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Eating Vs Culture : A Reality

Eating is an act of a person or a thing that eats. Eating is an essential behavior to ensure human survival. Every living being in this universe has to eat in order to fulfill the physiological needs.  Hierarchy of Needs Theory is a theory by Abraham Maslow in human developmental psychology. The theory has become one of the frequently cited references in researches and writings worldwide. Prolonged failure to meet the needs for a prolong time will bear undesirable result to the person concerned. Human body cannot function properly and will ultimately fail. Physiological needs are thought to be the most important; they should be met first.

                                                                           Picture: Google

                                                                      Picture: Wikipedia

It is imperative for a human being to consume food so as to cater for the daily needs and make sure the body functions at an optimum level. In some parts of the world, eating is considered as a luxury and in most parts of the world, it is a necessity which has to be fulfilled. Culture is the quality in a person or society that arises from a concern for what is regarded as excellent in manners.  Culture may come into play as a role in contributing to eating behavior of a person. Apart from that, one’s values, belief, practices and norms concerning food and body experience may also affect ones eating behavior.

In Malaysia, food establishments in the form of restaurant chains and food stalls which belongs to certain ethnicities mushrooming due to the diverse ethnics group spreading nationwide. Unlike ordinary humbly- operated food stalls, operating hours of food chain establishments extend till wee hours and will be closed only on certain occasion.  This paves the way for customers from all walks of life to frequent the joint which is available anytime of the day.

Busy and crowded food joints indicated that people will be eating out as long as the price is affordable.  There are also certain television show which highlighted delicious and delectable food for taste pleasure in every part of the states. It in a way indirectly exposed that Malaysians in general have a knack for eating and has become acculturated to having variety of food choices for their consumption.

The terms spoilt for food choices is justified when Anthony Bourdain, host of Travel Channel’s culinary and cultural adventure programmes visited Penang in No Reservations Season 8 Episode 8, to try out the local street food and acknowledged the state as food capital. He called the food as ‘damn magical’ due to its ingredients. 


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Thus, Malaysians can consider themselves as the lucky bunch of people for having abundance of food resources and cuisine to feast on. The availability of food variety at their expanse has somewhat made its way into Malaysians home, life and culture. This is proven with Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai and Hor Fun / Min Nan (noodles made from wheat/rice flour) being some of the most famous food among many Malaysians. This holds true regardless of its effect on a person’s health if taken consistently every day. Calorie intake in each and every meal taken by a person will increase and contribute to unhealthy eating style. This unhealthy eating culture if not addressed accordingly, will eventually lead to a heavier problem Malaysia is facing now.

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In his press release, Datuk Seri S Subramaniam, The Honourable Minister of Health Malaysia on 17 March 2014 during The 12th International Congress on Obesity 2014, mentioned that the findings of the National Health and Morbidity Survey 2011 showed that the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) and NCD risk factors (including obesity) continue to rise. There are an estimated 2.5 million adult Malaysians who are adult. The prevalence of obesity in Malaysia has increased from 4.4% in 1996 to 14% in 2006, and then increased more gradually to 15.1% in 2011.

The Star Online on 16 June 2014, made a headline citing that Malaysia has been rated as the highest among Asian countries for obesity. Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Zakri Abdul Hamid, said new findings from British medical journal, The Lancet, showed that 49% of women and 44% of men in Malaysia were found to be obese.  “This is a very big problem because it has implication on diabetes, heart problem and others and our Prime Minister has also asked the global science and innovation advisory council to work on this,” he told reporters.

According to a new study published in May 2014 by The Lancet, Malaysia was rated heavyweight at 45.3% of its population, followed by South Korea (33.2%), Pakistan (30.7%) and China (28.3%). This is the hard truth and reality faced by Malaysians today as a whole, for eating has interwoven with its culture that resulted in a much heavier society.


  1. Becker, Anne E, Culture and Eating Disorders Classification, International Journal of Eating Disorders,40: S111-S116, Wiley InterScience, 2007
  2. bit.ly/1spUd8D”>http://bit.ly/1spUd8D
  3. www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28030712″>http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-28030712
  4. dictionary.reference.com/”>http://dictionary.reference.com/
  5. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs”>https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs
  6. www.moh.gov.my/index.php/database_stores/…/495>www.moh.gov.my/index.php/database_stores/…/495
  7. www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/06/16/obesity-malaysia-highest-in-asia-says-pm-science advisor/www.thestar.com.my/News/Nation/2014/06/16/obesity-malaysia-highest-in-asia-says-pm-science-advisor/
  8. www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y7YvcWGm6c”>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Y7YvcWGm6c


Last Reviewed : 6 Februari 2017
Writer / Translator : Pn. Suzanah binti Abdul Hamid
Accreditor : Haji Hairol Kamal Bin Abdul Rahman