Monday, September 30, 2019

WHEN THE SCALES RING A WARNING BELL...


The other day I dug up my favourite pair of jeans from the cupboard. It has been a number of years since I last wore them. To my horror, I had to struggle to zip up. What used to be a snug fit was now a tight fit. I knew I was in trouble when the bathroom scales read 56.4 kg.

My ideal weight is 50kg-52 kg. Anything beyond that means I haven't been physically active enough. Or overeating especially on carbs. Since the surgery to remove a lump in my right thigh, I have been guilty of easing off somewhat on my daily exercise regime. I am still nursing a swollen knee from fluid retention.


I do a lot of walking as I don't drive and rely mostly on public transport to get around. But when I am at home and sitting down at the computer, I tend to get carried away. I have to set the kitchen timer to buzz after an hour to remind myself it's time to get up, stretch and do something else before getting back to work at my computer.

We must admit that many of our daily activities involve sitting down, often for hours on end: working at the pc, reading, watching TV, listening to music, attending meetings/seminars, chatting with friends over tea or meals, sittting in buses, trains, even waiting...  Before we know it, we are several kilos heavier than we would like to be.


Thanks to years of going to the gym, running and yoga exercises back in the 1980s and 90s, I have managed to keep obesity at bay. I was a member of Fitness International in the 1980s before I switched to Fitness First. In total I was a gym regular for close to 15 years. I often put in hours on the treadmill and was crazy about aerobics. My daughter Belle even drew a caricature of me as a fitness fanatic on my t-shirt. I am glad I laid a foundation of regular exercise in my younger days. Never too early (or too late) to build up muscle strength, cardio fitness and joint flexibility. But it is a constant challenge to maintain a healthy weight.


I have always enjoyed running, but not competitive running, as I do not want to stress myself out too much with regular training, dieting and the constant need to improve on my best time. The runs I sign up for are usually short ones between 5km to 8km. As age starts creeping up on me, I have opted more for walkathons and jogging.

Source: Mayo Clinic
Nothing like brisk walking at our age to shed off those extra kilos, and give the heart a good workout at the same time. The good doctor says we should aim for 10,000 steps a day. Some days I fall short. But I tell myself a few thousand steps is better than a few hundred. Brisk walking is the simplest, cheapest and easiest exercise. Some women can spend hours walking the floors in the mall. However, that does not constitute brisk walking. It doesn't do anything for your heart. Nordic walking is arguably the best type of walking as it gives you a total body workout with the aid of the poles.
Ministry of Health, Malaysia
Exercising is one way to reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes, heart diseases and cancers that plague older people. If you loathe going to the gym, and don't fancy jogging, hiking or playing tennis, I highly recommend investing in a set of stretch bands that are colour-coded for different levels of resistance. A complete set costs around RM50 or more depending on the quality of the bands.


If you are the type that abhor the exercises mentioned above, you can do gardening, fixing things around the house, or helping with the housework. Just don't be sedentary. Move those muscles and flex those joints. Muscle loss leads to frailty in old age, and stiff joints limit movement. That is something all of us want to avoid.



(Above): A comparison of three healthy plates. They have a lot in common. Sensible advice about making healthy choices. But knowing is one thing, applying is another. A healthier choice of nasi lemak, for example, is to have brown rice instead of the traditional white rice cooked in coconut milk, and add more kangkong or more slices of cucumber. As far as I know, the Ministry of Health has yet to promote this.


What we eat is as important as exercise. There are 101 diets out there, from the vegan diet to the keto diet and intermittent fasting as well. I have not tried any of them, but based on what I have learned from reading up on the diet of centenarians, almost all share similarities in that they eat in moderation, are vegetarians, and favour whole foods to processed foods. Sounds simple, but could be a tough act for most to follow. By the way, none of these centenarians are obese or even overweight, and they are all still active. It's also very important to cut down on our salt and sugar intake, especially the latter. When I see the long queues of young people at bubble tea outlets, I wonder if they are aware that consuming such sweet drinks will ultimately affect their health, resulting in obesity and diabetes.


Like most mothers and grandmothers, I hate to see waste but I also hate to see my waist expanding. I have a bad habit of finishing off any leftovers on my grandchildren's plates or leftovers in the pantry and fridge.The kilos have started to pile up, and the unwanted flab here and there doesn't make for a pleasant sight. Trying on clothes in the fitting room and seeing the reflection in the mirror is a reality check and a wake-up call.

It's a constant struggle to maintain good health. But we owe it to ourselves and our families to take responsibility for our health, to be aware of what is good for us, and what is not. I am sure none of us want to spend our retirement years struggling with pain and hefty medical bills.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

A TIMELY REMINDER OF OUR SHARED IDENTITY AS MALAYSIANS FIRST


As Malaysia celebrates its 62nd independence day, it is time again to ask ourselves how far have we travelled on the road towards one nation, one people. When my former high school friends and I got together recently, we bemoaned how racially divided our schools have become, and how we wish for those good old days in the 1960s when we studied together, played together and ate together without any issues.

Today I would like to share an article from my blog archives. The message is still relevant today, perhaps even more so.

"Racial prejudice and religious bigotry have always been with us. We find it hard to talk about these topics in a cross cultural environment for fear of our emotions. Some of us would deny these things existed and would rather go into self-denial than grapple with this insidious moral and social disease in our midst. The problem unless we admit it, can balloon out of proportions. It has all the hallmarks of a major mental epidemic. We as a group who have been exposed to global cultures and have experienced first hand of these evils should help contain them from rearing up their ugly heads in our society.

It is convenient to put the blame for this prejudice and bigotry as part of the legacy of the former colonial masters. However, the reality is that much of this prejudice and bigotry is of our own making and enforced by interested parties driven by the fear-based environment. These parties need to perpetuate the prejudice and bigotry to exist, because these whether real, perceived or invented are the reasons that justify the existence of these extreme chauvinistic groups.

As a member of the endangered species, what is of concern to me is to see a more stark polarization of races in our schools and institutions of higher learning. This polarization opens the door to prejudice and bigotry amongst the various races. One group would have a sense of superiority from believing that they are members of some elitist group that is superior to others.



Unfortunately the adults at home and the mass media give support to re-enforce this sort of thinking. It is common amongst certain groups of society to believe that they are the chosen ones over the others. They refuse to recognize the worth and contributions of others.

There are enough examples of an artificial importance being placed on everyday happenings reported in the mass media. With a journalistic twist and inflection it could make it appear racial. When young riders are involved with a fight with another rider, all of the same race, it does not make news. But if one rider is beaten up and happens to be of another race, the media dresses the story up in a way that will sell fear and in so doing perpetuate racism and racial hatred. We are being re-enforced through the media, that the respective colors of the skin are more important than the crime itself.

Religious bigotry may well have been the most common form of bigotry for much of the world’s history. In parts of the world people are being persecuted to no end not just because they are of another ethnic group but of another religion as well. We read about these happenings daily in the papers.

Religious bigotry manifests itself as a holier-than-thou attitude towards others. Religious bigots have in their heads the idea that those belonging to their religious group will be saved and the rest will go to hell. They firmly believe that they and they only have a special connection with the Almighty that others lack. This in turn leads them to think that they only have His special favors and others do not.

In my jagged career path, I had occasions to visit countries where people of different religions live together and in so far as ethnicity goes, there are no physical differences between them. They speak the same language. They share a common origin and one would not be able to tell the difference from a member of one religious group from another on the street outside the mode of dress. The only difference is religion, and due to religious bigotry, they are willing to kill each other.

In the more sophisticated societies there are more subtle means of persecution than physical violence resulting from religious bigotry --- character assassinations, harassment of members of religious minorities and the people associated with them. Other members of religious minorities find themselves in the position of an outsider.



Now let us take the racial prejudices and religious bigotry on to the global scale. To these we add to the mix the concept of political correctness which has been in vogue in the last decade. We then have a new category called the ‘Axis of Evil’ which political correctness has been established to eliminate. In reality political correctness needs the ‘Axis of Evil’ so that the ‘Hate Crime’ Industry can continue to exist. Attempts to artificially combat hate, racism and terrorism have created ‘Hate Industries’ in themselves which focus on an attempt to control others. Those who are highlighting the inequality of discrimination are being called religious extremists, or worst still, terrorists.

In a multi-racial, multi-religious nation like ours, where the practice of the religion and culture of one’s choice is protected by the Constitution, there is no reason for any kind of race prejudice and religious bigotry. All of us wish to achieve the same ends, the enlightenment of the soul and well-being of mankind. These ends can be achieved, all the so much easier if there is mutual understanding, trust, respect and to practice what is universally accepted – kindness to others.

With a multi-cultural, racial and religious mix we have all the ingredients of potential social hotspots in the country. We recognize that social conflicts are inevitable, but there are strategies if we care to sit down and work them out for their resolution or at least minimize or divert them before they become unmanageable. It is important that we recognize potential hotspots as we are dealing with human lives, their jobs and their children.

There are enough hotspot indicators which we should take cognizance of. Every day we open the dailies, our computers or turn on the TV, we get reports of street demonstrations, strong public statements airing disagreements. We see increasing lack of respect for Heads of Institutions. There is open disagreement regardless of issues.




For too long we have backed away from displaying the dark side of our social problems, preferring to sweep them under the carpet. What can we do as a group to offer for avoiding and or resolving conflicts which affect our daily lives and the future of the young generation? Institutions of Higher Learning could be roped in, if they have not yet been harnessed, to help gather and analyze data and information on socio-economic matters so that honest discussions and recommendations could be made for a sound apolitical management decisions on the concerns of the people.

At the same time, acceptance and recognition of our diversity through the use of the mass media are conducive to dialogue among the various races, cultures and beliefs, promoting respect and understanding for each other. Our cultural diversity is an asset. It has intrinsic value for development as well as social cohesion and peace. Harnessing our diversity could be the driving force for development not only in respect of economic growth but also of leading a more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual life.

Have a re-look at the linguistic dimension for our national development. Should we not encourage our young to be multi-lingual which would give them an edge for an appropriate and harmonious use of language in our society? Furthermore, language is of strategic importance for us. Educators amongst you will agree that acquiring languages offer unique modes of thinking and expression which can be an asset to a multi-racial society such as ours."



~ Excerpt from a keynote address given by the late Tan Sri Ani Arope in 2009 ~

( I first posted the above on SeniorsAloud blog in 2009 with the late Tan Sri Ani Arope's permission. Today, as the nation celebrates its 62nd Hari Merdaka, I am reposting it as a reminder that we are all one people, one nation, with one vision - to work together for the progress and prosperity of our country so that we can all live in peace and harmony.)

2010 - With my students at Wawasan Open University. Diversity in ethnicity enriches the learning experience.