Making a change to our diet is never an easy thing, especially if our favourite foods and drinks are not exactly healthy ones.
While there will certainly be challenges and temptations along the way, these two individuals show us that it is not an impossible task.
Freelance personal trainer Adly Almanzo Adnan, 37, has also had his share of bad dietary habits, despite being active.
Once an obese teen, he shares that when he first started working out, the goal was just to bulk up and build muscles.
As he was then at boarding school in Britain studying for his A-levels, his meals consisted of typical English fare like roasted or grilled meats and boiled vegetables, which were healthy (although bland).
But when he came back to Malaysia, Adly ate just about anything.
“After gym, I would go to the mamak and eat everything under the sun because of bulking – we guys just wanted to get bigger and bigger (musclewise),” he says.
But that changed when he started getting injured more often during his weekly futsal game. It turned out that his upper body was too muscular and heavy for his lower body to support.
Needing to drop his weight, he started to look into healthy eating to help him do that.
“That time I started to go really healthy, it was steamed chicken breast and salads – and that helped me drop about 15kg.
“But I realised that I wasn’t happy, because I’d reject social outings and get very annoyed when I went out with my family and there wasn’t any protein or vegetables (that fit my diet).
“So it came to a point when I wouldn’t even go out with my family sometimes. To me, that was even more unhealthy, regardless of how my physique had changed or how much lighter I felt.
“So it was at that point that my thinking about nutrition really changed, but for the better,” he says.
Now, Adly has a more balanced outlook on eating healthily, becoming more relaxed about food choices when eating out, but still emphasising proteins, vegetables and fruits in his overall diet.
He notes that when it comes to changing one’s diet, it is crucial to make changes that you can stick to for life – short-term diets won’t help make permanent changes to either weight or looks.
Motivation, he says, is critical as this is what will keep you going through the temptations and hard times.
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Motivation has never been a problem for marketing manager Cheryl Wong.
Her initial motivation was to bring her cholesterol levels back to normal.
The 45-year-old shares: “I’ve been on something like the paleo diet for about 19 years.
“That’s when my first ever blood test came back with an off-the-chart reading for cholesterol, even though I was thin. That was the year I decided to do something about my eating – I cut off all the obvious carbs, like rice and noodles, and I stop taking all fast foods.”
Then, in 2004, she was diagnosed with endometriosis. This condition occurs when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus.
This out-of-place tissue causes inflammation, leading to serious – and often, debilitating – pain during menstruation.
There is no cure for this condition, although there are treatments to help control it.
While Wong has undergone surgery to remove the tissue (which has grown back) and taken contraceptive pills to help control the condition in the past, she is now off all medications, except the occasional painkiller, by choice.
She has also further narrowed down her diet in an attempt to avoid potentially pro-inflammatory foods that might exacerbate her endometriosis.
Two years ago, she decided to completely cut off all carbohydrates, targeting foods with hidden carbs, such as sauces that contain a lot of sugar or starch, and fruits that contain natural sugars.
“Also, I consciously started to reduce the amount of food that I ate – I only ate what I needed,” she shares.
Due this strict diet, Wong has stopped eating out and cooks her own food.
While it wasn’t an easy journey, especially as she has a sweet tooth, her desire to be pain-free and healthy spurs her on.
She is also an avid gym goer who works out daily, saying that she would go crazy if she missed a day of gym.
She says: “When I started cutting off foods, I realised it was really all about me – it’s what you want out of life and what you want to do with your health, it’s all within your control.
“So that’s why I always tell people, don’t blame the food, it’s you. The desire for food is strong, but why don’t you just eat half just to satisfy yourself? You don’t have to eat the whole thing.”
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