Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!
Name: Dan Ng (@rarecray)
Occupation: Business Development Manager
Food: I'm blessed with a high metabolism, so I don’t follow any diets and usually eat whatever I want, whenever I want to. On a typical day, I have two meals and snack on some nuts or drink a mid-day protein shake. I also drink two cups of coffee without sugar to try to reduce my sugar intake. But I do have a sweet tooth and cave in easily to desserts. Besides that, I try not to consume too much fried food but that's pretty much about it.
Exercise: I try to hit the gym at least three times a week and run once a week. I split my workout into chest, arms, and shoulders days and I usually use drop sets to train. I start my workouts with stretching and lifting light weights to warm up before progressing to heavier loads.
When performing a drop set, I start with the heaviest weight that I can lift to the point of failure; instead of resting, I will then reduce the weight by about 20 per cent each time and continue with the exercise.
Did you love sports from a young age?
Growing up, I had a love-hate relationship with sports. I enjoyed doing it, but I was not good at it because I felt that I wasn’t agile or dexterous enough to be competitive. I remember my secondary school buddy and I would just sit on the benches during PE classes while watching our classmates participate eagerly.
Even if I were on the court, my teammates would rather pass the ball to someone further than me, because they know that I’m not fast enough and the opponents would probably steal the ball away from me hahaha. I was pretty small and skinny during my teenage years and barely passed the annual NAPFA test.
I tried basketball and tennis when I was in primary school, but I didn't pursue them further. I didn't try out many sports when I was young because I wasn't very keen on them. In retrospect, I wish I’d kept at playing tennis because it’s great cardio.
When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?
Fortunately, I had a decent childhood and my parents have never hit me before. In primary school, the term 'bully' initially seemed like a foreign concept to me, but it was not greatly discouraged as much as in our current times.
Hence, it was a rude shock to me one day when one of my classmates held me in a headlock and threatened me. I think it was easy for him since I looked small and vulnerable.
Because of that, I hated going to school for a period of time. I was skinny and the bullies would call me names and try to trap me in a headlock to poke fun at me. I can’t remember much of what had happened because my mind has blocked out the bad memories.
I can only recall I hated the way I looked and I couldn't defend myself or know what to do about it. Consequently, I became reclusive and quiet with a constant fear of the bullies trying to 'play' with me. This happened in both primary and secondary school. My friends were my pillars and supported me mentally and emotionally but even then, the entire episode was an ordeal.
I have also experienced loss where relationships didn't work out and that greatly impacted my self-esteem. Interestingly, great transformation happens when change occurs and that’s when I hit the gym even harder. I also meditate every night; it enables me to view things from a different perspective and let go of things easily. People come and go and that is ok.
When did you first start going to the gym?
I started going to the gym when I was in my first year at Nanyang Technological University. I had a good buddy who was an exchange student and he encouraged me to start lifting weights. We both stayed in the school hostel and the gym was right below our block. I initially did it just for fun but after a while, it became a routine. As I started seeing results, I haven't looked back since.
What is it about going to the gym that empowers you so much?
I guess it's the adrenaline and the post-pump at the end of every workout. Going to the gym is an investment in myself with what little free time I can afford. Nobody else can take the hard work and effort that I put into myself from me. The best feeling is when you work out a good sweat and your muscles are sore for days after.
How do you feel about your body now?
My overall mental well-being and health are in a much better place now. I feel so much more confident in my body and my self-esteem has improved considerably. I’m able to stand up for myself when there is a need to. I am happier, healthier, and my clothes fit better too.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
I feel the least confident of myself when I don't go to the gym for more than a week because it feels like my body shrinks and the muscles become soft and weak. This happened during the Circuit Breaker period when the gyms were closed for months. Confined to four walls, I did my workouts at home and even though there were no weights, I still managed to feel accomplished after a good workout session.
I also feel inferior when I compare my body to someone else’s online, like if they are taller or have a leaner body. I start to have intrusive thoughts like 'I wish I were taller,' or 'I am not good enough’. It's toxic behaviour that seems to happen to almost everyone I know. There will always be a never-ending pool of comparisons if we were to pit ourselves against the rest of the world, especially when social media is so easily accessible with a touch of a button.
Being aware that you're comparing yourself is the first step to overcome it. I'd put my phone away and focus on more important tasks or meditate. I've come to realise that the mind can be a sanctuary or a cage depending on how you use it. Gratitude is key to self-love and acceptance. With gratitude, every problem you have will turn minute and dissolve. I have started to be grateful for what I have: a healthy body surrounded by the people I love.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
Compared to the past, I'm definitely more content with my body, especially when I used to be bullied because I was skinny and small. Being confident with my body also helps with my mental health and as the saying goes: when you look good, you feel good.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
I don’t receive a lot of negative comments about my body, but my body hair is often a topic of discussion. I have relatively more body hair on my chest, and tummy than a typical Singaporean man. I used to be embarrassed by it and I would shave it off before going to the beach, which would often cause nicks and cuts.
But after a while, I decided to embrace my body. I think it's important for every individual to notice their uniqueness and be proud of it. There's no point trying to change yourself just to blend in with the crowd. Every now and then, I'd still receive comments from people or even friends asking me to shave it off, but I'd simply ignore them. It's my body at the end of the day.
If you could change anything about yourself, would you?
Honestly, I wouldn't change anything much about myself because I am grateful for the body that I am born in.