The Up (Weight) and Down (Weight) Cycle

If you’ve been through weightless and moved towards a healthier life, one of the questions is how do you sustain it? I don’t think there’s a simple answer to that question, and you have to find a model that fits you. For me, it’s been five years since I lost half of me and I am still working on it. I am still exercising and watching what I eat, but there are cycles that results in weight gain. The Up (Weight) and Down (Weight) Cycle.

The Up Cycle starts when there’s a lot of work, you’re tired, and you find reasons to work out less. When I was at my most healthy, I’d work out four to five days a week. After awhile, I grew comfortable with my health, and the workouts gradually decreased to three times then two times per week. No matter how much I ate, the weight barely moved on the scale. I was in a cycle of happiness. Sustained health (or so I thought.) I was good, I told myself. I could still run well. No problem.

Then age started playing a role coupled with my love of eating. Age, because I think my metabolism slowed down. It seems to slow down every five years and now that I’m nearing my forties, it seems to have moved a notch lower. I have to work out more to get the same gains.

My love of eating, over two months from Thanksgiving dinners, celebrations with friends, to New Years, trying out bread recipes, having pastries and eating it all, my weight went up. Of course, if you eat that much and still just work out two days a week it’s going to go up. Finally, my body caved and my weight went up 6 kgs (13 pounds) in a matter of one week. It’s like a technical barrier had been broken and you weren’t quite sure where it was going to stop. ‘Stop, stop’ I’d tell the weigh scale, but it didn’t listen.

The only way to stop it was to ‘reboot’ myself.

The Down (Weight) Cycle starts when I got back to running four times a week, getting to the gym earlier, working out a little bit longer, and even going on weekends. I started cooking, not just for dinners, but also for lunches. I brought my own lunches to work which consisted of various recipes with vegetables as the main dish coupled with some pork or chicken. It just required a bit more advanced planning, but you are assured a healthy meal. I cut out on my favourite baked goodies and processed foods. I have now lost 5kg (11 pounds) now and feel reenergised. I’ve still got a few more to lose but as the technical barrier broke on the way up, it breaks on the way down too.

So how do I sustain a healthy lifestyle? I realise now that for me I have to constantly remind myself, that no matter how much you have going on in your life, there’s never a reason to reduce the amount of exercise you do.  Do not cave into the ‘Lazy Me’ which comes in many forms.  She’s a tricky gal with a million reasons.

For me, I have to keep it up exercising three times per week and as I age, I find that I probably have to up the intensity as well. Also, make sure that your fridge is stocked full of veggies and good wholesome foods. Don’t fall into the trap of commercial food industry!  I make my own hummus now. 🙂

What works for you? How do you sustain it?

Travel Tales: Introducing Vientiane, Laos

Sometimes a place so close can seem so far and when you finally get there, you wonder what kept you from visiting sooner.  My work this year has given me the opportunity to travel to many South East Asian countries (as some might say “regional” travel) and though most days you miss the comfort of your own home, the almost monthly travels does have its perks; for a few hours in the evenings or early mornings, you get to explore the city.  Some cities are not so convenient, but Vientiane, Laos is a great city to walk around even if you only have a couple of hours.

It’s so charming I have to confess that I have fallen in love with it and even as I am writing, images of its streets and shops appear like a trailer in my mind.   It’s as if I have been charmed, intoxicated.  There’s something about the place that makes me yearn to go back and visit once more.

A city with a population of roughly 700,000 to 800,000 on the banks of the Mekong river, Vientiane still retains many of it’s old world charms.  There are no shopping malls, no large advertisement billboards or flashing electronic ads to numb our senses but rather there are streets of local shops and eateries nestled in between boutique hotels and guests houses.   I’m not sure how long this old world charm this will last, seeing that there are plans to build a large World Trade Centre Complex, but I have to admit I have a selfish dream that it will continue to retain its charm.

What is there to see in Vientiane and should you visit it?  Find out and follow me on my next few posts as I take you on a virtual tour around the city to ancient temples, bakeries, eateries and shopping.


Myth 10: Do not eat after dinner time

I love this myth. This is a myth that says one should not eat after a certain time if one wants to lose weight because food eaten later will turn into fat.  I think at a certain time during my chubby days I too tried this and guess what? I stayed chubby.  I still ate a lot and did not exercise and so yes, I remained chubby no matter what time I ate.

Now the myth works for some people, because they end up eating less.  They tell themselves not to eat after a certain hour, and so mindless snacking is avoided.    Especially if you lived in an apartment like I did, the fridge was just convenient and easy access.  Watching TV, I could see the fridge and when you have nowhere to walk, (because the space is small)  you walk to the fridge.  You open the fridge and peek inside. A snack, a piece of cake, a chocolate catches your eyes and before you know it, it’s in your stomach!

Some say, however, that eating late results in more fat because your metabolism slows down at night and burn less fat.  You therefore end up storing more fat.  While your metabolism does indeed slow down when you are sleeping, it continues to burn and churn food in your stomach.  It might take longer, but it is still burning.    It therefore doesn’t really matter what time you eat. What matters is HOW MUCH you eat.

Now if you end up having a huge dinner, do not skip your next meal in an attempt to lose weight. Skipping a meal will make you go into “starvation mode” and your body will tell you to eat more at the next meal.  What happens is you end up eating more than you otherwise would have.  Even if you’ve had a big meal, have a lighter next meal, but do continue to eat.  Keep your blood sugar balanced!

So this Christmas season, don’t eat too much, don’t starve yourself and do allow yourself to eat late for parties galore! The only thing you have to becareful of is HOW MUCH you eat and how much you exercise off!  Happy Holidays!

A closet too big

I want to write about so many things, but I cannot do it all in one night so today I thought I’d write about a little revelation I had today. It has to do with clothes. Yes, girls never have enough clothes, shoes bags and accessories.  We love our little fashion items and do not hesitate to buy more even though we have closets full of similar stuff at home.   Then we run out of space and need more.

Today I went to pick up a suit I had made.   On the way out,  I passed by some stores and spotted several nice dresses.  Thinking to myself that I am always wearing the same style of clothes, a dark skirt and a shirt,  I thought to myself that I should get something different.  (I suppose that’s the excuse I give myself.)

I went in and tried on dresses, pants and shoes.  I eventually bought myself a dress and a jacket. Yes, I now have something new for this holiday season. I am happy.

Upon returning home, as I always do when I get something new, I decided to take out something old from my closet and put it in the bag for donation.   As I started going through my closet, an idea struck me.

I will rearrange my closet into outfits so that it is easier and faster for me in the morning.

(I do this before going to run, but I have never done it for my entire closet.  Some of you might have already thought of this, but this is a new thing for me. How do you organize your closet?)

No longer would I sort my clothes according to type and colour:  Pants, shirts, t-shirts, etc… white, black… Arranging my closet this way resulted in me always grabbing any old shirt and a skirt that matched.   I dressed almost the same week after week.  I wore what was convenient.   Black skirt and a shirt.   My weekend clothes would be jeans and a t-shirt.   How boring.  I started getting bored of myself.

The revelation that came to me through all this was not about putting clothes into outfits, but that I had so much clothing, just work clothes alone, I had enough outfits to last me five weeks!

This means that for five weeks (with five working days each) I would not repeat a dress, a suit, a skirt, a shirt, a cardigan, a scarf nor a belt.  I even had shirts to spare.

For someone who always felt like she did not have enough clothes, especially work clothes, this is a HUGE revelation. For the first time I realize do have enough work clothes.  I can dress everyday without repeating my clothes and best of all, I can wear and utilize my more expensive clothing.  My nicer clothes had previously been saved for “special” days but those do not come that often so I might as well just take them out and enjoy them before they get old!

Weekend clothes?  I could go many months without repeating. Different styles too. Not just jeans and a t-shirt. It’s crazy. I have too much clothing.

After today, I think I will continue to arrange my closet by outfits.  This way I know what clothes I need and what needs to be donated.  I hope it works!  (This has also literally put a stop to any excuse I have to keep on shopping.)

This holiday season, why don’t you go through your closet and see how much you have? (You might be surprised!) Take out old clothes that haven’t been touched or don’t fit anywhere and donate them to those less fortunate.  Happy Holidays everyone!

Gone Bananas

Courtesy of Flickr

The world has gone bananas.  Bombings, shootings and phone hacking scandals are what dominate the headlines.  Everywhere I go, those are what people are reading about.  The world has indeed gone bananas.  If you can’t already guess by now, I thought today I’d write about how good it is to actually go “bananas.”  No, don’t take me literally and go crazy,  what I want to say is eat bananas.

The past few weeks, I’ve returned to my healthy snack routine at the office which involves daily does of fresh bananas.  I bring along two each morning.  One for my mid morning snack and one for the mid afternoon snack.  Some days if I anticipate long hours, I bring an extra banana.

They are great especially if you are looking for a healthy alternative to chips, fried chicken or the grilled pork skewers that set up shop outside the office building. Bananas are rich in fiber and so they keep you filling full.  If you notice, atheletes (especially tennis players) will have a banana during their short breaks.  Why?  bananas release energy quickly, keeping you full of energy during that race or workout.

Not only that, according to bananas are very low in saturated fact.  For a medium sized banana, it is roughly 104 calories with only 4 coming from fat. How wonderful is that?   Then for those who have high cholesterol, there’s good news.  Bananas have no cholesterol and are very low in sodium.  The high level of dietary fiber in bananas keep your energy level in check, regulates your bowel movements and since it is not acidic, it does not affect those with ulcers.   It’s high in potassium, and very high in vitamin B6 which is  supposedly good for your immune system and regulating hormones.  B6 reduces inflammation and has been said to help those with learning or developmental problems.  Oh, it also has a lot of vitamin C which we all know is good for us!!

So if you find yourself hungry, and don’t know what to eat (which isn’t french fries or other fatty foods) then grab yourself a banana to eat.  There are many different types of bananas out there, but my favorite is the chiquita style one. The big one 🙂

Have a happy banana day! (oh, don’t think that you can have Tokyo Bananas instead, or banana cakes, etc..those will be added with sugar which isn’t as healthy as having fresh bananas)

Fitness Tip: Wear Pants

If you are like me, somedays the discipline just goes on holiday and it takes awhile to get it back.  You start on a series of eating out with friends, then more and more reunions come your way, and before you know it, you keep wanting to eat more.    For the ladies out there, here’s a tip on how to make sure you don’t eat too much:  Wear Pants.  Wear Jeans.  or Wear Skirts with waists that do not expand.

I’m a big fan of skirts and dresses and I love the ones without any waists.  They just flow over and then you tie it up with a little belt or a bow to finish the look.  They’re comfortable, they’re convenient and they are perfect for Bangkok’s hot weather.  However, they can be quite dangerous if you eat out a lot when your discipline has gone on holiday.  You don’t feel your stomach expanding and you can keep on eating till your heart’s content.  As long as the mind isn’t full, there is more room to grow (your stomach that is).

So the past two weeks, I have put aside the soft dresses and opted instead for jeans. (Not the loose ones, wear ones that are form fitting)  They’re great. They help remind me that I’m full.  Sitting on my waist, whenever my stomach starts expanding too much, it will start getting tight.  You know then that you’ve eaten your fair amount of food.  (Ideally it shouldn’t get too tight)  You know then that this is all you should eat.  This is enough for this one sitting.  It gets uncomfortable.

Of course it doesn’t only have to be jeans, but I think that they are the most form fitting pants and since they are tightly woven, they won’t expand too much. (They work great for me :))  If you wear soft cotton pants, the effect will be much less and you might end up eating more than you should.    Of course nothing beats being aware of what you eat, but this is a tool that can help you when you forget 🙂    What do you think?  What are other ways you can remind yourself?

Yakult Yakult

I’m always looking for something healthy to eat and drink, but when you are on a weightloss program things get a lot tougher.  I love drinking Yakult.  If you don’t know what it is, it is probiotic drink made by fermenting skimmed milk with a special strain of Lactobacillus.  This is supposedly a very healthy drink that is supposed to regulate your bowel movements and help you in a zillion ways.

It’s an awesome drink that refreshes me every time I drink it.  I love it.   The funniest thing is that it is only sold by direct sales.  It’s not easily found in stores and you have to find it from one of the Yakult ladies dressed in their brown uniform with a brown cap.  Originally from Japan, this drink is now sold worldwide.

However, if you are on a diet, I have to tell you this.  BEWARE.  Yakult is extremely high in sugar with roughly 17 grams of sugar in a 100g serving!!  That’s already around 6% of your suggested daily intake.  Sugar, as I’ve mentioned before slows down your metabolism.  If you have it first thing in the morning, it does no good for one who is trying to lose weight.  Oh, it’s also roughly 75 calories, which is relatively high for such a small bottle.  I always had two at a time!

Some also claim that to really get all the added benefits of Lactobacillus, you need to drink a lot more than that one bottle.  I have no scientific evidence, so you will have to do your own research.  Just note, beware of the sugar in Yakult!

Vienna: Herren or Damen?

Here’s a light story to start off the week and welcome March!  February is just saying farewell after a mere 28 days.  Don’t you love it?  For those who look forward to getting their salary, this is a great month 🙂 It comes early 🙂  The story I want to tell today is a true story that you should all take note when you visit Vienna or any other German speaking country.  It’s about two very simple yet very important words:  Herren, Damen.

I remember this like it was yesterday.  I was sitting at Central cafe with a group of friends I had just taken for a walk around the Stephansdom and the Hofburg.  We were tired and what better place to rest than at Central cafe.  We ordered hot chocolate, coffee, and apple strudel. While waiting one of my friends had to go for natured called.  I waved her towards the bathroom and didn’t think much about it.  It was just behind the painting and easy to find.  The rest of us sat and talked with not a worry in the world.  We were on vacation and Vienna was a safe place to be.

Then suddenly our friend returns flushed in the face and sounds like she had just been on an adventure.  She tells us her story.  She walks towards the bathrooms and sees two words:  Herren, Damen.  One on each door.  Now if you’ve never been to a German speaking country and have no clue about their language, these two words can look like Greek or Chinese.  It makes no sense.   

The big question was, “Which one is the women’s bathroom, which one is the men’s?”  She had no clue and there was no one walking in and out.  No help.  So being the logical person she is she reasoned that since in English, “her” was used when referring to females, “Herren” which has a “her” must undoubtedly be the women’s bathroom.   That makes sense right?  English and German are both Germanic languages.

She walks in. 

Now what do you think happened?  Did she get the right door?

For those who answered “No”, kudos to you.   For those who answered “Yes” please remember this!  In German, “Herren” means “Men” and Damen means “Women”!!!  So if you’re a female, go into the room marked with Damen!   If this helps,  in old english women were sometimes referred to as “dames” though now it is considered slightly derogatory.

Storage Tip: Earrings and Cufflinks

Happy Friday 🙂 It’s the first Friday of the month, and the first Friday of 2011. Somehow I feel like it has already been a few months since the New Years.  There is so much to do.  This year also sounds futuristic and as if it came from a sci-fi movie.  Nevertheless, it is here and ready for us to embrace.  The office opposite my building is certainly embracing it.  For a few hours now, they have been partying with food, music and dancing. It sounds fun.  

The New Years is also a time for us to get organized and clean up our living space.  I’ve been trying to clear up my accumulated junk, but the pile seems to come out from Mary Poppins’ bag.  Once I take things out of drawers and shelves, they suddenly blossom and grow in size. I have piles of things I have to donate, piles of things waiting to go into storage, and piles of things I have to sort.  The piles of things to sort is just so large sometimes I wonder if I’d every finish it this lifetime. 

I suppose I just have to one day take out a large black garbage bag, hold my breath and throw things in without a second thought.  It’s the memories of things that make it hard for us to throw away.    So in the process of doing all this,  I am also finding smarter ways to store my things. 

Today I want to share a great way to store earrings. For guys reading this, it could serve as a great way to store cufflinks or other small tie pins.  I used to hang earrings on little stands, but they got dusty.  No good.

Now, I found these plastic boxes at the department store and they are sectioned into lovely little squares, perfect for a pair of earrings.  They are also lined with foam so that your earrings don’t get scratched.   It’s only around 130 THB for a box big enough to hold 27 pairs.  They also have smaller boxes with 14 sections available.   Oh, and if you go to the Export-Import Fairs that are held twice a year in Bangkok (BIG +BIH at Impact Arena) you can get these boxes at really good deals!

Okie, that’s all for today folks! If you have other great ways and ideas in which to store things, please share with us!  I’m always eager to hear how I can better store my junk!

10 Tips on How to Get that Diet Started!

Now the year has started and the holiday festivities are slowing losing momentum (at least until the Chinese New Year) let’s all start the year out being fit and healthy! A lot of people start the year with a resolution to lose some weight and be healthy. It often works for a couple months and then somehow the goal gets lost amidst all the work and whatever life brings us and we end the year having gained weight rather than having lost weight. That was me for probably more than a decade or so. No more. It still feels surreal having lost 15kg (32 lbs). This time last year, I was still working on my last few kgs. Wow.

This year, for the first time, my goal is to just maintain my weight and I tell you it feels WONDERFUL. It’s amazingly less stress and I don’t have to start the year with a guilty feeling knowing I didn’t make it happen last year and so I have to do it again this year. I can move on with my life and work on other goals.

Yes, it feels good. And I want everyone to feel good. So I urge anyone whose goal this year is to lose weight, to MAKE IT HAPPEN and have a NEW Life.

Here are some basic tips to get started:

1. Buy a weigh scale: Don’t be in denial about your weight. Weigh yourself everyday and face the facts. It also helps you understand how much eating, and exercise affects your weight.

2. Get a calendar and plan out your exercise routine: The most effective weightloss routine for me was running in intervals. Walk 5 min warm up, run 3 minutes fast, walk 3 minutes. Alternate like this 4 times. After a week or so, increase the speed and the number of minutes.

3. Keep a food diary. A lot of people tell me, “I don’t eat that much and I exercise three times a week, but how come I don’t lose weight?” When I start digging in and ask them about what foods they eat, a sudden realization comes.. They do eat a lot.

4. Drink lots of water: Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. Common belief is to have at least a liter a day. Before I was always dehydrated and my body went into “starvation mode.” It stored water for later use. When I started drinking, I started losing weight. It might involve many trips to the bathroom, but after awhile you will find yourself drinking more and visiting the loo less frequently.

5. Cut down on sugar: Sugar slows down your metabolism! Avoid it! If you must, have some carbs instead.

6. Take the stairs: If you need to contact someone a few floors up or down, take the stairs. It keeps you active and it helps preserve the world’s energy. It’s a win win situation! Every little calorie counts!

7. Make your goal PUBLIC! Once you start announcing the fact that you are dieting to everyone, you will feel pressured to make it succeed. It really works, trust me. It also lets friends understand you when you have to forgo that delicious but unhealthy lunch of burgers and fries.

8. Plan your meals: If you know you are having a big dinner party you can’t get out of tomorrow. Make sure you eat light the day before and get your exercise before the meal and make sure you exercise AFTER. This way you can be sure you don’t pack on the pounds after that party.

9. Portion control: Eat delicious food, but have small portions. If you are craving for some chocolate, have dark and don’t have an entire bar. If you crave some pasta, have some, but don’t over indulge. This made my diet sustainable. I could not completely forgo eating foods I love, but I would not let it stop me from reaching my goal either. Have milestones and reward yourself with little treats, but don’t have it all the time and every day.

10. Remember it’s only for a few months: Remind yourself that you only have to be strictly disciplined for a few months. It might sound awful having to restrict what you eat and exercise, but hey, after you reach your goal your life is SIGNIFICANTLY better. Maintaining your weight is much much easier!! I’d rather suffer for a few months than suffer the rest of my life with weight problems!

Also make sure that you lose weight healthily. That means roughly 2kgs (1lb) per month. It’s not much, but its better to go slowly but surely. Little by little, keep it sustainable and keep it going! This year is your year to be healthy and FIT! You are doing it for YOU, for YOURSELF and no one else. It’s the greatest gift you can give yourself 🙂

I hope this helps and if any of you successfully lost weight, please share your tips and ideas on how you did it. I’m sure it will be of great help to those dieting.

(Check out my previous posts focusing on weightloss tips which can be found in March and April 2010)