20 February 2020
"1-2-3," shouts Noradhiah Tumirin, a medical doctor and fitness trainer. "You can do it," she says approvingly as her client, Sarah Baharudin, lies on her back and struggles to lift her legs in the air.
Tumirin is leading Baharudin in an exercise class. Baharudin, age 35, is breathing heavily as she lifts her legs. She is 165 centimeters tall and weighs 110 kilograms. The Malaysian woman blames her diet for her weight gain.
"I eat traditional Malay food, yes and it's high in fat and calorie."
Baharudin added that, for years, she also was not physically active and did not exercise.
"So yes, years after years of doing that and it becomes obesity."
Her story is a common one across Malaysia. About 50 percent of the country's adults are obese and about 30 percent of young people are overweight.
Sarah Baharudin and husband, Nazrul Mohammad, are trying to change their lifestyles by exercising regularly and eating healthier food.
Noradhiah Tumirin is now retired, but once served in the Malaysian armed forces. She is physically fit, measuring 157 centimeters tall and weighing just 56 kilograms. She says the country's obesity crisis is leading to high rates of heart disease and related medical conditions.
"This obesity will lead to multiple illnesses such as hypertension, high cholesterol, heart illnesses and diabetes."
Kevin Zahri is one of Malaysia's leading fitness influencers. He founded a local weight loss movement called Jom Kurus, which means "let's get thin" or "let's lose weight."
"To help somebody not feel alone and jump on the bandwagon with a group of people...of similar objectives, goals and desires."
Every year, thousands of Malaysians join six-week-long Jom Kurus fitness camps. They meet several times a week for exercises and to learn more about nutrition. There also are social media support groups. At one recent class, people did leg lifts, pushups and stretches.
Kevin Zahri says the average person at the camp drops four to five kilos of weight during the six week program. But his real goal is to help Malaysians make healthy changes that will last a lifetime.
That is what Sarah Baharudin is pushing for by getting on a regular exercise routine and improving her diet.
"I have decided to change my lifestyle into a healthier one."
But while Jom Kurus and other programs are helping Malaysians change their lifestyles, it is clear these classes only treat a small part of the nation's obesity crisis.
Zahri says the amount of people they have targeted is very small compared to the people who need more exercise and changes in diet.
Baharudin knows that changing lifelong behaviors is not easy but she says she is strong-minded enough to make this the beginning of a new way of life.
I'm Alice Bryant.
Dave Grunebaum reported this story for VOA News. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
fitness – n. the act of being healthy through exercise
client – n. a person who pays a professional person or organization for services
calorie – n. a unit of heat used to indicate the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body
obesity – n. very fat
lifestyle – n. a particular way of living
illness – n. a specific condition that prevents your body or mind from working normally
jump on the bandwagon – expression. to join an activity that has become very popular so you can share in its success