How I Had a Total Change in Lifestyle And Am Absolutely Loving It
I lost six kilograms in two months. In a span of eight weeks, I experienced a total change in lifestyle. With such a dramatic change however, it didn't feel uncomfortable at all. Here's a disclaimer before I begin though: This is not your usual quick-fix dieting post. Nor is this representative of any expert dietician or fitness trainer. I'm no expert. I'm just a regular young adult who used to love food and meat a lot before I suddenly embarked on a journey to change.
It wasn't a typical goal-setting scenario: I did not wake up one morning thinking: "I am going to do this now and I'll do X today and Y tomorrow and Z the next day. Rinse, repeat." No. I just did it naturally without really thinking or dreading much. If you asked me six months ago whether I would give up eating really delicious but unhealthy stuff especially chicken and all those yummy buffets and delicacies, I would probably think that you were crazy. "Of course not. I live to eat," I would have said. Yet, here I am, no longer eating fast food or drinking bubble tea or relishing huge slices of pizza. This change wasn't forced though. It wasn't a sudden decision to go cold turkey and feel miserable from self-imposed restraints. It's just that all of a sudden, fried chicken and wide lunch spreads don't appeal to me that much anymore. Even more so, this change has given me a renewed and deepened appreciation for youthfulness, for health, for mornings, for Life. Let me explain why.
The onset of this change was most likely the moment I put on braces. My dentist was a stern man. He said: "Take care of your teeth. Brush them regularly. No more unhealthy junk food. No more sweets. No more chocolates." I nodded obediently and made a mental note that I will show him the most perfect and clean set of teeth when I next see him. I am going to be his best patient yet (of course that didn't, and hasn't happened). More so because it was painful at the beginning, my diet was sorely restricted to soft foods like congee. For the first two to three weeks, I ate lots of porridge and bread and oats. I stopped eating sweets, chocolate, cakes, chips, fries, fried chicken and anything that would definitely cry foul to the dentist. Prior to this, I don't really have a sweet tooth to begin with and I don't usually snack, but having braces meant cutting down sweet stuff to zilch.
Friends around me noted my new braces and told me stuff that happened to them when they put on theirs: "You will lose weight initially but when your tolerance for pain gets higher, the weight will come back." Yet, even after getting used to my braces at Month 3, I continue to stay conscious of what I eat - partly because I have grown to like my new healthy diet and partly because I feel good with my new body. Here's what I do:
I wake up every morning either eating bread or oats. I love oats. I would cook them, crack an egg and mix it in, and eat it with milk and bread pieces. All in the same bowl. It's absolutely delicious (I think some people may think I'm nuts but it's true.) Try it sometime. I put in Ensure milk because it's tastier than other kinds of milk.
I would go running 45 minutes or an hour after eating breakfast. The morning air is always fresh and the park beneath my flat is usually quite empty at this time because everyone will be at work. The only ones milling about would be retirees or mums with kids on their morning strolls. I love this quiet "me" time of the day when I can jog at my own pace, admire the trees bathing in the sunlight and their beautiful white flowers, or the shrubs with pretty pink petals, and be completely at peace while also feeling more energised and pumped up for the day.
I eat out less now. Not just because it's hard to find healthy food outside (fruit juice and salads sold outside are always deceptively marketed to be health foods but actually aren't), but also because I don't live on the school campus anymore and my mum cooks regularly. Lunch and dinner will be brown rice (sometimes mixed with some white rice), veggies, fish, and the occasional meat. Brown rice is a much healthier option to white rice (I think most of us know that. If you want to find out more, click here). Because it also makes you feel full but at a slower rate, it's usually enough for me if I eat less brown rice as well (and be full thereafter). And because I eat less rice, I eat more veggies and fish to satisfy my appetite.
If I get hungry between meals, I snack on oats, multi-grain bread, a couple of biscuits, usually with milk. And if I get drowsy in the middle of the day (especially after food), I drink Chinese tea. I used to be a self-proclaimed coffee lover. For me, it used to be coffee over tea, hands down. So this is a really big change for me but for good reason. The typical coffee you buy in the cafeteria is full of sugar and is super sweet. For those without a sweet tooth like me, it tastes awful and even makes me hyper-active and a little too excitable. Chinese tea or Japanese tea still provides that caffeine boost (albeit a little less but that's okay) and has a whole other list of health benefits (click here). The best part is: I love how it's hot and so it warms and perks me up amidst the arduous studying in the cold library.
Another thing I do is that I go for long walks in school. In between lessons, if I have to go from, let's say, Arts to UTown in NUS, I walk there at a leisurely pace. Even though Singapore's really hot, a leisurely pace with the occasional wind can be very relaxing. I love the sound of my foot pounding the gravel; my surroundings will be quite quiet as most people are either in class or waiting for buses at the bus stops. On these long walks, I place my phone in my bag and refrain from taking it out to check for messages and updates. It's just me and my walk. I will usually spend some quiet time reflecting and observing my surroundings, thinking up new story ideas or trying to think of wacky solutions to problems. Walking is also exercising, and this is a pain-free way of burning some calories while earning some golden time for self-introspection.
Something I do from time to time is to eat fruits before meals, which not only makes me slightly fuller but ensures I have my daily fruit intake. Read up more on eating fruits before meals here.
I have also changed my sleep habits. From being a night owl who rushes assignments till the middle of the night, I go to bed by 12 every night (unless I really have to stay up late). I usually tuck myself in by 11.30pm. The general rule of thumb is: If I'm feeling tired already, there's no point trying to finish something and staying up late for it, all while feeling miserable. It's much better to wake up early the next day knowing that I can produce better quality work with a reinvigorated mind.
Because I sleep and wake up early now, my skin has improved. The dark circles around my eyes have diminished. Less pimples appear. I put on minimal makeup now because my skin looks so much more refreshed.
And because I make it a point to go to bed early, I stay out late less. Even with evening meet-ups with friends, we try to go home early so that we can get sufficient rest. Staying out late less means less of the alcohol which can be quite damaging to the body.
All these have made me much healthier physically. I rarely fall sick now and my memory seems to have improved.
I go to bed every night happy knowing that I will wake up to fresh air, to birds chirping, to the serenity and peace of the morning. I have grown to love mornings a lot. I love the sun and the way it shines down on everything I see. I love the vibrant colours of the trees, flowers, and even buildings. I love the cool morning breeze and the shade trees provide me when I jog around the park.
This change in lifestyle is not because I was dissatisified with my body. It was triggered by an event (i.e. putting on braces), yet I see more reasons to continue these newly-formed habits. I feel healthier, more joyful and energised, and more confident of my body. I deeply appreciate my youth and how I have many more mornings to come. I marvel at how the Earth revolves around the sun and gives us day and night. I love how physics is real and air that moves from areas of higher to lower pressure gives us this amazing thing called wind.
This entire lifestyle change is more than losing weight. In fact, for those of you out there who have been wanting to lose weight and have tried and failed at dieting, it should not just be about the fats and the calories. It should be about you and wanting to change because it brings genuine pleasure and joy. For me, I finally recognise the importance of health. Health lets me do so much more. And health, coupled with youth, is a divine gift that I should tightly cherish and make use of. I chose health for my sake and for others around me. And with this choice, I learned to love myself in a different and more fulfilled way by connecting with nature on a much deeper level than before.
Charles Duhigg, author of the book "The Power of Habit: Why we do what we do and how to change" states that 40% of the actions we take each day are out of habit. That means we run 40% of our day on autopilot. And so here are some questions for us to think about: Are our habits serving us? Are the things we do on a daily basis giving us the satisfaction we want? Perhaps we have to rethink our habits and intentionally change them to really get what we truly want (and maybe even more), with or without braces.
(Left: Me before; Right: Me after)