You are what you eat.
An old phrase that rings true as many of our health problems come from (and can be cured by) our diet.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a growing obesity crisis in Southeast Asia. At the turn of the century, about 7% of Malaysia’s adult population and 3.7% of Thailand’s were categorised as obese. In 2016, the rate has doubled with 15.6% of Malaysia’s adults classified as obese.
Worse yet, the number of overweight and obese children (under the age of five) across Southeast Asia has increased by 150% or about 4.2 million kids in the region. According to Unicef, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines are considered to have public health problems caused by both undernutrition and overweight. In Indonesia alone, 12% of children under five years old are overweight (about 2.89 million kids).
Every day, they are exposed to a volume of unhealthy food marketing, which influences their food preferences and consumption. In addition, the region itself is known for its potential ‘new market’ and consumerism; a perfect market for the highly competitive food industry.
The progressing technology isn’t much of a help either because it contributes to today’s lifestyle that is less and less physically active. On the other hand, some of us are using technology wisely to create a better impact on those around us.
Rachel Olsen, a Danish-Indonesian nutritionist, is educating the public about health using her influence on Instagram(link) with about 5,000 followers. She believes that health is the most important aspect to support productivity and happiness.
Rachel first found her interest in the health industry because she simply wants to help the sick. However, she didn’t like the atmosphere of a hospital which then led her to become a nutritionist.
The Metropolitan University College graduate realised that many people are still debating about their healthy choices based on their own belief--which is sometimes misleading. She also said that many doctors focus on curing an illness, but they rarely give tips on correcting the patients’ diet. Our diet is actually the most essential part of our health as it could prevent us from having the illness from the beginning.
At first, she didn’t plan to share health-related posts on Instagram, but many people requested her to do so. Beginning in July 2018, she started to share health information that is based on proven scientific studies. It turned out that many people liked posts and her followers quickly grow. Many even asked further through the comments and direct messages.
When we talk about overweight and obesity, Rachel said that weight gain is mostly due to empty calories. Empty calories come from foods with low vitamin and minerals, but high in energy such as fats, oils, butter, sugar, cheese, and processed food. These foods are usually high in calories and cause us to eat more than our daily calorie needs.
Of course, Rachel herself translates her knowledge into her eating habits. She always eats fruits every day, as it binds hydraulic acid--which strengthens the stomach. She also avoids red meat and fried foods (but not totally remove them from her diet because some foods are just too delicious not to ever eat again!). Rachel also likes to do yoga and run in between her busy schedule.
Talking about the schedule, Rachel is currently a Nutritionist Specialist at YOUVIT--the company behind the innovative multivitamin gummy bears--and is taking online courses for master’s degree at the University College Dublin, majoring in Food, Nutrition and Health. She also occasionally attends health seminars and workshops.
She wishes for a healthier Indonesia. If the people already have the demand for a healthy lifestyle, automatically the industry will provide healthier restaurants and products.
Her best tip for people who wish to improve their lifestyle is to focus on what can be eaten instead of what they cannot eat. Embracing a healthy lifestyle is actually fun, not torturing. It can also be cheap--so, the belief that a healthy lifestyle is expensive is just another excuse. It’s all about the mindset.