Food and Diet: The Dark Side of the Foodie Culture

Valerie Uy

Posted at May 31 2019 02:58 PM | Updated as of May 31 2019 05:19 PM

Food is inextricably linked to the heart of any culture. For us Filipinos, relationships are built, bonds are made stronger, and milestones are celebrated over a hearty meal. We take pride in our cuisine, and embrace the many cultures that have weaved their way into our gastronomic tastes.

Whether its first dates, birthdays, family gatherings, or coffee catch ups with friends, the question is always: “Where to eat?” Buffets, restaurants, and food hubs are popping up everywhere – from the malls to the streets of Maginhawa and Poblacion, to Binondo food crawls!

The increasing “foodie” trend, however, has had an adverse effect on our collective health. Dr. Raymond Erese, a bariatric surgeon at the Weight Loss and Metabolic Center of The Medical City Wellness and Aesthetics Institute, says that according to research from the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, the Philippines’ obesity rate rose from 4.5 to 5.1 percent in the past eight years.

“We’re at higher risk for obesity compared to Europeans because of our ethnicity,” explains Dr. Erese. Filipinos need only have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 to be considered for bariatric or weight loss surgery, while our counterparts in Europe need a BMI of 40.

The collective weight increase also means that Filipinos are more at risk for metabolic disorders that come with obesity like diabetes, hypertension, and non-alcoholic fatty liver.

Alarmingly, obesity and diabetes, for the most part, are considered two sides of the same coin. “Eighty percent of obese persons are diabetics,” Dr. Erese notes. “The syndrome is called ‘diabesity’.” Furthermore, doctors lament that the Philippines has yet to recognize obesity as a disease, even if the number of people with this kind of problem has risen.

For overweight people whose BMI is 25 to 29, experts say that lifestyle modification is the first step to start one’s weight loss journey. This consists of change in diet, exercise, and sleep management, among others. However, for those with a BMI of 35 and above, or those most at risk of complications brought about by obesity, the next step is synthetic medicine.

A common problem for overweight and obese people is yo-yo dieting. This is when a person tries different weight loss programs, succeeds, and then regains the weight. For these cases, Dr. Erese recommends bariatic surgery, the most common of which is sleeve gastrectomy. Dr. Erese explains that this involves removing 70 percent of the stomach and converting it into a sleeve-shaped tube where food can pass. As the whole abdomen does not have to be removed, recovery can be as fast as three days. The other option is gastric bypass, which rearranges the intestines so that food doesn’t pass its usual route.

In both cases, the person’s BMI (for Filipinos) must be at least 35. Heart and/or lung problems, alcoholism, smoking, substance abuse, and other health issues are also carefully assessed before surgery.

We may not be able to buy time, but having good health is a way to ensure that we get to spend quality time with our loved ones.

The Medical City’s Metabolic and Weight Loss Program, takes care of their patients like family. The bariatic team - comprised of a nutritionist, endocrinologist, dietitian, and psychiatrist - is with the patient from consultation, which sometimes takes six months before surgery, until two years post-operation.

Full recovery takes time, and the team makes sure that the patient follows the recommended program for weight loss and maintenance: a healthy diet, regular exercise, and keeping away from vices. This way, one’s weight loss becomes a permanent and lifelong commitment.

For more information about the Metabolic and Weight Loss Program, please contact the Weight Loss and Metabolic Center of The Medical City Wellness and Aesthetics Institute at 988 1000 ext. 6576 or 6579.

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