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!
Diet: In terms of meat, I eat only fish and chicken; I haven’t eaten red meat for a long time now. I struggled with stomach issues throughout my childhood with certain foods causing severe pain and bloating. Only in the past five years was I able to get it under control following a largely low FODMAP diet.
The main thing I really react to is onions and, strangely, quinoa. Otherwise, I try to eat a relatively high protein diet as I find it helps keep me from getting hungry when I’m unable to eat for longer periods at work. I also really struggle to gain muscle mass so I like to think this helps.
Training: Usually five to six group classes at the gym (spinning, body pump, barre, Les Mills Grit or reformer pilates) and running with ROCKrunners once a week. I have just started training for an Olympic-distance triathlon in September, so will be doing roughly eight hours per week of triathlon-specific training as well.
Q: What kind of sports did you do as a kid?
A: Swimming! I learnt at a very young age and just loved being in the water. I liked the freedom and time to think. I enjoyed dancing as well (classical ballet) but, being 1.78m since the age of 11, I was much better at swimming. I have always had strong legs and was especially fast at breaststroke. I only raced in breaststroke, which is unfortunate now as I am slower at freestyle, which is kind of essential for triathlons.
You struggled with your weight when you were younger and went through extreme dieting and binge eating.
I had a problem with binge eating since very, very young (like 6-8 years old). I only had very basic meals at home and very rarely got access to junk food, so I think it was over-excitement as a kid when I finally got access to these kinds of food at friends’ houses or parties.
However, I never dieted and never cared about my weight. It was only when I started living on my own at university that it became an issue. I would eat crazy amounts of food in one night – sometimes enough for a whole week’s worth of food. I would feel horrendous about myself and force myself to not eat anything for days after as punishment – again triggering the need to binge. I would rarely eat in public at all.
Then you discovered exercise, but you were using it wrongly to help you stay in a calorie deficit. When did exercise start becoming positive for you?
I always got some mental release from exercise and the loved the feeling of getting physically stronger and challenging myself; I was just concurrently using it to control myself and my weight. It’s difficult to say when this stopped completely – it was a very gradual process. I really try to avoid the whole “I’m running today so I can be allowed to eat this tonight or to burn off something I ate last night” – this kind of mindset is not healthy.
I think it’s only when you really start to respect your body that you realise you need food to survive and be healthy that you can break these negative cycles. Eating some “bad” food once in a while is not going to do anything. You need calories to stay healthy, train and get stronger. I mainly avoid eating large amounts of high sugar foods now as I realise I feel sluggish after. I think the older you get the more you just want to feel well in yourself with energy.
How did you overcome your weight struggles eventually?
This definitely was not something that happened overnight. It’s taken years (over a period of five years). A large part of it was learning to eat normally again – not skipping meals, not eating meal replacement shakes, not eating soup only or going strictly ‘keto’, but just eating regular food, regularly in regular portions.
It was my partner Paul who helped me out with this. When we first started dating he was shocked by my eating habits, and it wasn’t until then I realised how unhealthy they were.
What was the lowest point of your life? How did you overcome it?
It was a long time ago now. I struggled a lot as a teenager (11-16 years old) due to various family issues. I was basically the sole carer for my mum (who was dealing with undiagnosed mental health issues) from a very young age as my dad was in the military and away in the Middle East for prolonged periods. I was only able to get through that period by studying hard to ensure that I would get a job that would allow me the financial security to be independent.
You are now taking part in triathlons and duathlons - how did you get into this?
I first started running at university as a way to lose weight, eventually I started doing longer distances and entering into races for charity. I did a few half-marathons and longer trail races. I enjoy endurance much more than speed and the feeling of getting physically stronger helped at a time when I was struggling mentally.
What are your fitness goals now?
I’ve just signed up for the Ironman 70.3 Taiwan 2020 so starting training for that is a big one. I only started triathlons in April this year so I’m trying to break it down into smaller goals, such as completing the Olympic-distance one in September first.
How has Singapore been for you since moving here a few years ago?
Initially when we first moved here I struggled with running in the heat but it’s just about adapting. Finding a good support group in ROCKrunners also helped this.
Do you get any comments about your body?
People always comment on my bum, I guess it has always been proportionally quite big compared to the rest of my body.