A Journey to Being Fitter

Have you ever had comments about how fitness came easy to you? How getting fit or being “slim” is due to your genes or that exercising comes naturally to you?

 

Most of the time, I let these comments slide pass me. Like water off a duck’s back. More recently, I realised that this does not give any of our stories any justice. What stories you ask? Well, the story of struggles and little accumulation of decisions that makes us who we are.

 

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Does this photo shock you? I was 15 years old and was in the school band. I think I weighed approximately 70 kgs then.

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How about this one? I was 21 years old and probably weighed around 80kgs.

See, fitness did not come easy to me. As a child, I have treats such as soft drinks, fruit juices and sometimes chocolates and chips.  As a typical asian family, we eat a lot of rice. However, we rarely eat out and I would say we eat home cooked food pretty much everyday. Not overly unhealthy. No deep fried food or Macdonalds. In fact, we have a lot of fish, chicken and soups.  So how did I gain all these weight? Looking back, I think I neglected to think about portion sizes. I eat whatever and whenever. I do not listen to my body of when it’s satiated. I went by feelings. I FELT like some food so I just eat. Pretty typical of most teenagers I think.

Being in University probably did not help. For the first time, I cook and did groceries shopping for myself. I lived on instant pasta packages, bottled sauces and indomie.  Sometimes, I could finish a packet of potato chips in one sitting. I gained 10-12kgs in one year.

I wrote before that I lost a lot of weight in my early twenties. Following the first two years of University, I had a health scare. A lump at the back of my neck. Tests revealed that it was just my lymph node reacting to stress and there wasn’t any serious health concerns to go with it. However, it totally freaked me out. That, and in addition to me being in size 16 or 18 clothes, looking frumpy, exhibiting IBS symptoms and feeling awful in generally made me decide to sign up for a gym membership. You know the drill, I attended Les Mills classes, ran on a threadmill and had a few personal training sessions. I started cutting back on my food portion sizes. Choosing to eat a small bowl of rice rather than a plate. Cutting a chocolate bar into 3 portions rather than finishing it in one sitting. Eating yogurt as dessert and choosing more vegetables for my main meal. It worked. I lost 30-35kgs. That took me 4 years.

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(May 2009)

By then, I was in my mid twenties. I became engaged and got married to a wonderful guy who loved me when I was obese and supported me through my weight lost journey journey. I graduated and also started work.

It didn’t happen overnight. However, I started to feel my clothes getting tighter. I ran more. I ate less. I had all those low fat products that you see on the markets. Oats for breakfasts. Chicken salad for lunch. Stir fry with rice for dinner. Most nights we hd pastas or noodles. Snacks were low fat yogurts, low fat muffins and fruits. I was feeling lethargic and falling sick often. It wasn’t good. I decided running wasn’t good enough. I re joined a gym and started going for zumba classes. Two hour classes I would attend. My stamina improved, i was feeling better again. I started boxing classes. I loved them! I was hitting the gym 6-7 hours a week. I was eating clean 80% of the time and was scheduling cheat meals and days. I go crazy during cheat days and would eat chocolate bars, potato chips and have massive desserts. Still my weight was more stable and my body fat was hovering around the 21-22% mark.

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(Oct 2012)

In between, I was also diagnosed with PCOS or Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. That may explain why I struggled with weight loss and was feeling crap. On top of that, my husband and I were told we could not have kids. That shocked us again. I was 28 years young.

 

Re-evaluating our lives, we decided to cut back on stress. We reduced social, church and work commitments. We began to live life simply. We started going away on short and long trips to re group and rest. We scheduled in rest. We started acupuncture. More importantly, we ate clean. Cutting on processed food and focused on good produce from markets. Guess what? I fell pregnant and had a baby before I was 29 years of age.

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(June 2013)

I mentioned before I gained a lot of weight when I was pregnant. 27 kgs in fact. I returned to the gym and started doing Konga, Metabolic Conditioning and also Boxing 6 weeks post delivery. Through eating clean and being consistent. I lost MORE than 27 kgs. In fact, I lost 33 kgs by the time baby was 7 months. My body fat has dropped significantly. I am fitted and healthier than I was BEFORE I became pregnant. We ate 90% clean. I have no cheat meals or days. Rather, if we eat out or want a treat, I just go for it. No guilt or regrets. (PS: I had a creme brûlée mini tart on Saturday from KoKo Black and it was AMAZING).  (Pps- noticed I said mini tart and also I should mentioned I shared that with my hubby. We also shared chocolate truffles and a mocha).

I’m happier within myself because life wasn’t about me or hubby. I have a little man to look after and he is a joy. Yes, those sleep deprivation nights and days are a pain but when he looked at me with love in his eyes, big cuddles, or reaching a milestone, my heart swells with joy. Looking back, being happier in general certainly help my body recover. I truly believe it heals from within. The mind and body connection is true and things started falling in place.

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(Taken in March 2014. I found a pair of shorts that I used to wear when I was 16)

Yes, I breastfed my baby. Yes, it helped. No, it was not the miracle answer. I trained 3-4 hours a week and ate well. On days that I do not train, I walk heaps. I do squats, lunges and thrusters with my baby. I do silly dances. I do everything a mum does. I also stretch, relax and do pilates at home from time to time. I eat chocolate. I drink coffee.

 

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(Photos taken in Sept 2013, Oct 2013, Nov 2013 and Dec 2013 as part of a 12 weeks eating clean and exercising challenge)

It was NOT easy. There were no shortcuts. It was consistency and being disciplined that got me the results I wanted. I’m not perfect. There are fitness goals that I still want to achieve.  I am less critical of myself and embrace my new body (excess skin and all) a little more. I count my blessings my body is able to function well and I have a baby boy to boost of. I am a mum and I’m proud of that. You see, there are more reasons to be healthy. I want my son to have a set of healthy parents and a lifestyle that will make him strong and healthy. He needs to see that life is to be enjoyed and health is to be earned.

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(June 2014)

 To the naysayers out there. To people who often comment that it is nature who gave me what I have. That’s not true. I made quite a few decisions over this period of time.

– I want to be fitter. So I started doing more activity.

– I need to be smarter about time. What can I do to have a better bang for my time?  I train 3-4 hours a week by doing metabolic conditioning and boxing. That’s nearly half the time I used to spent at the gym. I have a growing weight aka baby that I use to go for walks and exercises. He has fun and I got some movement happening. FIY this morning I did 20 squats, 20 thrusters and 15 minutes of Pilates with him.

– I plan my meals. I write a menu weekly and we shop accordingly. My fridge is full of vegetables and fruits on Saturday and quite empty by the following Friday.

– I kept a diary and tracked my food intake for 6 months. I no longer do the calorie counting thing now. The early days of tracking ensure that I have enough nutrition. I found that I under eat as I am usually too busy with baby to remember I’m hungry. That is bad news because I would stuff my mouth when I sit down in the evening when baby is asleep.

– I have a coach and a team of close friends who kept encouraging me.

– I started experimenting and making our snacks and desserts. I made the decision that eating clean should be delicious. I make snacks, breakfasts and meals for my whole family.

– I threw away anything that is processed. I have no flour in my pantry.

– I plan emergency meals. Those nights that I am too tired to cook? We would have roast chicken from the deli with a salad, or take away from our local sushi place for some sashimi salad. I might have dishes that I bulk cook stashed away in the freezer that we could re heat.

-Most of my friends and family are aware of my plans to be healthy. Some thought I was obsessive and over the top but most came to the table when they saw my results. It took YEARS for them to realise that eating clean for me is a lifelong decision. I was consistent through these years, hence most came around more recently. Note: I really think that not having cheat days helped demonstrate consistency. Cheat days or meals denote that there are bad food should be eaten on a certain day. On hindsight, that’s a diet. Eating clean mostly and then enjoying food when you want in moderation is living life.

– I educated myself about portion sizes. I slow down when I eat. I remember that food is for nourishment and enjoyment.

– I do silly dances and gave mental pats on my back when I achieved mini goals at the gym.

– I decided to be kinder to myself. It’s ok not to workout daily. A stretch to me is a workout too. Like everyone, I have had crappy days at the gym. I have days when I don’t feel as good as I like to be. On the other side of the coin, I have more days that I feel productive, happy and loved. That’s being a human.

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(April 2014)

Overall, I learned that being healthy is part of my identity. It’s not a phase. I’m not on a diet. It did not happen overnight. No, i’m not a runner. No, it’s not because I’m “young”. No, it’s not because I have not been eating. No, it’s not because of my breastfeeding.

I’m not saying that those factors did not contribute to it. I’m saying that it took effort, time, planning and consistency. It took tweaking of meals and exercise programs. It was a mindset shift. There were no magic portions or pills.

So before you comment to someone that it was because >>>>> of some magical reason that they lost weight or looked good, perhaps consider that it was a series of decision and actions that got the person where they want to be.

Because life is a journey. My journey has just began.

 

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 (May 2014)

 

 

 

Workout: 20 min kettlebell AMRAP

Today’s Workout:

5 rounds of 40:20 (40 seconds work 20 seconds rest)

  1. Goblet Squats
  2. Sprints (originally kettlebell cleans)
  3. Halo (20s each way)
  4. Kettlebell Swings

Don’t underestimate this workout – I did. It was 20 minutes of solid hard work! The cleans were subbed as not all of us were comfortable with the movement yet.

Good fun 🙂

Filthy 50

There was once upon a time where I can’t even do thrusters. Yes, thrusters are my nemesis. A previous car accident means my shoulder and neck muscles are prone to injuries. I struggled to finish a drill before with 15 kg and had to go down to just using a bar. That was incident 1. In incident 2, I could hardly do 15 thrusters with 10 kg in 40 seconds.

 

But there is something encouraging and uplifting when you overcome your nemesis.

 

So we did Filthy 50 yesterday. yup! 10 exercises. 50 reps. Sounds awesome right?

Those movements were:

– Trx Rows

– Overhead squats

– box jumps

– Push ups

-Kb Swings

– Sit ups

– Thursters

-Bicycles

-Mountain Climbers

– Burpees.

In actual fact, I had 3 nemesis in this WOD. Overhead squats aren’t my favourite but neither are box jumps. I just can’t freakin get over in my head to jump up a box post pregnancy! (Yes, I could do it pre pregnancy. I’m still puzzled by that). Well, I will conquer that one day. Now, I’m jumping on a shorter step to get myself acquainted with jumping to a higher platform again. My head did perceive things differently after a baby!

Filthy 50 tests everything. Endurance, technique, cardio, strength. If you don’t feel it today, you will tomorrow.

I did it  under 25 minutes. Each and every one of those exercises. It’s not GREAT timing but it’s a WOD done. A more challenging one as well. What helped?

1) Breathing. Just practising to breathe right through the nose and huff out through each squats.

2) Concentrating on using my glutes. Technique helps. I’m pushing using my hips through squats.

3) Concentrating on form and using my core. EVERYTHING uses the core. When I slack, everything slack. keep it tight and the movements flow.

4) Counting to 30 and then start counting backwards. Mentally, the numbers go smaller and seems manageable.

5) Taking some breaks. For push ups, thrusters and burpees, I broke the set up. I did 3 sets of 10 and then if need be, break it to 5s. I try to stick with 10s.

6) Having encouraging friends around help. I learned this as a participant but also when seeing others doing their work out. A gentle “GO!” and “You can do this!” makes a difference.

 

The feeling of achieving and finishing something you struggled before? Amazing.

Kaffir Lime & Blueberry Cupcakes

What to do when you have a never ending supply of lemons, lime and kaffir limes?

Experiment with food… and more different types of food!

I was talking to Daph about what to do with lemons and baking, she directed me to the cupcakes she recently made here, which was a variation of PaleOMG’s recipe

I’ve made my own variation as I am using kaffir limes, which are much stronger in flavour. took me a couple of tries but we got there eventually x) Recipe below!

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Makes: 10 cupcakes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Coconut (70g)
  • Pinch of Salt
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 6 small Eggs (230g)
  • 1/3 cup Almond Milk
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 1/3 cup Kaffir Lime Juice
  • 1 cup Frozen Blueberries

Method:

  1. Sift dry ingredients together
  2. Blend up wet ingredients
  3. Add wet to dry and mix together
  4. Fold berries in last
  5. Scoop into moulds and bake for 20-25 mins. I let them brown up some before I take them out

Optional:

As they rest, take a skewer and poke a few holes in the top, use a teaspoon to pour some leftover juice into the muffins – this will let it soak up some fresh flavour 🙂 only an option, I like a good zesty flavour in it.

Substitutions:

  • Blueberries – for any kind of berries you like
  • Kaffir Lime – if you tried using normal lemons, I am guessing you will need more lemon juice – Daph’s recipe suggests 2 lemons, you can try that 🙂

 

Nutrition:

Calories: 703 total (~71 per cupcake)

  • 31g fat
  • 61g carbs
  • 36g protein

 

Body image Part 2

Mel wrote recently about her struggles with body image. It prompted me to reflect about my struggles too.

I was obese as a teenager and was the heavy unattractive girl in class. You know, the one who have difficultly buying clothes because nothing fits?

That was me.

I was in a TAF healthy club at school. Compulsory as I was overweight. We did running and exercises 3 times a week in the morning before classes. Read TAF backwards- it says FAT!

Growing up, I felt sluggish, unhappy and disliked most of the clothes I could find and wear. A size 32 jeans when you are 15 years old is not cool!

I hit a massive 85kg on my 1.62m frame when I was 19. Slowly, I lost the weight but could never shake off that image I have as a child. Every time I look in the mirror, I would scrutinize myself. My thighs, hips, tummy etc.

I’m a lot older now. And a mother of a 10 month old baby boy. Pregnancy has changed me and my body. The first few months, it was hard. I’m proud of what my body did but also sad I was weak and had loose bits everywhere.

Prior to pregnancy, I found that it’s really is a mind game on how we perceived ourselves. What helped me was to focus on fitness goals.

Post pregnancy, I began to train slowly. I also realised that my focus is my son and family now. I reduced my training hours from 6 hours a week to 3 hours. Other times, I walked and stretch. I used my son as a weight bearing exercise. I focused in nourishing my body with the right foods.

I am happier as a person. I’m feeling less stressed. As the weight reduces, and my strength returned, I’m noticing how I feel much happier as I look into the mirror. I wasn’t as mean to myself. I begin to realise, I can reach a point where I’m more comfortable with my body. Yes there will always be something I like to change but I’m also more content. It does not bother me as much more be chase I’m happier within.

I noticed then that the key of self image, is to look beyond what makes you happy and unhappy. Self image could be a symptom of what’s lurking underneath. It could be not feeling contented in your life, or a lack of control in other areas of your life.

Self image is the whole package. Once you feel the stability internally, things might fall in place a little more. I’m more likely to laugh comments off or reply them in a way to let people know that’s not acceptable.

I think it’s a battle that would haunt me from time to time. It’s not going to be perfect. But life is too short not to play and laugh with my little family.

Perhaps next week, I might have to read this post again to remind me of what’s more important. But for the moment, I’m going to stay on the path of feeling healthy, fit and knowing that contentment and self-image comes from within- and that might be a life long journey of self work.

Body Image

Who else struggles with body image?

I looked in the mirror one morning and freaked out – It looked like I had gained a kilo or so, my tummy was bigger and my arms and thighs had “beefed up”. It sent me into a crazy obsession and I have been struggling to bring myself back to reality. I started wearing dresses to hide the tummy and thighs, jumpers to hide the arms. I felt lost in a long moment of self hate and didn’t know what to do about it. My mind was going inside out of itself with self hate! (in reality – I had inflammation of the shoulders/lats/pecks, but in the moment this was not my concern)

That feeling of knowing you’re exaggerating and being crazy, yet you can’t help it!!

Any ladies have moments like these too?

The fit life is definitely an ongoing journey and no matter how mentally strong you are, sometimes these things just happen once in a while for girls. In the Asian society I’m thinking happens quite often if you are not petite like myself.

Tips:

  1. Be very self aware
    • Know your feelings and moods
    • Recognise your overreactions
    • Recognise your obsessions
    • Remember that your body shape (and bone structure) is not the same as the person you’re seeing on TV/internet
  2. Stay away from the scales and measuring tapes
  3. Despite your million self criticisms, remember the person next to you loves you!!

It’s a mental game with yourself. I find constant reminders of these stop me from tipping over that edge in my moments.

I follow Korean dramas and music, so I’m all over the Kpop culture, I must admit, I’m totally sucked in! These ladies with plastic surgery are beautiful, and when that’s what you watch, it warps your mind into thinking that’s what the perception of women should be like. I’m in Australia too, so I can’t imagine what this is like in Korea – please share your thoughts on Kpop culture.

If you’re unfamiliar with Kpop culture – google image: Girls Generation, Sistar, Kara, Miss A, 2ne1, Apink, After School – these are some of the most popular girl groups in Korea

Having said this, I’m still in an Asian community, where “hello” is “omo you’ve lost so much weight!” or a split second moment of silence as they do a double take if you’ve gained weight… other than that, it’s usually “have you eaten? are you hungry? (for the aunties 😀 )” Unfortunately, it’s very hard to escape judgement on physical appearance  in this society.

 

Poached eggs on sauté mushrooms and wilted spinach

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I love a long weekend. It’s one extra day I get to have hubby home with me. This time round, we headed to Swan Valley for a Sunday lunch and outing. But before that, I decided to cook him a hot breakfast.

I don’t always get poached eggs right. If you know me, you would know I have the tendency to keep trying till I get something right. Poached eggs was one of those times!

The secret I think is to have a boiling saucepan of water with sufficient vinegar. I reckon 1/4 cup or just slightly under. That just brings the egg together. Swirl the water, break an egg, drop it and continue to swirl the water outside of the egg.

And there we have it, a nice runny poached egg to go with gorgeous fresh vegetables.

Poached eggs with sauté mushrooms and wilted spinach
4 fresh eggs
400 grams spinach
2 cups of mixed mushrooms.
1 tsp garlic

1) Sauté mushrooms with garlic first.

2) In a separate pan, quickly wilt washed baby spinach

3) meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Add 1/4 cup of white vinegar. Break an egg in a bowl. Swirl water. Drop egg in saucepan. Swirl water till eggs come together. Cook for 4 mins.

4) Dish up mushrooms and spinach. Set egg on top of dish.

5) Repeat poaching eggs.

6) Serve with cracked pepper and salt.