Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness, Workouts

The 6 Weeks That Changed My Life – Vanessa Tai

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.


Me in the zone.

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.

And the new, slimmer me!

And the new, slimmer me!

My Thoughts
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

9171 4927

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.

Body News, Food & Supplements, Health & Fitness, Wellbeing

The 9 Secrets of Hollywood Diets Uncovered – Matthew Fam

Hollywood celebrities often tout novel dieting techniques for a fabulous bod – be it fasting or the exclusion of certain food groups. So what ARE the star-approved diets out there, and what are the health precautions you should be aware of when undertaking your quest for body beautiful? The 9 health facts of Hollywood diets, here.

Gwyneth's boldly chic outfit at the L.A. red carpet premiere of Iron Man 3.

Gwyneth’s gams are the REAL showstopper at the L.A. red carpet premiere of Iron Man 3!

1. The 5:2 Diet
Can’t stand the thought of dieting 24/7, but want slender stems like Gwyneth Paltrow? Behold the 5: 2 diet. The part-time regime works as such: you eat whatever you want during a 5-day period, then stick to a 500-calorie intake for each of the remaining two days.

The celebrity-backed fad (Gwenyth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez among its devotees) keeps weight down while boasting long term benefits of preventing Alzheimer’s, heart disease and cancer.

2. Why should I fast?
The answer lies in IGF-1 (no, it’s not a strand of avian flu). Insulin Growth Factor-1 is a hormone that boosts the reproduction of cells. As we age, the production of this stimulant wanes, so less new cells in our body are made and the older, wearied ones work harder.

What fasting does is to kickstart the sensitivity of IGF-1, keeping cells youthful and pretty while fending off age-related diseases. Sweet.

3. So how much IS 500 calories?

Brace yourselves: a single portion of hawker centre-bought char kway teow alone is 742 calories. So imagine having less than that for an entire day! Your 500-calorie fast can either be broken up into bite-sized meals, or consumed in a single feeding at the start of the day. However, in order to reap maximum benefits of fasting, the latter option is advised. (Fat-burning perks of fasting reportedly commence only after 18 hours into a fast.)

"Give me my lemon cleanse or I ain't performing for no Super Bowl," we imagine  Beyoncé would say.

“Give me my lemon cleanse or I ain’t performing for no Super Bowl,” we imagine
Beyoncé would say.

4. The Lemon Water Diet
Think solid food diets are for scaredy cats? Beyoncé attests her regular bouts of lemon water cleanses to being absolutely bootylicious.

These intense lemon cleanses- each lasting for up to one week- reportedly wipe the health slate clean by allowing your body to completely remove any toxins within your system. Majority of your mass lost will be water weight, but it leaves your complexion surprisingly clearer. Fans of the lemon cleanse- now put your hands up!

5. The ‘No Dairy’ Diet
Get this: the ability to digest lactose past the age of three is actually considered a genetic mutation! (60% of adults cannot digest this naturally-occuring sugar found in cow’s milk.) Not only that, excess diary in your diet reportedly causes higher frequencies of adult acne. Cue screams of horror.

PS, Megan Fox says she doesn’t do dairy. Period.

6. So what alternatives are there to cow’s milk?
Soy, almond, and rice milk are par for the course, but keep an eye out out for carrageenan. According to this article, several of your USDA-approved organic foods contain- and don’t freak out- these cancer-causing nasties. So when in doubt, always check the ingredients list!

Uma Thurman's a total softie for desserts!

Uma Thurman’s a total softie for desserts!

7. The Ice Cream Diet
Uma Thurman once claimed she ate nothing but desserts and ice cream in order to slim down for her role in Kill Bill. Sounds crazy? The diet works on the basis that consuming less calories than what you need would result in weight loss. So technically, you can lose weight by eating small portions of Ben & Jerry’s throughout the day.

However, what this fad fails to alarm is the poor nutrition afforded by desserts alone. Good for a quick weight loss, maybe. But not for a long term healthy lifestyle.

Kim swears by Atkins to maintain her killer curves.

Kim swears by Atkins to maintain her killer curves.

8. The Atkins Diet
With a slimmed midsection, Kim Kardashian keeps her hourglass-figure in check with this famous diet. The grand old dame of weight loss techniques was popularised by a research paper titled “Weight Reduction” by Dr. Atkins himself in 1972. Essentially, all you need to know is that “carbs are the enemy” (Yes, Rihanna totally said this before!)

The Paleolithic (‘Paleo’) diet follows the same carb-banishing route: meals are characteristically free from any type of carbohydrate, focusing instead on intakes of protein, fruits and vegetables.

9. Protein Overkill
Now before you bite into that steamed chicken breast, STOP RIGHT THERE. Studies by Dr Valter Longo, Professor of Cancer Research at the University of Southern California support the no-protein camp. According to him, high protein consumption is as bad for your body as smoking!


The allure of Hollywood fad diets are undeniable. However, we can’t simply assume that they work just because a celebrity who endorses it looks fab on the red carpet. What we may not realise is how these calorie-crunchers were probably supplemented with a rigorous fitness regime in the first place.

Moreover, as with any diet, consistency is key. Sure, some of these diets can promise a reduction in dress size or a slimmer physique; but these may also come with a series of health setbacks. So shake off those rose-tinted lenses the next time you go gaga over a celebrity weight loss fad.


What other Hollywood diets do YOU know of? Share with us in the comments section below!

About the Author: Matthew Fam is a contributing writer of Material World, and has worked at Cosmopolitan Singapore as an intern and Contributing Beauty Assistant. He writes, teaches, and performs for the stage. Matthew enjoys museum visits, Singaporean Theatre, and spends too much of his undergraduate allowance on magazines.


If you liked this post, you might also like:

1. 6 Ways To Lose Weight Without Stepping Into A Gym – Matthew Fam

2. Top Weight-Loss & Nutrition Myths, Debunked – Tan Lili

3. The Yummiest Salad Place In Town! – Denise Li

Body News, Food & Supplements, Health & Fitness, Infographics

[Infographic] Does Eating Late At Night Make You Fat? – Vanessa Tai

Whenever I’m up late at night, I never fail to feel peckish. Whether I’m working on an article, reading or just mindlessly surfing YouTube, I’ll start to crave for chocolates, instant noodles or chips (not necessarily in that order.) I often end up giving in to my cravings before crawling into bed feeling guilty. Why the guilt? Well, as I was growing up, people used to tell me that eating after a certain time at night will make me fat. They could never agree if this “time” was 6pm or 9pm or something in between, but one thing they all agreed on … eating late at night makes you put on weight.

Of course, we now have research that disprove this myth. After reviewing the results of various studies on the correlation between night-time eating and weight gain, the British Medical Journal concluded there is no link between the two. What actually causes weight gain is the amount of food you eat, not when you eat it.

Here’s an easier way to look at it: Say your body needs 1,500 calories to maintain a healthy body weight and you ate only 1,000 calories by the time it got to 9pm. In reality, you could probably eat another 500 calories but the problem is, the longer you wait till you actually eat, the hungrier you get. And you know what happens when you’re hungry – the chances of overeating and making unhealthy food decisions increases. This is why you’re encouraged to have small meals throughout the day instead of waiting till you get to a certain mealtime.

But what about those among us who don’t count our calories obsessively? Or what if we already had a healthy dinner at a reasonable hour but we’re still feeling somewhat hungry? Before you reach for that packet of chips, ask yourself if what you’re feeling is thirst or hunger. Very often, we mistake dehydration for hunger. Try sipping a glass of water first before assessing if you still need to eat. Also, choose your snack wisely – it may be easy to tear open a packet of chips or dial for fast food, but such food are calorie-laden and may also interrupt your sleep patterns.

If you absolutely feel like you need to eat something, check out this handy infographic on which late-night snacks are acceptable, and which are simply a no-go.

material world singapore-food-infographic copy

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 26-year-old dreams of attending every single major music festival before she turns 30. She is on a mission to lose 10 kilograms (she says this every year.) Follow her on Twitter @VannTaiTweets.

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Guest Writers, Gyms & Trainers, Health & Fitness

[Guest Star] 5 Secrets For Flat Abs

Simon Pink with his "trainees" at his bootcamp for kids

Simon Pink with his “trainees” at his bootcamp for kids

Simon Pink is a personal trainer who’s worked in the UK, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. The fun-loving expat runs bootcamps for both kids and adults. When he’s not working, he goes for super-long runs or cooks up a storm in the kitchen. A believer that good nutrition is necessary for great health, he hates it when people ask him, “Will it kill you to eat a bit of McDonald’s?” His bootcamp sessions can be purchased online here.

As much as I love exercise (and you know I do!), exercise alone will not get you a toned stomach.

Your diet is a huge part of the equation.

Someone could work out all day long, but then eat in a way that promotes major fat storage, and they wouldn’t have a toned, beach-ready tummy.

While your diet is probably not terrible, the 5 secrets below will help you improve it even more. And a cleaner diet means flatter and more attractive abs.

Diet Secret #1: Don’t eat late
This is the most simple and effective way to flatten your abs. Instead of eating less food late at night, simply don’t eat late at all. Try these tips…

  • Brush your teeth right after dinner. Once your teeth are clean, you’ve put an end to your consumption for the day.

  • Change things up. If your evening routine revolves around food then find a new routine.

  • Let the habit form. The first few weeks will be tough, but soon your new no-food-late routine will feel normal.

Diet Secret #2 Drink more water
Drinking lots of water is another extremely simple way to promote fat loss. Chronic dehydration triggers false hunger signals that causes you to eat extra, empty calories. Try these tips…

  • Drink a big glass of water before each meal. This will make you less likely to overeat.

  • Replace sugar-filled sodas, coffee drinks and juices with water. This tip alone can make a huge difference in the shape of your body.

  • Carry water with you throughout the day.

saladDiet Secret #3: Load up on fibre
Most of us do not get enough fibre in our diet. This is a problem since fibre is essential when it comes to getting lean. Fibre-filled foods are low in calories and are filling, so you’ll be eating less and getting lean. Try these tips…

  • Turn salads into meals. Add a serving of lean protein to a large pile of greens for a guiltless meal. Try this recipe for Sweet & Smokey Chicken and serve it on a bed of greens.

  • Include vegetables in every meal. The benefits to eating more veggies are too many to list, so just know that your body will become healthier and leaner with each fibrous bite.

  • Fruits are a tasty source of fibre. Eat fresh, seasonal fruits every day.

Diet Secret #4: Eat fewer carbs
Now I didn’t say to cut out all carbs, but rather to eat fewer carbs. These diet secrets are meant as lifestyle changes for you to stick with long term. Eating fewer carbs is a realistic and very effective way to flatten your tummy. Try these tips…

  • Choose whole grain bread and pasta instead of white. Whole grains are less likely to be stored as fat. That being said, limit the amount that you eat.

  • Eat half of the carbs. Make your sandwich open-faced and cut down the size of your pasta serving.

  • Avoid carb-filled snacks. Instead of crackers or chips, have a hard-boiled egg, a protein shake, fresh fruit or veggies.

Simon with one of his long-time trainee Paul

Simon with one of his long-time trainee Paul

Diet Secret #5: Only wholesome sweets
Refined sugar-filled sweets will quickly add up around your waistline. Learn to enjoy natural sweets. Try these tips…

  • Fruit is natural candy. When you stop eating refined sugar you’ll find fresh fruit to be more sweet and delicious than ever.

  • Do not eat foods that contain white sugar or high fructose corn syrup. These items are the worst for your abs.

  • Try wholesome sweeteners, like pure maple syrup, raw honey or dates in your cooking instead of white sugar. Get white sugar out of your kitchen.

Take these secrets and run with them. These tips, along with a challenging and consistent exercise program, are the formula for a toned, lean body.

I’m here to help you meet your fitness and weight loss goals, so guarantee your results by teaming up with me.

You deserve that fit and attractive body – I can help you get it.

PS: I run a boot camp for both adults and kids. If you contact me via this story I’ll give your first week of boot camp for FREE!!! Quote “Material World” in your subject head.

Simon Pink’s blog can be found at His email address is