A New Holistic Approach to Weight Loss in Malaysia

“Are you on a diet?”
“You should try to lose some weight.”
“Take care of your health.”

These are questions and statements often heard by an overweight or obese person.

A number of Malaysians are either overweight or obese and the numbers seem to be climbing every year. Many of these people are finding it hard to find a weight loss solution that suits them. From adolescents to youths, mothers to senior citizens, it looks like too many Malaysians are suffering from what doctors now consider a pandemic.

Obesity in Malaysia

There is a huge pool of Malaysians who are battling with weight problems. According to the latest National Health and Morbidity Survey, 50.1% of the local population are reported to be overweight (30.4%) or obese (19.7%). In the same year, Malaysia had the highest prevalence of obesity among adults in Southeast Asia at 15.6%.

These numbers do not seem to dial down, especially due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2020 study, an estimated 54.2% of Malaysian adults are considered overweight or obese, a four percentage increase from the year prior. Being stuck at home during the lockdown, people have become less physically active and increasingly dependent on food deliveries.

For most obese and overweight people, across all ages and gender, their weight is the root of their psychological and emotional distress. Due to their size, most of them have low self-confidence and self-esteem. Weight stigma still exists, where individuals are body-shamed if they look different from conventional beauty standards. This negatively affects their social engagements, including their relationship with family, friends, careers prospects or love interests.

Apart from physical appearances, individuals with obesity are at increased risk of developing other serious health problems. Some Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD) that obesity has been associated with include diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. A local study found that 30% of patients with type 2 diabetes are also diagnosed as obese. Diabetes diagnosis can also lead to other complications such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and foot complications.

Furthermore, weight problems can cause other pain and discomfort, such as joint pain, sleep apnea, and respiratory problems. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, obese people are also more vulnerable to being affected by the virus.

Weight loss is the best way to help individuals suffering from obesity to prevent diseases from developing. Maintaining a healthy weight can also help prevent existing health conditions from worsening. This is also important for younger individuals who have yet to develop serious health complications, to ensure that they can lead healthy lives in the long run.

Reality of an Obese Person

The life of an obese person is a shared experience by many people, but it might not be commonly understood among those who aren’t suffering from this medical condition. To understand them on a deeper level, three patients have been interviewed to share their story regarding the topic of obesity.

Mei Ling*, 19, Single, Private College Student, BMI 35

“Having been overweight since I was a child, this excessive weight has always - and I mean always been - a big problem for me. From difficulties in finding clothes that fit, to dagger-eyes staring at me when I’m eating an ice-cream, to looks of concern when I pant like crazy during PE.”

At her current age, socializing should be a highlight of her typical day, yet she finds herself turning into a recluse. Heading to college in the morning and returning home once her day ends, then immediately browsing the internet and social media till late night, has become a norm for her daily routine.

With the strong online presence of other females on social media, she envies girls that can go out on dates and have a bunch of friends to hang out with. Mei Ling often avoids people as she feels judged for her big size and “clumsiness”. To make things worse, many strangers and acquaintances also label her as "lazy".

“It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s just difficult to keep up with walking at a fast pace and for long distances. It’s also hard to make friends when I feel that I’m not good enough.”

Iffa*, 36, Mother of 3, Housewife, BMI 43.2

“With every pregnancy, I gained between 7-12kg, and I really failed to lose the weight I gained before I become pregnant again.”

Iffa is what some would call “big boned”. Standing at 1.7m tall, she weighed her heaviest at 126 kg following the birth of her youngest child two years ago. Shortly after, Iffa made up her mind to lose weight. She tried going on different diets (low-carb, high protein, Keto, Weight Watchers, etc.) and even joined a gym membership. While some of these methods worked with weight loss of between 3-7 kg, she found herself feeling unmotivated and alone.

To make things worse, the tiring regime made her feel too worn out to keep up with her active children, much less play with them.

Suresh, 28, Single, F&B Executive, BMI 41

“I have tried brisk walking whenever I have the time, but it is extremely irregular. My knees hurt after a while and I also normally take up to 3-4 days to recover from that.”

Due to his very hectic work schedule, Suresh eats irregular meals, where he sometimes finds himself having his first meal of the day at 5pm. His job also requires him to travel outstation during weekends. Moreover, he is predisposed to diabetes and hypertension, as it runs in the family. He is 1.78 m tall and currently weighs 130kg, classifying him as Obese Class 3.

“My father died young - at only 54 - of a heart attack. I don’t really want the same thing to happen to me. But it is so hard.” This was highlighted by Suresh as the key reason that made him decide to make a positive change in his lifestyle. Yet, he faces obstacles in achieving them.

After understanding the personal struggles of an actual obese individual, a common sentiment among all of them is the need for a personalized weight loss goals, as well as support from doctors and professionals who can provide advice. So, how can this be made available and affordable?

Rising Trend of a Holistic Weight Loss Programme

Launched in 2021, a new holistic weight loss approach in Malaysia, The Kitakurang Programme, consists of a minimally invasive medical procedure performed by a certified doctor and supported by a team of Nutrition and Clinical specialists. The procedure is minimally invasive as it does not require surgery and anesthesia, which many with obesity may not be suitable for. It also does not involve endoscopy.

Weight Loss in Malaysia: The Kitakurang Programme

How does it work?

Firstly, when a potential patient is interested in The Kitakurang Programme, they are “screened” by a consultant to ensure that they do not have any contraindications like gastric ulcers, recent abdominal surgeries, pregnancy etc. Once deemed eligible, the potential patient is then referred to a specialized doctor who will carry out the procedure.

On the procedure day, after all initial COVID and blood work testing is complete (if required by the doctor), the patient will be then guided to swallow a capsule, which contains a swallowable balloon. An X-ray will be taken to ensure that the capsule enters the stomach. After which, the balloon will be filled with distilled water. Once filled, another X-ray ensures that the filled balloon is carefully in place in the stomach. Most doctors perform the procedure in about 20-30 minutes. There is no need for hospital admission, and the patient is discharged after a couple of hours of observation.

The balloon stays in the stomach for about 16 weeks. After which, it will self-empty in the stomach, deflate, and pass out when the patient goes to the toilet. During the approximate 16 weeks, patients have experienced 10-15%* loss of the total body weight.

*Results varies based on individuals

Prior to the actual procedure, each patient is counselled by The Kitakurang Qualified Nutritionist, who gets to know the patient’s eating habits like meal timing, favourite food, allergies etc. In this way, the nutritionist helps the patient plan out meals that are not totally “off-putting” for the patient, like consuming just salads and tiny food portions. However, there is a need for the patient to go on a week of liquid diet and then a consecutive week of soft food diet as the stomach adjusts to the presence of the swallowable balloon. By the third week, the patient is able to consume regular food in small and healthy portions.

Under The Kitakurang Programme, one will receive a maximum post-procedure support of 12 months, with an additional 8 months support even after the balloon passes. This programme is unique as it incorporates a swallowable balloon as a tool to kick-start the weight loss journey. A personal nutritionist will provide customized support to assist them to form healthier eating habits with guidance at each stage, allowing them to practice the positive change that will hopefully last a lifetime. At the same time, fitness activities will be implemented with routines crafted and suited for obese people to complement a healthier and fitter lifestyle.

To be mentally motivated to walk through the weight loss journey, the Kitakurang Programme also places emphasis on providing emotional support care to patients who are facing challenges to continue on their journey. Constant reminders and counselling sessions are provided to ensure that they will never feel alone.

Kitakurang Real Patients

Hear from the people in Malaysia that have found success by undergoing The Kitakurang Programme.

“I went from 98.4kg to 89kg, my body fat reduced from 36.4 to 33.8, and visceral fat from 20 to 18… Last year my HbA1c was 7.2, but now it is 5.9. My medication dose has been reduced due to this amazing improvement… I have to thank the KitaKurang supportive team, especially Min the Nutritionist for her effort in checking up on me to ensure I don’t fall too far off the track… This programme has changed my life and I am very happy!,”

Patient of Dr Kiru at Gleneagles Penang
Placement Date: 2nd September 2021

“…my weight started to drop from 89.2kg to 82kg in 2 weeks. My blood pressure has returned to normal levels too….. This non-surgical concept has helped me lose almost 8kg and I am very happy that I decided to do this for myself. A few more kilos to go and 75kg here I come! Thank you Team KitaKurang!”

Patient of Prof Nik at Gleneagles Kuala Lumpur
Placement Date: 4th October 2021

“I am thankful to be approached by Kitakurang. By being my support, they have helped me achieve a healthier life than I ever had before… There were moments where I struggled a lot but the resolve was stronger. I am so glad Kitakurang motivates me to keep going. Since then, every day has been a blessing.”

Patient at UKM Medical Centre
Placement Date : 12 August 2021

“Every morning I wake up, look in the mirror and wish I can have my old body back. Thankfully I found Kitakurang & they have helped me in gaining my own confidence and I love myself even more now”

Patient of Prof Nik at UKM Specialist Centre
Placement Date: 5th September 2021

With the advancement in technologies for medical weight loss, newer solutions are provided to cater to patients’ different demands. Every individual should have a good chance of living a healthier and better life, if not for themselves, for their children and loved ones. For those who are interested in this new holistic weight loss programme, you may find out more at www.kitakurang.com.