She doesn’t usually admit this publicly, but Vanessa Tai has struggled with her weight ever since she was 12 years old. However, she’s finally found a way to lose weight effectively, and better yet, keep it off.
I’ve felt self-conscious about my size ever since I was very young. I know I’m not obese or even grossly overweight, but having always been slightly chubbier and pudgier than my peers, the way I look has always been a source of insecurity. Over the years, I’ve tried all kinds of methods to keep the weight off. Short of going under the knife, I’ve tried everything from crazy diets (eating nothing but grapes for a week, for example) to even going for acupuncture a few times a week. I even had memberships at different gyms and exercise studios. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to work, or it would work for a little while before I gave up or lost interest.
Knowing of my struggles, Simon Pink invited me to try six weeks of personal training, three times a week. If you’re a regular reader of Material World, you’ll probably know Simon is Deborah’s husband, and both Debs and I attend his boot camp sessions once a week. However, as much as we joke around with him outside of boot camp, Simon takes his work very seriously and it shows in the number of regular boot campers that show up each week. When he offered me this personal training trial, I jumped at the chance as I was planning for a backpacking trip then (I’m actually on it now!) and I thought it would be a good idea to rev up my fitness levels as this trip is pretty intensive, activity-wise. And so, I soon found myself trooping down to Fort Canning Park three times a week at noon. The rest of the Material World team couldn’t decide if I was brave or insane … probably more of the latter.
But the truth is, it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long while.
First, Let’s Talk About The Sessions.
In week one, my weight was 59.3kg and I had a whopping 30 percent body fat. Numbers aside, I was constantly feeling sluggish and had to drink several cups of caffeine a day to keep me going. I wasn’t exercising all that much – just boot camp plus maybe a run once a week – and my lack of fitness was apparent in that first week. Simon ran a bleep test on me — which is where you’re made to run continuously between two points and as the test progresses, the interval between each “bleep” shortens, forcing you to run faster and faster — and I got a score of 6.5. The fitter you are, the higher your score is. My score was nothing to shout about, but at that point, that was all I could give.
In addition to cardiovascular workouts, we also worked on strengthening my entire body, using a mix of TRX equipment, resistance ropes, and sandbells. One of the exercises we did involved me pushing off on one leg from a seated position on a low bench. It was excruciating! I felt like I had zero strength in my butt muscles at all. In fact, my muscles felt so atrophied that I imagined this was what physiotherapy must feel like. Needless to say, my glutes were sore for days.
I’m not going to lie to you; each session was very physically demanding. In fact, there were times where I felt like bursting into tears and calling it quits. However, there was something inside me that felt like I couldn’t let Simon down, and soon that translated into me realising I, too, should not be letting myself down. And so, I pushed on. It certainly helped that Simon maintained his upbeat and good-natured self throughout my endless griping and complaining. But no, his cheeriness doesn’t mean he goes easy on you though. He made sure I did all my reps properly (“no half-assed efforts,” he’ll say) and always ensured I maintained the right posture during each exercise. For example, he was befuddled as to why I couldn’t seem to be able to do a proper push-up — my hips kept moving downwards, seemingly on its own — but he kept correcting my posture until I righted it by the third session.
As the weeks progressed, the sessions increased in intensity but I felt like I was better able to tackle the exercises. I don’t think it was simply because I was getting fitter, but I also felt like my threshold for discomfort had increased exponentially.
The Mental Factor
By the end of the second week, I could feel a marked improvement in my energy and confidence levels. I felt fitter and stronger, and was definitely less mopey and melancholic, which is my default state of mind. Like what Dr Mark Liponis of Canyon Ranch advised, “As you build your physical strength, you’re also getting mentally fitter. You become more determined and resilient, and you don’t get as worried about things happening to you because you know you’ll be able to handle it.”
That described the transformation I experienced over the course of six weeks. While I used to give up easily whenever I encountered problems, I now find myself either gritting my teeth and pressing on, or trying harder to find alternative solutions.
The transformation didn’t just translate to fitness as well. Throughout the course of six weeks, Simon also regularly dished out nutrition advice (which foods to avoid, what to eat more of, why certain foods are not suitable for my body type, and so on). I cut out all processed food and replaced my usual hawker fare with salads for lunch. In the past, I used to get ravenous whenever I went on such detoxes. However, it seemed easier this time round. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been exercising so much that my body naturally craves nutritionally-rich foods. In any case, I hardly crave for fast food and sweet drinks now. My energy levels were also markedly improved; I hardly feel lethargic anymore even though I’m also sleeping fewer hours each night.
Personal training is not just about shedding kilos. It’s about an all-round transformation, from your body to your mind. Of course, if you’re looking for an effective way to lose weight safely and quickly, personal training is an excellent option. In fact, I think the six weeks I went through is the perfect regiment for brides who are looking to lose a few extra kilos just before their wedding day. In six weeks, I lost 2kg and two percent of body fat. I’ve also dropped a dress size from a UK10 to UK8, and I definitely feel like my arms, thighs, and bum are firmer and more compact. The best part is, everyone who’s seen me recently has complimented me on the visible difference in appearance. Aesthetics aside though, I am amazed at how quickly my body has responded to solid exercise and nutrition. My bleep test is now at 10.1 and I can run for over an hour without feeling tired. Above all, I am grateful at how this surge in fitness levels has also boosted my confidence levels and capability to problem-solve.
10/10 will recommend.
Simon Pink Fitness
About The Author: Vanessa Tai is a founder of Material World who has previously worked on magazines Simply Her and Cosmopolitan Singapore. Now a freelance writer and a full-time contributor to this website, the 27-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.