Vietnamese girls put on the pounds

The beauty of Vietnamese girls is legendary. The image of charming girls riding bicycles along streets with long black hair falling over slender shoulders is engraved in many memories.

However, 20 years of innovation and modern living has turned many slender girls into fat ladies jogging and exercising around parks and lakes in an effort to lose weight.

Like many Western women, Vietnamese sisters are now faced with obesity, something they had never contemplated before.

Three years ago, the national institution for nutrition reported that 16 per cent of Viet Nam’s population was obese according to calculations based o­n height and weight (Body Mass Indicator).

Though obesity in Viet Nam is not as serious as in the US, Australia and other parts of the Western world, experts think it will become a problem in the near future, especially in affluenting cities such as Ha Noi and HCM City.

Many Vietnamese women now follow Western lifestyles. They eat fatty, delicious junk food and get little exercise.

Endless media articles and conversations o­n how to lose weight are not enough for these women, who now meet o­n-line to share ways of slimming.

Those unable to resist temptation often turn to weight loss pills, treating them as a magic solution.

A girl name Hoa who sells pills o­n-line claims she has lost 12kg after taking two boxes of pills worth VND2 million (US$115) each.

Hoa claims there is no such thing as a fat girl, o­nly a girl with no money to buy weight-loss pills.

I have no real evidence about if and how Hoa lost weight, so I went to o­ne of the biggest pharmacies in Ha Noi for some advice.

There, the salesgirl told me about a variety of pills produced in the East and the West. "It depends o­n your pocket," she said, too busy to give detailed instructions.

I recalled a friend who used o­ne of the drugs she recommended and 5kg thinner in a month. Luu Ngoc Chi, 28, a cook, is now much fatter than before taking weight-loss pills. She was delighted to lose 5kg in a month, but in the next month, she gained 2kg.

Le Thi Hai from the National Nutrition Institute said many weight-loss pills worked by reducing hunger. "But there will be no positive result if people keep eating more calories than they need without exercising," she said.

Hai urged people to check with nutritionists before taking any pill. She said there were many kinds of pill o­n the market, but few were recognised by the Ministry of Health.

Dr Nguyen Ba Huy Cuong said o­nly real obese people should use pills. He also urged people, especially women, not to drink the widely advertised weight-loss herbal tea as it could cause digestion problems.

Cuong said many kinds of tea worked as diuretics, forcing the body to lose water and making them look thinner.

Nutritionist Hai said some women had been taken to hospital with intestinal problems after drinking the tea for long periods. She said there was still no control of weight-loss products in Viet Nam.

Hai said the expectation of a thin and graceful body was a lovely dream, but it should not lead to the hospital.

Some people o­n diet pills often refuse healthy diet and exercise, thinking that the drug is magical help. They eat as much as they want and, as a result, become fat again.

Although, I want to lose some kilograms, I will not pay for a quick-loss programme. I will spend time enjoying my life with a healthy lifestyle, less meat and fat - and more exercise.