It usually starts with a photo; one awful photo of yourself looking fat and horrible, which is your wakeup call. For me, that photo was from my recent holiday to Gili Air. I was standing in front of the pier wearing a yellow t-shirt and some elephant-print pants (the typical female backpacker uniform). It made me realise just how much weight I have gained since coming to Singapore. It also made me reconsider my diet and lifestyle.
After my holiday, the first thing I did was weigh myself. It was confronting but I needed to know… just how kilos had I piled on during the past two years? It wasn’t as bad as I had imagined. When I arrived in Singapore I was 59kg and now I am 66kg… 7kg heavier. By no means great but it is not devastating either.
Those who live in Singapore will sympathise that this country is just damn-too convenient. On the surface that sounds like a good thing but convenience really makes you lazy. Back in London, I would walk twenty minutes to the train station and back each day to get to work. Now, my entire daily commute is under thirty minutes. The oppressive heat and humidity makes it difficult to do too much walking at all and nearly everyone relies on Grab taxicabs to get from one place to another. Singapore must be the only country in the world where commuting to work by taxi is the norm!
There is also the food. Everywhere you turn in Singapore there are hawker stalls, restaurants and pop-up shops selling all kinds of mouthwatering delicacies. The tempting smells of roasted pork, fried wontons, fragrant curry puffs, seared chicken and aromatic spices permeate the suburbs and set appetites soaring. Why cook at home when you can have a bowl of the best and most creamy chicken curry for just five dollars? Being a food blogger doesn’t help too much either.
But I am serious about getting back into shape, which is why I have signed up with the UFIT Clean & Lean Challenge. It is a month long program aimed at detoxing as well as resetting bad diet habits. I paid $50 for the diet program, which kicked off on Saturday 18 May. In addition to a diet plan, you also receive 1:1 coaching as well as recipes, videos and healthy-eating tips. You become part of a network of dieters with whom you can chat and share pictures of your food. I feel a sense in pride when I post a photo of my dinner and get multiple comments and likes.
To kick things off with the Clean & Lean, I had to do a weigh-in and take photographs of my front, profile and back view. That was so I could compare the results at the end of the program. I couldn’t believe the love handles I had on me… eek!
During the first week of the diet we were only allowed to eat proteins such as meat and seafood, green and white vegetables, as well as healthy fats like olive oil or vegetable oil. Permitted drinks included black coffee, black tea, herbal tea and mineral water. Alcohol is strictly forbidden – gulp!
It has been pretty full on so far but I managed to survive the first week. Instead of eating out I did a big shopping trip to Huber’s Australian butcher so I could cook my own healthy meals at home. Huber’s is located in a rich expat area and the meat is generally good quality although on the expensive side. A whole organic chicken cost $50 and a portion of beef for stir-frying for two people cost $20. They have some excellent pork chops and pork loins although their steak selection is a little disappointing – overpriced and the meat is too lean. There is practically no marbling on their cuts of sirloin! I also bought 5kg of packaged frozen smoked salmon, frozen mussels and fish fillets. My total shopping bill came to a whopping $350 in total.
Under the diet plan, I eat fried eggs with smoked salmon and a cup of black coffee for breakfast every morning. For dinner I usually prepare stir-fried greens, which are quick and easy to do. However I have got creative with a few healthy recipes too. One evening I made a delicious roasted cauliflower hummus with tumeric pork chops. On another occasion, I whipped up a deliciously spicy fish soup seasoned with paprika and served with lots of green-lipped mussels.
Eating out is not as difficult as I imagined. In fact, the great thing about the Clean & Lean diet is there is no portion control. So I can eat as much delicious Chinese roasted meats as I like! This weekend I went to the super-trendy Foo Kin barbecue shop for a plate of succulent char siew and a side of steamed kai lan.
I am now on day number ten of the Clean & Lean Challenge and so far I have not cracked! Whilst other members of the group have reported headaches and severe sugar-withdrawal, I am feeling just fine. Actually I feel better than fine. I haven’t felt bloated all week and some of my friends have commented that I look slimmer around my face and neck. The hardest part is avoiding dairy and alcohol… I am missing my milky coffees and evening proseccos like crazy!
Please wish me luck in finishing the program and getting back to my original weight.