Fun Sized Fitness: Do Numbers Matter?

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From when I first started on this fitness journey to October 2015 (when I was at my lowest weight), I had dropped a total of 15 kilograms. I was at my lightest and smallest then. Ecstatically, I brought armfuls of clothing to my tailor to get them sized down. Overall, I estimated I had dropped 3 dress sizes, depending on which brand we were looking at. One of my biggest fears was I wouldn’t be able to maintain my weight and would not be able to fit into any of the work clothes I had gotten tailored.

With the weeklong festivities of Chinese New Year and my dear friend, Cristin, visiting me from out of town, my regular clean eating habits were thrown out the window. Even after the holidays were over, my eating habits never fully returned to the way they were as my work schedule got the best of me. I started to indulge more food-wise. Gradually, the numbers on the scale started creeping back up. BUT, my clothes were fitting better than ever before and I was feeling fitter and more energetic than ever before? Why was that?

It’s very simple. Muscles. Over the past year, I had built muscle which not only slimmed me down, but also increased my base metabolic rate. This means that even if I didn’t work out on a particular day, I still burned more calories than I would’ve before. And muscle is denser than fat, which meant that a particular volume of muscle would weigh more than the same volume of fat.

But honestly, numbers don’t really matter. Your energy levels, your emotions, how you feel about yourself are much more important than any stupid number. At the end of the day, we should all accept and love our bodies for being healthy and strong and propelling us to do wonderful things with our lives.


I stand by the importance of staying active. If possible, I like to be in the gym at least 4-5 days a week. But what if you are absolutely crunched on time? Chobani was wonderful enough to provide some tips on how you can easily burn 100 calories anywhere. My personal favorite is to just put on some music and dance around the house. Guilty pleasure song of the moment to rock out to? Cake by the Ocean by DNCE. Also, visit the Chobani – Simply 100 site for more tips on how to get delicious and healthy snacks for only 100 calories. Chobani was my yogurt of choice when I was still living in the US. If they were available in Taiwan, my life would be complete.

Fun Sized Fitness: Not Apologizing for My Lifestyle

I came across this article from New York Magazine a few days ago and it resonated with me. I remember when I initially started to eat cleaner and exercise more, there was nothing but encouragement around me. I was SO out of shape at that point that I don’t think anyone objected me to changing my situation. I packed salads and grilled fish for lunch at the office. But after a while, people would start to put out the odd remark such as, “Wow, is that all you’re eating?” or “Why are you always eating so clean?” I didn’t make too much of it at the time and I simply replied that I was trying to be healthier.

After I came back to Taiwan, I started hitting the gym hardcore. Especially after my personal training sessions ended, I ramped up gym sessions to at least 5 days a week. I also continued to eat clean, which, by the way, is EXTREMELY HARD to do in Taiwan. I cut out rice, a staple in the Taiwanese diet, and I try to stay away from all meat except lean fish. Those around me took notice. In place of encouragement, I was getting eye-rolling and judgmental remarks along the lines of, “Oh, you’re one of THOSE people now.” I suddenly felt like I was being guilted for exercising and eating cleaner and that I was being reversed body-shamed for being fit.

It was not a good feeling to have. I feel women, in this day and age, can never do anything right when it comes to fitness. You’re either too curvy, too voluptuous, too fat, or you’re too skinny, too thin, or too fit. I am NOT going to apologizing for my lifestyle. I’m not going to feel bad for eating healthy at the office while other people are chowing down on fried dumplings or fried chicken. I will not apologize for going to the gym on a regular basis. I will not be shamed by people who feel a need to judge me because they see it as a deflection for their own laziness. I will continue to be the fitness goddess that I am and continue to kill it at the gym.

Fun Sized Fitness: Working With a Trainer

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Hey blogosphere! It has been a while since I last posted and I just want to write down my thoughts about yet another step of progress in my fitness journey. A few weeks after I moved back to Taiwan, I joined a gym and decided to hire a personal trainer affiliated with the gym. It was not an easy decision. The gym membership itself was a hefty sum and the personal trainer was a SUPER big investment on my part. But I’m at the point in my life where my fitness and health are very important to me and this is an area where I am willing to spend big money on. So I decided to bite the bullet and purchased 24 sessions with a combination of regular personal training and TRX. I assumed the routine of having two sessions per week and it has spanned almost three months. I currently only have one session left next weekend. After that, I will be on my own again until I save up enough money to purchase more sessions.

First, let’s talk about my trainers. My gym assigned me with two trainers so they could rotate and, boy, are they two completely different people. One of them always had a structured routine planned for me. Conversation with him wasn’t as interesting and mostly centered around fitness and training. My other trainer decided which exercises we should do on the fly, usually based on what I wanted to work on and how hard I wanted him to push me. Conversation, with him, between sets was much livelier and I felt the relationship was friendlier, instead of one that was strictly between a trainer and a client. Both methods had its pros and cons, but I enjoyed my time with the second trainer more. I felt the sessions went by faster and I liked how it was more like working out with a friend.

In the beginning, I learned how to operate and train on the machines that were available at my gym. As I grew stronger, I progressed to free weights and the bar. Eventually, I was able to squat and deadlift using the bar and plates. I was also taught how to use a variety of cable machines. Towards the end, I started doing TRX with the trainer that was TRX-certified. TRX was very fun and challenging. A lot of it depends on how strong and focused your core can be and I’m a big believer in having a strong core. I’ve decided I will purchase my own set of TRX equipment so I will be able to train independently after my sessions are over. My other trainer started having me do a combination of high-intensity exercises because I had expressed to him that my main goal was to decrease body fat. He also did boxing with me for one of the sessions because he was certified in teaching boxing.

Personal Trainer_2

How do I feel after three months of working with trainers? I feel amazing. My muscle ratio is at its highest and my body fat is at its lowest. Working with trainers has also expanded my knowledge of lifting and using machines which makes working out by myself more effective and efficient. I have gotten into the habit of training by myself even without my trainers present and they believe that has played an essential part in the transformation of my body. I now better understand what to do, and I know how to squat and deadlift correctly.

I would recommend hiring a trainer if you are serious about being fit and taking your fitness to another level. But without commitment and hard work on your part, no amount of personal training will change your body. When I hired a trainer, I felt like I had plateaued and I needed an extra push. This extremely large investment did just that. Even though it was a great deal of money, it was worth every single penny and I would absolutely hire them again in the future.

Fun Sized Fitness: One Year Progress

20150717_1It’s been roughly one year since I embarked on my fun sized fitness journey and I’m thrilled to say amazing progress has been made! I know it may not look like significant change in these photos, but let me walk you through this.

Since my last progress post, I’ve only lost 3 additional kilos (about 7 lbs), bringing my total loss to 10 kg (22lbs). But the numbers aren’t important. What’s more important is that I’m currently in the best shape I’ve been my entire life! I feel so much stronger, more agile, more energetic. I feel happier and I sleep like a baby. Going down three dress sizes is only one of the perks.

20150717_3My workout routine consists of doing mat Pilates about 5 times a week. I follow Blogilates’ workout calendars. Her workout videos are free and readily available on Youtube. I also attend two reformer Pilates classes per week. Working with the reformer is slightly different than just being on the mat and it also helps to have an instructor correct your form. I’m lucky to have found an amazing instructor at the studio that I go to. I’ve been taking classes with her for seven months and she continues to challenge my muscles with advanced variations. Pilates really helped me tone up my muscles, especially my core. I have much better balance now, thanks to my core stability. But around February, I started to plateau. I was eating clean and still working out consistently, but I discovered that my muscles were no longer being challenged.

So I decided to up my workouts. I added high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and weight lifting into the mix. On the weekdays that I don’t have my reformer Pilates class, I will do a 20 minute HIIT workout after my morning mat Pilates workout. Then, in the afternoon, I squeeze in a 40-45 minute weightlifting routine at the gym. While this may seem like a lot of time spent on working out, in reality and if done correctly, total workout time is only 1hr 40 minutes. And I’m sure most people easily spend that amount of time (or much more) aimlessly goofing around on the Internet or in front of the TV.

20150717_2I work out a ton. But the most important lesson I’ve learned over the past year is: your diet is 80-90% of your weight loss. I didn’t realize this from the beginning and I still ate crap every day. Or, I ate clean, but I ate too much. It’s simple math. Eat fewer calories than what you burn, and you’ll lose the fat. I find that keeping a food journal really keeps you aware of the stuff you’re putting in your body. If you’re forced to list every piece of junk you eat, you’ll stop and ask yourself if it’s really necessary. I tried the journaling route for a bit but I thought it was too much of a hassle to lug around a journal all day. So I decided to use My Fitness Pal. It’s an app that lets you keep track of the food and how many calories you are eating. You can also use it to log exercise and how many calories you are burning. But I find the MFP exercise logging functions to be a little lacking. I recently got a Jawbone Up2, a fitness tracker. Jawbone has its own app that is great at tracking the calories you burn. And the best part? You can link the two apps together and I find that they complement each other perfectly! The Up2 also tracks your sleep time and quality.

This brings me to my next point. Another vital aspect of getting healthy? Getting enough sleep and enough water in your system. Experts recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Also, it’s important to be asleep between the hours of 10pm -1am. That’s when your liver does its thing and processes all of the toxins in your system. So even if you’re getting 7 hours, but going to bed after 1am, that’s still a no-go. I personally prefer going to be bed around 11 and waking up around 6:30. This allows me to get my morning workout in before I start work at 8:30. You must also drink water throughout day. There are different recommended amounts, depending on who you listen to. But the best guideline I have heard is to drink enough water so the color of your urine is close to clear.

Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated. It helps to have someone compliment your progress. My family has been super supportive in doing that. The Pilates instructor that I follow on Youtube, Cassey Ho, has been really great in motivating me. Her videos and various social media outlets are always so full of energy and positive encouragement. I had the pleasure of attending one of her classes and meeting her in person when she went on her book tour and she is also like that in person. I’m also a fan of  visual motivation and since there seems to be a wellness/fitness trend right now, there is no shortage of visual motivation on Instagram, Pinterest, etc. You just gotta find what works for you.

If you’re interested, check out my other Fun Sized Fitness posts!

Fun Sized Fitness: 2 Month Progress

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It’s been about two months since I became fully committed to being healthy and I thought I would do a little progress report and share some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Progress:

I’ve lost 7 kg (about 15lb) from my heaviest weight in the summer of ’14. I’ve gone down about 2 sizes in clothing. Almost everything in my closet is a little big on me right now; or if the item was a little too snug on me before, fit perfectly now. I feel lighter on my feet and more energetic. Even though the difference may not be entirely apparent in the comparison picture above, people around me say the difference is obvious. Even my family members who see me everyday say they see it too.

Lessons learned:

1. Allow yourself to have cheat meals.
During the week, I hardly eat any carbs or meat. For protein, I add an avocado to my lunch salads, have egg whites with breakfast, and/or have some fish for dinner. Because I eat so healthy during the weekend, I allow myself to eat anything I want for 1-2 meals during the weekend. During that meal, no type of food is off-limits. But that doesn’t mean I stuff myself. I still stop when I’m moderately full. By allowing myself to have these cheat meals occasionally, it stops me from overeating or binge eating.

2. Pick an exercise routine you love
I talked about this in a previous blog post. By picking something you love doing, you’ll actually go do it! I think Pilates is super fun and I actually look forward to my hour of exercise every day.

3. You will come to love it
I used to hate working out. It was partially because I wasn’t doing a routine that I enjoyed, for example, running. But once I picked Pilates and stuck to it, I gradually came to love it. The first few months are tough, but once you overcome that initial hump, everything becomes so enjoyable. Regular exercise makes me feel so happy and awesome. If I have a headache or a stressful day at work, a Pilates session with my awesome instructor makes all of that melt away. So even if you hate working out now, trust me, you’ll get over that and come to really really love it.

4. Eating healthier gets easier too.
I used to think that eating healthy was so restrictive. I couldn’t have carbs, fried food, or most processed foods. But as I got into the habit, it got easier. I didn’t crave junk food and I actually looked forward to trying out different healthy recipes. So everything does get easier, trust me!

Although I have made a decent amount of progress, I feel I’m not done yet. I’ve pegged down bigger and tougher fitness goals to tackle. I want to start lifting weights and doing more high-intensity training to really bring my fitness level to a whole new level. It’s not just a phase, or a diet, or a health kick. Being healthy is a lifestyle and one that I think everyone should embrace.

Fun Sized Fitness: Pilates

When I was younger, I used to swim. I also dabbled in some light strength training, tennis, and yoga. But nothing ever lasted for very long. During grad school, I tried Beachbody Insanity. It was great and I could see results right away. But it was so intense that I started getting asthma attacks every night if I had completed Insanity during the day. So, sadly, I had to give that up. But last month, I started getting serious about getting healthy and getting fit. I didn’t want to be winded after going up one flight of stars. I no longer wanted to be able to only do girly push-ups. I wanted to feel strong. But I also knew the only way I would keep working out is if I did something I truly enjoyed. And I chose Pilates.

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I had known about Pilates ever since it swept the world in the early 2000’s. And when I was in undergrad, I found a fantastic Youtube channel, Blogilates, with great Pilates videos and a great instructor, Cassey Ho. Cassey calls her Pilates “Pop Pilates” because she often pairs workouts with upbeat pop music and everyone that does her workouts are called “Popsters.” In conjunction with her Youtube channel, she also has a blog which she offers monthly workout calendars to follow and recipes, and overall great advice on leading a healthier lifestyle.

When I first started out, I could barely complete one full video of hers, let alone a whole day’s worth of videos as listed on her calendars. But I’ve gotten stronger and seen results. Not only are her videos effective but they are also super fun. She often shares entertaining stories about her life during her workouts. Most importantly, she’s there to cheer you on when  you feel like quitting. Her calendars are only available if you subscribe to her weekly newsletter, but subscription is free.

I also supplement Blogilates workouts with Pilates Reformer classes in a little Pilates studio near my house. Cassey’s workouts are on the mat and mostly do not require equipment. But I thought it would be cool to learn reformer as well. My reformer classes aren’t as challenging as my Pop Pilates workouts, but I enjoy having a real life instructor give me feedback and correct my form.

The studio I go to is small but very clean and welcoming. There only 5 reformer machines in the studio, meaning the classes are small. But the most students I’ve ever encountered was 4. Most times, it’s only 2 students in a class. I’ve also had occasions when I was the only student, which meant I received the private lesson treatment for the price of a class! The walls are lined with mirrors for students to observe their own form and motivational sayings. Several different instructors rotate through the weekly schedule. After trying out a few different instructors, I’ve settled with one that I really like and I will only go to classes that she teaches.

Before I started doing Pilates, I viewed working out as a chore or as an obligation I was extremely reluctant to complete. But now, I can honestly say it’s one of the best parts of my day. I would never give up my workout time for anything. On the days I get stress headaches from work, an hour of Pilates is usually the cure. Not only is it super fun, but it’s effective too. I’ve had more than one person tell me I look fitter.

Pilates has become something I’m super passionate about and I’ve begun to explore the possibility of becoming a certified instructor one day in the future. The morale of this extremely windy post? Find a form of exercise you’re passionate about and you will definitely see results. Plus, you’ll have tons of fun. What’s to lose?

Fun Sized Fitness: Day 2 Fail

So I was all pumped about starting my fitness journey on Sunday, right? I was ready to eat clean and work out like a beast. But then… major fail on day 2. After a client meeting with a co-worker and our boss, we were treated to In ‘N Out. In my gut, I knew it was WRONG, but the thought of the toasted bun, the patty, and the fries crisped just right was too much. I gave in and said yes.

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I mean, how do you say no to this delightful yumminess? To make it a even bigger fail, I had a Coke. A COKE!! I haven’t had a soda in months. Boy, go big or go home, right?

Anyways, I thoroughly enjoyed the hell out of that meal, but I told myself, no more! So, when it rolled around to Donut Thursdays at the office, I said no. I even strolled to the office kitchen to look at the donuts and told myself I couldn’t have any. The sugar glaze, chocolate top, and rainbow sprinkles gave me their come-hither looks, but I stood firm. I closed the lid of the of the donut boxes, proud of myself for coming out stronger. I may fall, I may occasionally fall off the bandwagon, but I can also get back up. It’s standing up and learning from your mistakes that count. It’s not about winning the battles, it’s about winning the war.

Fun Sized Fitness: The Start

I’ve always struggled with my weight, even as a kid. I was a little round ball by the time I was in second grade. I also started reading tabloid magazines at a young age and my perception of a healthy body image was forever skewed. I’ve already lost count of how many fad diets I’ve been on. There have been numerous times when I told myself I needed to go on an exercise binge or health kick. But needless to say, none of these attempts were successful.

In the past, I’ve said enough is enough many a time. But this time, it’s for real. This time, I won’t give up halfway during a workout. I won’t pig out and torture myself over it. I will learn from my mistakes and move on.

I’ve been trying to eat clean and exercise a little for the past month or so and I have seen some results. But starting tomorrow, November 10th, I will begin my Fun Sized Fitness journey. I will continue to blog and share the trials and tribulations of this journey. Follow me on instagram to see pictures of my journey!