Revisiting resolutions

Mr Lim, who used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day, has kicked the habit. He says he has more energy and better appetite now – plus saving $90 a month from not having to buy cigarettes is something to cheer about, too.
Mr Lim, who used to smoke 20 cigarettes a day, has kicked the habit. He says he has more energy and better appetite now – plus saving $90 a month from not having to buy cigarettes is something to cheer about, too.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Almost exactly a year ago, Mind & Body spoke to five readers about their New Year health resolutions. They ranged in age from 18 to 71, came from diverse backgrounds and had battled various health challenges. We approached experts to weigh in on how they can succeed. A year on, these five have made good on their resolutions, albeit to varying degrees. Joan Chew reports.

MR LIM SIONG HOE, 72

Resolution: Quit smoking

The retiree has kicked his 21-year smoking habit and now feels he has "more energy and better appetite", he said.

He got hooked after a colleague offered him a cigarette.

STAYING RESOLUTE

I know I will start all over again if I accept just one, so I'm determined not to touch cigarettes any more.

MR LIM SIONG HOE, who has kicked a 21-year smoking habit

Work stress and peer pressure exacerbated the problem, and he was smoking up to 20 sticks a day.

These days, he politely declines when friends offer him cigarettes. "I know I will start all over again if I accept just one, so I'm determined not to touch cigarettes any more," he said.

He has stayed away from cigarettes since June. Whenever the urge to light up hits him, he would suck on mints instead.

It was mind over body for the father of two grown-up children, who recalled shivering and feeling uneasy when going cold turkey.

But he now feels better than ever - and saving $90 a month from not having to buy cigarettes is something to cheer about, too.


MS Y. L. CHAN, 37

Resolution: No more yo-yo diet

The tutor has spent half her life struggling with "yo-yo" eating habits. She would either eat very little or go all out and indulge in generous amounts of food, before making herself throw up what she ate.

Today, she is eating normally.

She has not binged for nearly eight months - a testimony to her resolve to "walk out from this [diet] obsession to enjoy my life", Ms Chan said.

She is eating more - for instance, four pieces of canned mackerel instead of just one - and in greater variety. Now, she would consume an entire fish burger and a regular Coke, whereas she used to eat only the patty and throw away the bun.

When she eats out, she sticks to healthier dishes like noodle soup.

"I don't feel as guilty eating junk food as before. I'll indulge in ice cream occasionally," said Ms Chan.

Thanks to the changes, the 1.65m-tall woman has put on about 5kg and now weighs a healthy 53kg.

But the battle with food is not over for her. "I believe I have achieved my resolution, but recovery is a really long process. I hope to be able to maintain what I'm doing in the years to come and not return to the bad, old me."


MS DAVINI LAKSMI, 19

Resolution: Have a better posture

The undergraduate is no longer riddled with back pain, which she used to suffer from due to long bus rides and sitting hunched over her desk for hours, studying.

Living on campus at the National University of Singapore meant she no longer has to lug heavy books around, she said.

Ms Davini was diagnosed with scoliosis - curvature of the spine - at the age of 11, but no longer needs treatment.

She had wanted to improve her posture so she could age gracefully with an upright posture.

She has followed some tips given by Dr David Woo, a pain specialist and anaesthesiologist at Parkway East Medical Centre.

For instance, she leans against a cushion on her chair when seated to avoid straining the lower back muscles and to maintain the natural curvature of the back.

She has also adjusted the height of her chair so that her computer monitor is at eye level.

"Though I still tend to sit hunched over my desk when studying, I consciously take more breaks to stretch, by doing a quick five- or 10-minute pilates exercise."


MS JANE KOH, 29

Resolution: Clock sufficient sleep

Not unlike Cinderella, Ms Koh now sees midnight as the cut-off time to go to bed on weekdays, so she can wake up at 7am feeling refreshed.

A year ago, she clocked six hours of sleep each night, which was not quite enough to get her through the work day without feeling sleepy.

Ms Koh, who works in the finance sector, said: "It took some getting used to, but I think the hurdle was more of a mental one."

She cuts herself some slack during the weekends, turning in at 1am and getting out of bed at 10am.

She has heeded the sleep experts' advice to have dinner at least four hours before bedtime, avoid caffeinated drinks at dinner and reduce the use of electronic devices near bedtime as short-wavelength light from screens can slow or even decrease the production of the slumber-inducing hormone melatonin.


MS JENNY LIM, 45

Resolution: Get a flatter tummy

While Ms Lim cannot yet boast of a flatter tummy, she is happy to notice firmer skin in that area.

More importantly, she has maintained her ideal weight of 52kg.

She decided to lose weight after being diagnosed with high cholesterol, and successfully shed 11kg over two years.

But her flabby tummy became more prominent.

Dr Tan Thiam Chye, who heads the inpatient service division of obstetrics and gynaecology at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, had said that abdominal skin laxity should improve with time, though it may never revert to the way it was before pregnancy.

A year ago, Ms Lim's exercise regimen involved brisk walks after dinner and a weekly aqua aerobics class.

Today, she has included resistance training, using the fitness equipment at a void deck.

The mother of eight-year-old twins wants to continue sticking to a low-carb diet, occasional food indulgences and regular exercise.

"I will always be mindful about how much I'm consuming by staying 75 per cent full instead of 100 per cent, no matter how delicious the food may be."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2016, with the headline 'Revisiting resolutions'. Print Edition | Subscribe