disrupt an individual’s brain and cause their body to produce hormones such as cortical. These hormones interfere with how the body balances energy after making individuals feel hungry more frequently. As a result of these changes, individuals may overeat and store excess fat. 


Genetics plays a role in obesity, with specific genes, like those linked to Prader-Willi syndrome, directly contributing to it. Approximately 15 genes associated with obesity have been identified. While genetics may increase the likelihood of obesity, healthy lifestyle changes can mitigate the risk for those genetically predisposed.


Tips 1: Stay Active

Aim for 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity each week. This could be 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. Activities such as brisk walking and gardening count. For optimal health benefits, try to avoid long periods of sitting and instead engage in any type of physical activity, even light exercise. 

Tips 2: Incorporate Activity into Your Day

Incorporate 10-15 minutes of activity into your daily routine. To increase your physical activity, go for a short walk around the block, climb a few flights of stairs or park farther away from your destination.

Tips 3: Make Smart Food Choices

Opt for whole grains foods such as brown rice and whole wheat bread. Avoid foods containing refined white sugar, flour, high-fructose corn syrup, and saturated fat. Choose healthy options like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats and proteins. Making these choices can help to maintain a healthy weight. 

Tips 4: Pick Foods WiselyAvoid high-energy-density foods, which contain high calories in small portions. For instance, opt for a healthier alternative such as a grilled chicken sandwich or a plain hamburger with a small salad. For dessert, choose fruit, yoghurt, a small piece of angel food cake, or dark chocolate. 

Tips 5: Smart Choices When Dining Out

  • Select vegetable soup or broth over creamy soup.

  • Start with soup and vegetables and avoid overeating on meat and grains.

  • Reduce the amount of fatty sauces, such as gravy and cream sauce.

  • Cut back on high-fat meat, poultry skins, and offals. 

  • Choose beverages without added sugar.

  • Reduce consumption of fried rice or noodles, and avoid dishes with additional animal fat-laden gravy or sauce. 

  • Use as few condiments as possible, as salad dressings, ketchup, and chilli sauce can increase the fat and calorie content of your meal. 

Tips 6: Enhancing Sleep

To reduce obesity risk, adults should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and developing a relaxing bedtime routine are important considerations.

Tips 7: Alleviate Stress

Reducing stress through regular exercise, mindfulness, and a strong network can help prevent obesity. Integrating these approaches improves overall well-being and contributes to obesity prevention. 


Choose health over convenience, and let your well-being be the happy ending to your journey, not obesity.




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Centre for Health Protection, Department of Health - Obesity prevention and dietary advice. (2017).

Chong, C. T., Lai, W. K., Mohd Sallehuddin, S., & Ganapathy, S. S. (2023). Prevalence of overweight and its associated factors among Malaysian adults: Findings from a nationally representative survey. PLOS ONE, 18(8), e0283270.

HARVARD T.H. CHAN. (2012, October 21). Obesity Prevention Strategies. Obesity Prevention Source.

Lim, J. U., Lee, J. H., Kim, J. S., Hwang, Y. I., Kim, T.-H., Lim, S. Y., Yoo, K. H., Jung, K.-S., Kim, Y. K., & Rhee, C. K. (2017). Comparison of World Health Organization and Asia-Pacific body mass index classifications in COPD patients. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, 12, 2465–2475.

Muntefering, C., Fitzpatrick, M., Johnson, K., & Fields, B. (2023). Primary prevention interventions for adults at-risk of obesity: An international scoping review. Preventive Medicine, 107498.

NHLBI. (2022). Overweight and Obesity - Causes and Risk Factors | NHLBI, NIH.

NIH. (2021, July 28). What causes obesity & overweight? National Institute of Health.

Preventing Obesity in Children, Teens, and Adults - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center. (2020).

Purnell, J. Q. (2000). Definitions, Classification, and Epidemiology of Obesity (K. R. Feingold, B. Anawalt, M. R. Blackman, A. Boyce, G. Chrousos, E. Corpas, W. W. de Herder, K. Dhatariya, K. Dungan, J. Hofland, S. Kalra, G. Kaltsas, N. Kapoor, C. Koch, P. Kopp, M. Korbonits, C. S. Kovacs, W. Kuohung, B. Laferrère, & M. Levy, Eds.). PubMed;, Inc.

World Health Organization. (2021, June 9). Obesity and overweight. World Health Organization.

World Health Organization. (2022, October 5). Physical Activity. World Health Organization; World Health Organization. 


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