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.

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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.

 

Can an Asian eat clean? Part 2

When I first started eating clean, I was actually doing okay. The people around me (including family) just thought I was on a diet that was going to end at some point so they left me alone. They didn’t realise it was an entire lifestyle change. I started doing my own groceries and making my own foods – bear in mind this is usually a no no for Asian homes, but for my mum it was more a nuisance because I started taking up space in her kitchen.

Here’s some of the things I hear quite often:

“You don’t need a diet!”
“You’re making me feel bad for eating this”
“You’re so healthy its disgusting” (that half sarcastic/not really comment)
“If you keep this up, you’re gonna live to 100!” (not a bad comment, but its indirectly suggesting I shouldn’t be “so healthy”)

“I can count the number of grains on your plate. ZERO!”

“You’re Asian, you MUST eat rice!”

“You have a disorder.”
Just like Daphne says here in Part 1, the list goes on. I suggest you take a read of this if you have found this post first. I’m building on what Daphne has already written, hence Pt 2.I was born in Australia and have lived here my whole life. My whole extended family is in Australia and love a reason to have a family get together. They will do this as often as time allows us (public holidays, someone’s birthday, just because we haven’t done one in a while…), and every dinner is a feast. This is just how it’s been since forever. Who am I kidding? I love food, I love to eat!

Can you eat clean through all of this? How?

Yes you most definitely can! Life is made up of the decisions that you make, specifically in relation to food – what you eat, how much of it you eat and when you eat.

Daphne’s self questionnaire in making decisions:

  • Do I really want this? Does this fuel my body?
  • Have I been training hard recently? My body might need some rice/other complex carbs to recover and fuel.
  • Ok, I have not been working hard but that fried rice is made by my beloved grandmother and I really want it.
  • Are there other kinds of sugar (such as a dessert) I prefer to have instead?

For myself, I currently exercise 5-6 times a week. I’m very active, so I struggle more with portion sizing than being clean. In saying that, I do allow myself treats a few times in a week – I love “bad” food. One lolly/cookie (we have a bottomless candy jar at work) every few days is not going to harm me. One scoop of ice cream after a long week’s work is a well deserved treat. Going out for dinner with friends? Your meal is in your hands, there many options on a menu.

With clean eating, comes portion sizing – how much is too much? It’s really easy to overeat with eating clean.We’ve heard all the “recommended” intakes of food, ratios of carbs:protein:fats, energy per day, 5 veg 2  fruit, that list goes on forever. In the end, all of these are just averages that came from studies. Take these as guidelines and you won’t be too far out. You need to consider:

1) How much are you currently eating?
2) What types of foods are you eating?
3) How active are you?

I won’t make specific suggestions, because this is all just about learning what your body is trying to tell you. If you are eating a significant amount of unhealthy, try substituting for healthier options. When your body has adapted to the changes, then start looking at decreasing over intake and adjusting different foods for balanced nutrition. I will mention these things:

  • Eat when you are hungry, not bored or used to eating at that time (I’m a huge offender of this, I’m working on it though!)
  • If you work a 9-5 job, I suggest you eat breakfast (fuel your body and brain with nutrition, not coffee)
  • Don’t try to make a huge change to your diet suddenly. Have you noticed that people who try fad diets often gain back what they had lost, usually more, once they stop the diet?

When you are eating foods that are unprocessed or not very processed, they are denser in nutrition. This means that lesser should keep you full. Sometimes this takes a while to kick in – I eat really fast, so I ALWAYS have to remind myself to just sit still for about 10-15 minutes, and I will feel full from the meal I just ate.

You will learn to have a lot of patience – taking it one step at a time is not easy, but it will increase the chances of all your hard work in making changes stay that way.

I am aware I have not mentioned anything about weight loss here, I am encouraging a healthy lifestyle, which will naturally come with fat loss and aid muscle gain. Think healthy, not skinny 🙂

xx Melissa

Can an Asian eat clean?

As we started the transition of eating clean, we have heaps of people giving comments such as:

“Oh, you are on a diet? Why?”
“When will you start eating real food again?”
“You are not Asian unless you eat chicken rice, char kway teow, laksa, pho, broken rice, sushi, katsu-don, udon (Insert carb food choice)”
“You don’t need to lose any more weight!”
“How can you resist kuehs, pancakes, waffles, ice-cream, lemon meringue pie, macarons, (insert sweets, dessert and cake of choice)?”
“Are you sure you don’t have an eating disorder?”
The list goes on.
Both of us grew up in Asian families. Myself (Daphne) is from Singapore and delicious hawker food is in every corner. Being Asian, food is everything. It’s what bring families together. Just like the Italians with their pasta, rice and noodles is just part of our culture. It’s every day life.
We define eating clean as eating less processed food as possible. That means limiting if not eliminating gluten, wheat based products, sugar added products and packaged food.
Rice is an interesting one. Some people will class that as processed whereas others wont. It is also a resistant starch, which some later studies have shown that it is beneficial in protecting our gut. Noodles on the other hand, is probably more processed than rice. Anything that has to go through a machine with added ingredients to it is probably harder for our body to process it. Another factor to consider, is that while having some starch is beneficial, having too much starch means it is converted to sugar and later on fat in our bodies. This limits the body’s capabilities to function the best it could. Not exactly what we want.
Does that sound like every single food item in the supermarket or in a restaurant? After all, if we do meet friends at a Chinese/Asian restaurant, chances are there will be noodles and rice feature in every page. At any family gathering, there will be stir fry noodles and rice as part of the deal. Not eating rice can be seen as disrespectful. In the olden days, rice provides energy to our ancestors who worked hard in paddy rice fields and as labourers and farmers. Rice is precious. And now Melissa and I are saying no to a big bowl of rice?
Insert horror faces of all our relatives and friends.
It all comes down to portion sizes and personal goals. When choosing when to have rice and other Asian carb laden dishes, we ask the following questions:
1) Do I really want this? Does this fuel my body?”
2) Have I been training hard recently? My body might need some rice/other complex carbs to recover and fuel.
3) Ok, I have not been working hard but that fried rice is made by my beloved grandmother and I really want it.”
4) Are there other kinds of sugar (such as a dessert) I prefer to have instead?
And when family and friends asked and I’m choosing not to have any, I say:
“Thanks! But I’m saving my tummy for mum’s famous red bean pancakes”
“Thanks! I’m going to pass with the rice as I’m don’t feel like having any today.”
Sometimes people will make comments and to that I say:
“I do eat rice, just not everyday. Rice is not very nutritious and I much rather have food that nourishes me”
or if it is an elder in the family dishing it out….
“thank you.” Accept it, walk away but don’t eat it. However in cases like this, I would usually have some anyway- rice isn’t evil!
The truth is, there are always choices when eating with families and even dinning outside. While I do not take a lot of starch, I do love my curries, steam fish, steam eggs and vegetable stir fries and a good nourishing bowl of soup or broth.
When I eat in Singapore or dinning with in Asian eateries in Perth, I usually choose the following options:
–  Roast pork served with vegetables
– Steam chicken (think chicken rice without the rice or little rice) with vegetables
– Ordering dishes and sharing it with friends rather than noodles.
– Yong Tou Fu. However, choosing vegetables stuffed with fish paste and vegetables itself rather than deep fried items. I would have mine dry or with soup without noodles.
– Korean dishes like Saba fish and beef bulgogi. I love the side dishes of bean sprouts and kimchi as well.
– Steamboat. Stick with the thin slices of meat, seafood, small amounts of tofu and heaps of vegetables like cabbage, water spinach and mushrooms.
– Popiahs
– Japanese is usually good. I love a good beef tataki, sashimi salad, chawamushi, or even the squid salad. I do stay away from teriyaki or deep fried items. Sushi Tei is one of my favourite places to dine in Singapore.
– I do like having small portions of steamed Yam or Radish cakes.
– At dimsum, I stick to ordering steamed items filled with seafood and meat. I avoid deep fried items. I might even share a bowl of congee with my hubby.
However, there will be times when I would prefer to have prawn hokkien mee or rojak. In that case, I just indulge and enjoy.
There could be someone with a goal to increase their diet of resistant starch due to the nature of the workout they do. Personally, I do not digest too much starch well- I start feeling bloated and uncomfortable but there are people who can take heaps of starch and operate well. I’m  working out 4x a week and not daily hence I would naturally need less starch than Melissa who works out nearly every day. When I do want my sugars, I choose carefully.
It’s tricky but it can be done. Do I feel like I’m depriving myself? No. I don’t even miss it now. After a few years of eating this year, it has come naturally to me. Not only that, I know that my body is moving faster and operating better. Is it hard socially? At times. However, I find that there is usually something that I want to eat on the menu. Otherwise, I choose my favourite item and just eat. It’s also about portion sizes. It’s not about finishing everything on the plate. It’s about being mindful about the food, enjoying the flavours and remembering how well it will nourish your body.
Life is not perfect and I do not strive to be 100% in my meals. There is a lot to life than to be paranoid and worried if I have eaten some sushi or noodles. That is why I aim to cook and eat cleanly at home 90% of the time.
Happy Eating!