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