Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Tay Ke Xin

·9-min read
Besides being a well-known singer-songwriter, Tay Ke Xin is also a yoga instructor.
Besides being a well-known singer-songwriter, Tay Ke Xin is also a yoga instructor. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

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: Tay Ke Xin (@kextay)

Age: 33

Height: 1.52m

Weight: 42kg

Occupation: singer, yoga instructor

Status: attached

Food: I eat what I like but in moderation. I used to follow a low carb diet, but later on I adjusted to suit my activity level. I usually don't have a heavy/carb-y lunch because it makes me feel sluggish in the afternoon and I don't eat rice at night. That said, I love my bread and can't do without it every morning. I guess you pick your evil?

Exercise: I do either one or two sessions of yoga every weekday morning upon waking up. I teach yoga four out of five days in a week. I try to do weights three times per week and a 5km run around Bedok Reservoir once or twice per week. On days that I don't run, I would replace that with a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) session. My exercise routine ain’t set in stone though because I prioritise listening to my body.

Q: Were you in any sports when you were younger?

A: Pretty much. But fun fact, I was in the Chinese Orchestra for 10 years of my primary and secondary life playing the erhu. Even though I had a sedentary CCA, I was always very active and loved taking part in the school's track and field events.

Long jump, high jump, baton relay, cross country, even shot put, I've participated in them all. In junior college, I abandoned my musical roots and took up squash, but I've got to admit, I was never very good at it haha.

Later in university, I explored singing in the NUS Jazz Band, so fitness took a back seat again. Fitness came back into my life after university when I started putting on weight and my fitness routine has stuck with me till now.

Ke Xin tried her hand at many track and field events during her school days.
Ke Xin tried her hand at many track and field events during her school days. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

When you were younger, did you experience any incidents that made you feel insecure about yourself?

Puberty hit me hard. I had pimples since Primary 3 (literally unheard of) and I've always been the target of merciless taunting and jokes. I was that resident "Pimple Girl" and I had so many nicknames. On top of that, I was short (still am) and was chubbier back then. I remember my mom would comment that I have thunder thighs and ass haha.

Medication would cause my skin to flare up, making it even more inflamed. Skin problems plagued me till JC, friends would even joke that they could fry an egg on my face. Oh and I was also always teased for being flat-chested. So, I pretty much grew up being extremely insecure about myself.

I experienced a 360-degree transformation in university when my skin cleared and I lost weight. When people first commented that I am pretty, I could not believe it. It just wasn’t my reality. I grew up being in the shadows, the girl with unreciprocated love, the girl who had to laugh at herself when others laughed at her so that it didn’t hurt as badly (defence mechanism).

I’m grateful for that period of my life though, because later in my career, where appearance is so important, I was able to see the other side and still remain humble and stay grounded.

Did you struggle badly with your weight too?

Yes, my need to lose weight started in primary school. I was in the Trim and Fit club, running around while others drank their milk packets. I started eating less since primary school and I would say I struggled pretty much with my weight all through my schooling years (except for university).

But I grew out of that horrible phase when I discovered that I was good at singing. Performing gave me a lot of confidence and helped to build my emotional resilience.

However, during my mid-20s, I struggled with my weight again. I was preparing for an album shoot, and my stylist had arranged for me to wear a sports bra and low-rise bottom. I was initially apprehensive because I knew I had to go on this strict diet and exercising regime for the abs to pop, but my stylist told me that it is my responsibility as an artiste to look good. It was part of my job.

So I did, and it was a tough period constantly having to keep that flat stomach. The outfit was also used for the promotional period, which means I have to wear them at public shows and album launches over the course of a few months.

I did HIIT everyday, ate so clean I would cringe at oil and carbs. I counted calories and worked out to burn all that I ate. Socially, I couldn’t eat out much as nobody really understood why I was doing it. Emotionally, I struggled because I always felt like I could do better, and I was not accepting of my body in its natural state. Looking good became tied to my sense of self-worth.

It was rough!

Ke Xin struggled with her weight and confidence even when she found success in her singing career.
Ke Xin struggled with her weight and confidence even when she found success in her singing career. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

There’s just so much pressure to look a certain way or be of a certain size as a performer huh?

Of course. There is so much comparison and judgment in the entertainment industry. That’s reality and I wouldn't blame the industry because let's face it, we are all guilty of idolising beauty. It's nothing to be ashamed of actually, we are built to appreciate symmetry and beauty.

However, it gets toxic when we internalise unattainable beauty standards and normalise their existence, then feeling lousy about ourselves for not being able to achieve those ridiculous standards.

The pressure was much stronger five to 10 years back, when society is less "woke" and accepting of different body types. So yes I always felt I could be skinnier, because pictures and videos are less forgiving. It doesn’t help that I’m shorter than the average girl and gaining weight is relatively easier for me. People always think that I’m naturally skinny because of my petite frame, but the fact is I am highly active.

So yes the pressure is strong, but I’m still learning to be more accepting of my own body. Yoga taught me to listen to my body and appreciate different body types.

How did you get into yoga?

I started at True Yoga Pacific Plaza 10 years ago. Back then, I just broke up with a boyfriend of four years and yoga really helped me heal and find peace within. After that yoga remained a constant in my life, but I only got really serious about it five years ago.

As my life and career progressed, yoga became my source of comfort, something I can always return to no matter how difficult life gets. So to me, beyond asanas/physical aspect, yoga has always been about the mind-body connection.

I think the turning point was five years ago, when my work got so busy I couldn't breathe. I forced time out and took a solo trip to Bali for a self-organised yoga retreat. Basically I just plopped myself in Ubud, bought a 10-day class card and did yoga all day err day for three days straight.

Afterwards, I just had this strong calling to do the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT). I waited until my schedule was cleared up and just plunged right into training. I didn't know whether I would teach afterwards, but I knew I had to deepen my yoga knowledge. At that point, I also had a vocal issue which affected my singing ability, so I was struggling with my identity and the training was a god-sent distraction and lesson that taught me what my body was still capable of.

After I got my YTT cert, I decided not to waste my certification and went around for mocks, searched for jobs and continued to hustle till today. And I never regretted any bit of that. It's one of the best things I've done for myself.

Ke Xin finds yoga a safe refuge for her to return to amid her busy career
Ke Xin finds yoga a safe refuge for her to return to amid her busy career. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)

What do you like about yoga?

I love that I’m able to return to yoga no matter what happens in my life. It’s my safe space, my hideout, my escape sometimes even. Just being able to be with my body and breathe helped tide me through many difficult points in my life.

Yoga also expanded my consciousness. The practice built my strength, flexibility and endurance. But beyond the physical aspects, I was able to dig deeper and see my nature, character and the way I move through life just by observing myself in practice.

Lastly, yoga is an ongoing process. It’s here to stay for life. I see poses as challenges, goals for us to work towards, but they’re not important to me. Excessively focusing on goals takes us out of the moment and out of inner attunement to the journey. I always believe in that and providing a safe space for our students to thrive in. :)

Are you satisfied with your body now?

It’s still a work in progress. I’m learning to accept my body fully, love handles, cellulite, underarm wings and all. It is difficult because we are conditioned to find flaws with our bodies.

The turning point where I decided to really love myself was when I started having amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), probably due to excessive exercising. I’m currently trying to cut down on working out and increasing my calories to regulate my period.

So, my goal since the start of the year is to DO THE THINGS I ENJOY. What makes me happy. Love myself, flaws and all. I AM ENOUGH.

Have you ever received any comments about your body?

Haha!!! All the above! I need to work real hard for my body. I’m naturally chubbier but people don’t know that, so they assume it’s easy for me.

People will always have something to say. Achieved those abs? They’ll say I’m too skinny. Then they’ll say I’m flat chested or I’m too short. We can never be enough to others.

If you could change anything about yourself, would you?

All my life I wanted to be taller, but if I were taller I wouldn’t be the Kex I am today. So screw that, I love myself, 1.52m and all.

Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Tay Ke Xin.
Singapore #Fitspo of the Week: Tay Ke Xin. (PHOTO: Cheryl Tay)
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