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: Ong Jia Hui (@jiahuiongggg)
Occupation: Assistant Product Manager
Food: My relationship with food has evolved significantly and I believe it is now fairly balanced. I don't have a diet, but I practise healthy indulgence and intuitive eating at the moment. I eat what I want, so I don't crave it. Diets designed to make you look a certain way are less sustainable than diets designed to make you healthier and feel better. Now I concentrate on how I can incorporate more protein into each meal and choose meals with fewer carbohydrates.
I typically begin my day with a cup of coffee with oat milk. I'd usually bring my meal prep to work for lunch, which consists of a chicken thigh and a serving of salad, and for dinner, I'd have simple home-cooked food that is usually steamed, stirred or air fried. Over the weekends, I let loose and usually go with the flow (intuitive eating), essentially eating whatever I want. Sometimes thin-crust pizza, sometimes sushi, sometimes a kebab. I, too, have a sweet tooth and enjoy acai bowls and fruits.
Exercise: Prior to starting my full-time job, I used to train every day, primarily through CrossFit and running. However, since starting my corporate job, I've been training four to five times per week, primarily through running, hiking, swimming and strength training.
I occasionally wrestle and participate in contact sports, and I am always eager to learn and try new things. I recently began boxing with my boyfriend as a bonding activity, and I have also begun Pilates because I felt like I needed a different stimulus and wanted to train my mobility and strength. I figured it was the simplest way to since yoga isn’t really my thing.
Q: When you were younger, were you active in sports?
A: I was the kid who never graduated from TAF Club (Trim & Fit Club) when I was younger. I was overweight, but I was also fairly active in sports. I used to play netball in high school and would join my friends for sports after school like basketball or running, so I believe I was overweight because I overate and didn't understand what a balanced diet entailed.
What did you get into as you got older?
I actually began a routine of skipping every day for an hour to lose weight, which lasted about a year and it helped me lose about 20kg with the help of a cleaner diet too, of course. I then began running half and full marathons and ran about three to four times a week.
Then I got a little bored and felt stagnated so I signed up for a gym membership and began doing HIIT at F45 for about three years before transitioning to CrossFit for about two years. Due to my hectic work schedule, I no longer have a gym membership and instead try to stay fit on the weekends by running, swimming and hiking during my free time.
What made you decide to sign on with the army?
I joined the army because I wanted a dynamic, non-desk-bound career and to demonstrate that females can excel in combat roles. I was an armour infantry specialist and my role changed dramatically over the course of five years.
I began like any other Singaporean son, enlisting in Pulau Tekong as a recruit, completing about a year of training in the specialist cadet school, graduating as a specialist, and assuming appointments ranging from being on the ground to command and instructional positions – section commander, platoon sergeant and senior gunnery instructor.
What made you decide to leave the army?
In my third year in the army, my former superior encouraged me to pursue my tertiary education, which I did part-time. While in school, I discovered my interest in marketing and product management, and after graduation, I felt it was time for me to move on and explore other industries.
I believe that the army taught me many valuable life lessons, such as being disciplined, determined, consistent, reliable and meticulous. It has also truly taught me to appreciate all the simple things in life which we often overlook – like spending time with loved ones, having a comfortable living space, and being able to pursue my dreams in a safe country, It is all with the sacrifice of our fellow servicemen and women.
Where did you go after leaving the army?
After I left the army, I did a six-month internship to see if marketing was something I really wanted to do. Following that, I joined the defence industry, managing defence projects, a comfortable middle ground between corporate and leveraging my military experiences.
Currently, I work as a product manager in a bank. I eventually chose to leave the defence industry because I enjoy being challenged and uncomfortable – only then can I can grow as an individual.
When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?
Growing up as a chubby kid opened the floodgates for a lot of tease and I never felt very confident about my body image growing up. Additionally, I am bigger in build and height than most of my female peers, so it was even more stark.
I believe my time in the military changed the way I view life. I faced many challenges as the only female in my battalion of 600 men and I had to constantly prove myself. It taught me the value of a positive attitude and a determined mind, which serves me till today.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
When I tried to fit myself into society's idea of beauty, I felt the least confident about myself. Back then, beauty required a slender build with a generous bosom and a narrow waist. The jawline had to be defined and the cheekbones had to be high and sharp. And I was none of those things during my adolescence because I was never like the other girls who were slim, petite, and all girly. I was always bigger, taller, and a bit of a tomboy, which made me feel very out of place growing up.
I think it all changed for me in the past few years when I am more aware of myself and who I am. The ideal of beauty has shifted and has been more inclusive than ever, which helped me understand that all women of all shapes are beautiful. I also stopped comparing myself to other women and began exercising not to lose weight but to feel empowered and confident in myself and my body's abilities.
Did you ever struggle with your body?
Oh yes, when I was 14 years old and dropped from 70kg+ to 50kg. I weighed myself every day and after every meal, because I was obsessed with being 50kg at 1.73m tall, which was actually quite unhealthy and I saw weight gain as an enemy. When I was at my worst, I would cry when I saw the number on the weighing scale rise.
I'm glad my relationship with my weight is no longer a thing, and I rarely take my weight unless it's for a health checkup, because weight is just a number and being physically active and eating a balanced diet is more important than the number on the weighing scale.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
Yes! I'd say I'm happy with my physical appearance. I adore my curves and my body, and I believe that my physical appearance reflects my inner confidence and strength, as well as a sum of some of my life experiences aesthetically. My body is far from "perfect" – I have a jiggly tummy, love handles when I sit, and a plethora of stretch marks – but those are just signs that I have been living my life, having experiences, and changing (aesthetically or otherwise).
My body has been through a lot – full marathons, combat field training, a bad motorcycle fall that resulted in a second-degree burn on my right calf, and surfing. I am grateful to have a healthy and whole body to participate in these activities.
Have you ever received any comments about your body? If you could change anything about yourself, would you?
I undoubtedly have. Growing up in an Asian society, I believe it is unavoidable that we receive unsolicited comments about our bodies, whether positive or negative; I now take it with a grain of salt.
I believe that we are the sum of our experiences and that without everything I have gone through, I would not be the person I am today. In retrospect, I see my own failures and struggles as jigsaw puzzle pieces that slowly, and sometimes awkwardly, fall into place. Unlike the puzzles we buy, there was no picture of the finished product on the box.
And as my boyfriend always says – that is the beautiful thing about life: it only makes sense when we look back, but it can only be lived forward. So, no, I don't think I would change anything about myself, but I am constantly striving to improve as a person and learn something from every experience I’ve had.