Travel makes you either gain weight or lose weight rapidly. I have experienced both cases. In 2008 I went to Mexico for my university’s summer exchange program for a month, I ate food at regular times every day at school, I ate so much fast food, and I stuffed myself with tequilas and coronas. But I lost weight at the end of the trip. Part of me wanted to believe that the stress of living abroad and eating food that was not Asian’s staple have caused me to lose weight.
In 2011, I went to India for, a very challenging country, for a month. I fell sick due to food poisoning. As a result, I had limited choices of food that I can consume safely. In the end, I came home slimmer than I was before the trip.
Other than those 2 extreme cases above, my other trips have seen me bringing home extra kilogrammes in the form of body fat, after the trip. Usually, when I travelled for a short duration (less than 2 weeks), I had a tendency to overeat. Perhaps I was unconsciously trying to get the most out of my limited holiday period, perhaps I had a fear of missing out, perhaps I was ecstatic about how much great food I could afford with my SGD currency, I never knew for sure the cause of my overeating habit.
My overeating habit continues in my daily life at home. Everyday, I’d have high calories meals with sugar-laden drinks for breakfast, lunch and dinner. In July 2015 I decided to train for marathon to lose weight. During training days, I ate a lot, in order to have more energy for training. I didn’t lose significant weight due to the training. And worst of all, I didn’t see myself as an overweight person, but my BMI said differently.
The wake-up call eventually came in October 2015.
How it all began
In October 2015, my boyfriend and I have been discussing about getting married in 1-2 years time. The first thing that came to my mind when we talked about wedding was, “Will I be able to fit into any wedding gowns?” This worry is strong enough to push me to go on a diet. I realised that I MUST make a conscious effort to lose weight. I couldn’t simply go to a foreign country for a month and expected it to shave off my body weight, I didn’t have the financial luxury to do that, I had a full-time job, and rents / bills to pay.
Then I found a blog article from The Runners Beans that inspired me to push the button. This diet sounded too easy to do. I could eat as much as I want, without doing any major exercises. But I needed more concrete proofs that this diet works. Lionel from Cheerful Egg did it successfully, he lost 5 kg, but unfortunately, it bounced back. Tim Ferriss, one of my favourite author, the author of 4-Hour Work Week and 4-Hour Body, has a powerful article that shows transformation photos of people who lost 100 pounds (about 45 kg). I was sold! I figured it was worth giving a try. But I was training for a full marathon and was afraid that going on a diet would change my performance completely.
On 25 October 2015, my boyfriend and I visited a housewarming event of a close friend. There, we ate A LOT. My friends even joked that they couldn’t believe I could eat so much of food, much more than my guy friends. I was usually immune to sarcastic jokes from my close friends. In my self-defence, I told myself that I needed a lot of food for my marathon training anyway. But I couldn’t lie to myself that I was really worried about fitting into wedding gowns. When we took bus home that evening, I explained to my boyfriend about slow carb diet and the positive results I saw from the articles above. I told him my worries about marathon training too. He encouraged me to start the diet sooner rather than later. That night, we purchased ingredients required for the diet. On 26 October 2015, my diet started. And the rest they say is history.
When I started the diet at 54 kg, I was considered “Overweight” according to my BMI. Yeah, I’m pretty short so I don’t have much allowance of food intake. My ambitious goal was to lose 12 kg, which would bring me to 42 kg (my weight during university days).
In the first 4 months of my diet, from the end of Oct 2015 to end of Feb 2016, I achieved total weight loss of 7 kg, and finally entered the healthy range of BMI. I went on a strict diet during that period, except for a few occasions such as travelling to Jakarta in Nov, carbo loading before & after a marathon in early Dec, travelling to Seremban at the end of Dec and travelling to Medan at the end of Jan.
From March onwards, I got bored, I got busy, I got lazy and I got complacent. I started eating out and eating carbs again. Occasionally when I felt guilty, I’d switch diet mode ON again, until I got bored of the diet again and switch it OFF. But overall, I’ve been gradually losing weight. From end of Feb to end of Nov, I lost 6 kg without any diet. The “before” photo below is taken in Feb 2015, while “after” photo is taken in Nov 2016.
I did it! I have lost a total of 13 kg by Nov 2016. I surpassed my ambitious goal by 1 kg. I’m going to write the details of what I did, I hope you guys could be benefited from my sharing.
What is slow carb diet?
Slow carb diet has 5 main rules. Below is the extract from Tim Ferriss blog article:
Rule #1: Avoid “white” starchy carbohydrates (or those that can be white). This means all bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, and grains. If you have to ask, don’t eat it.
Rule #2: Eat the same few meals over and over again, especially for breakfast and lunch. You already do this; you’re just picking new default meals.
Rule #3: Don’t drink calories. Exception: 1-2 glasses of dry red wine per night is allowed.
Rule #4: Don’t eat fruit. (Fructose –> glycerol phosphate –> more bodyfat, more or less.) Avocado and tomatoes are excepted.
Rule #5: Take one day off per week and go nuts. I choose and recommend Saturday.
Take note of additional points below:
1. No sugar or any artificial sweeteners.
2. Eat your breakfast of at least 30g protein within 30 minutes after waking up.
3. Eat until you are full.
4. Drink a lot.
5. Rest a lot.
6. On your cheat days, first thing in the morning, eat your protein breakfast as usual in order to reduce appetite for food. Then, consume grapefruit before your second meal.
7. I use olive oil for all of my cooking.
I also refer to 4-Hour Body book as my bible for this diet.
What I ate in the first 4 months
I wake up 1 hour earlier than usual in the morning to prepare for my breakfast and lunchbox. My menu for breakfast is egg omelette tossed with various types of meat, such as sausage, shrimp, minced chicken/pork/beef. I don’t count the amount of protein of my breakfast, I simply use 3 or 4 chicken eggs, and my gut feeling tells me how much meat I want to eat on that day. Often times, I fry chopped garlic and red onions for flavour prior to adding eggs, salt and meats in. I also rely on chilli sauce to add taste to my omelette.
It is actually recommended to eat egg whites only with 1 egg yolk, but I don’t think I can survive eating egg whites only so I ate all the yolks too. This breakfast lasts me well until noon.
My must-have drink every morning is tea, usually green tea without sugar (Ayataka canned drink), black tea without sugar, oolong tea or earl grey tea. Afterwards, I drink tons of water throughout the day.
I prepare my lunch in the morning, keep it in the box and bring it to the office. Sometimes my bf bring it to his office, warm it at noon and meet me for lunch because my office doesn’t have a microwave. If I don’t have the mood to cook, I buy instead.
For home-cooked lunch, I cook a variety of meat with vegetables. Meat dishes are pan-fried chicken breast, lean pork, minced chicken/pork/beef, pan-fried fish fillet, pan-fried shrimps or prawns. I often use seasonings for taste, such as salt, pepper, fish sauce (not too much), oyster sauce (not too much), pepper steak seasoning powder, 5 spice powder. As I don’t really eat most green vegetables, my vegetable dishes are limited to lettuce and green peas only.
When eating out for lunch, I opt for sliced fish soup without milk, rice, noodle; roasted chicken from FairPrice supermarket; roasted pork belly from supermarket or food court; chicken chop without sauce; chicken only from chicken rice stall; yong tau foo without rice/noodle; KFC chicken only without drink and fries.
In the evening, I have ample time for cooking, so most of the time I cook. If I have lunch leftover, great, less cooking for me in the evening. If I don’t wish to eat fried stuff, I’ll cook fish/prawn and green peas in miso soup. Otherwise, my dinner menu is pretty similar to my lunch menu.
During cheat days, I’ll let loose and eat my favourite food and junk food that I’ve been craving during weekdays (my cheat day is on Sunday). Here goes the list: KFC, McD, milk tea, wanton noodle, fried rice, pasta, noodles, sushi, carrot cake, instant noodle, nasi lemak, butter cookies, macarons, and more.
How I felt during the diet
I admit, it felt hard. There are too many sacrifices to make. First, I had to wake up earlier to prepare for food. Second, it’s not cheap to consume mainly meats. When I didn’t cook well, the food felt terrible, but I still had to swallow it down. Sometimes I got hungry when I didn’t eat enough amount of lunch, so I bought Tae Kae Noi seaweed for snacks during work.
Interestingly, the hunger that I felt during the diet wasn’t in the form of growling stomach, it came in the form of a headache. The diet didn’t give me post-lunch sleepiness, instead, I felt awake throughout the day. When I walked or climbed the staircase, I sweat A LOT, much more than I usually would without diet. I fell into sleep easily at night, and I slept well.
With regards to my marathon training, sadly I have to say that it affected my performance. I didn’t have the energy to do sprints. And I had to take multiple breaks during training runs. So I had an idea, I would eat half portion of chicken rice prior to my training; it turned out that I ran better with this idea.
The feeling of victory came when I couldn’t fit into my usual pants and shirts anymore. It felt super great to finally be able to wear my old smaller-sized pants and shirts.
The permanent habit changes that I’ve made
So technically, my diet only lasted for 4 months. But my weight loss continued even until 8 months later due to certain permanent changes that I’ve made. Here are the changes I’ve made after the diet.
I’ve quitted soft drinks. I can’t believe that I’m typing it now. I used to love all kinds of soft drinks: coke, pepsi, green tea, apple tea, lemon tea, chrysanthemum tea, isotonic drinks, etc. But now, I’m not touching soft drinks anymore, unless in the emergency where there’re no other drinks available and I’m super thirsty.
I’ve given up on almost all sweetened drinks. Do not even get me started on all the sweetened drinks I used to love: milk tea with sugar, coffee with milk and sugar, bottled/canned fruit juices, matcha latte, mocha, chocolate drinks. I used to love them but not as much anymore. Because I still love and need caffeine every day, so I’d go with black tea or green tea without sugar, coffee with a slight amount of sugar. Plain water is my best company throughout the day. If I need milk, I’ll go with skimmed milk or low fat. If I want fruit juice, I’ll go for the unsweetened one.
I’ll strive to eat no carb where possible. In Asian culture, rice is the main staple and meat is a complement to rice. But I try to reverse this mindset, I choose to eat more meat and less rice. Sometimes, just 1pc of chicken breast from KFC is enough as my dinner. If I go to a buffet, I’ll ensure I eat 80% protein and 20% carb.
I eat in moderation. In Singapore, the usual portion when eating out is way too much for me. I would give some of my food to my bf, or ask the food seller to give me less rice. If I’m not working on certain days, I can survive eating only 2 meals a day.
Despite all the positive changes above, there are still a couple of sinful things that I can’t give up yet, such as fried rice, fries, instant noodle, junk food, macarons, etc. What I can do is to limit my consumption frequency.
My Challenges and Plans Forward
It’s hard to eat clean during traveling. In fact, my diet was on pause when I travelled. Because, how can I not stuff myself with all the good food when I went back to Indonesia? So far, my diet has been successful because I was staying put in Singapore most of the time. I am definitely going to implement “no soft drink, reduce sweetened drink, reduce carb and eat in moderation” next time I travel.
My plans forward are to learn more about eating clean, and slowly switch to eating less processed food. I also need to get creative about eating more veggies.
This has been a long post of 2500 words, wow. I really hope my story helps you in a way or another. Personally, I feel that everyone must go on diet at least once in his/her life, so that he/she learns what’s good for him/her and what’s not. And there’s a huge sense of empowerment when you finally achieve your weight loss goal, man it feels DAMN GOOD!
Whenever I achieve something that I didn’t think I could, it snowballs and makes me think I can do more GREAT things. When I finished my first marathon, and after I survived India trip, I felt that I can conquer anything. The success of this diet has been another milestone that proves I can indeed achieve the impossible. I give full credit to my boyfriend who has supported me and my diet since day 0; and without whom, I might have given up half way.