Pandemic weight losers

Chin Hui Shan finds out how operations manager Bryan Lim and public servant Jenna Goh shed their kilos

Mr Bryan Lim before and after his weight loss, which he achieved by working out regularly and following a clean diet.
Mr Bryan Lim before and after his weight loss, which he achieved by working out regularly and following a clean diet. PHOTOS: BRYAN LIM, KHALID BABA
Ms Jenna Goh before and after her weight loss. When the circuit breaker period was announced last year, she saw it as an opportunity to get in shape.
Ms Jenna Goh before and after her weight loss. When the circuit breaker period was announced last year, she saw it as an opportunity to get in shape. PHOTOS: DESMOND WEE, JENNA GOH

He lost 53kg

After being diagnosed with high blood pressure as a result of being overweight two years ago, operations manager Bryan Lim, 28, was determined to shed the kilograms.

"The only way was to lose weight or take medication to maintain my blood pressure," he says. "I didn't want to take medication for the rest of my life."

At his heaviest, Mr Lim, who is 1.8m tall, weighed 161kg.

Growing up, he was on the heavier side and found it tough to do simple tasks such as climbing the stairs. He sometimes received judgmental looks and unkind remarks because of his size, but got used to it.

"I was chubby and I was extremely unhealthy, and would binge-eat," he says, adding that he had tried to lose weight many times but that his weight "always rebounded".

In September last year, he was hunting for a gym when he chanced upon F45 Downtown East Singapore in Pasir Ris.

He opted for more cardio-based classes in the beginning to lose weight and went to the gym at least five days a week in the mornings.

Within 10 months, his weight went from 153kg to 100kg.

It was not easy at first. "I was very heavy and unfit so it was quite tough (keeping up) during the workouts," says Mr Lim. "I would pause because I couldn't keep up with the pace and the intensity."

He signed up for the 45-day F45 Challenge, in which members aim to reach goals they have set for themselves, with the encouragement of the coaches and other gymgoers.

Not only did Mr Lim emerge as the winner of the challenge, he also lost 17.7kg and 4.6 per cent of his body fat. At this point, he weighed 107kg.

  • Keep off the kilograms in a healthy way

  • When it comes to losing weight, experts say there is no one-size-fits-all method.

    Dr Naras Lapsys, a consultant dietitian at The Wellness Clinic, says what works for one person may not work for another.

    What is important is consistency, he adds.

    "The most successful weight loss (process) is one where you are prepared to make permanent changes to your diet and lifestyle habits," he says. "If they are too radical or too strict, they are unlikely to be sustainable in the long run."

    Mr Yusuf Kay, a fitness training manager at TFX Millenia Walk, shares the same sentiment.

    He says those who want to lose weight should make use of every opportunity to move, such as by doing housework or taking the stairs instead of the lift.

    He recommends adopting a varied exercise regimen instead of sticking to one type of workout such as cardio exercises or weight training.

    In addition, he suggests doing HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts at least once a week, as it is the most effective method of burning calories during and after the workout. It is also the most effective way to keep one's metabolism rate elevated for a longer time.

    Proper nutrition goes hand in hand with exercise, he adds. "Instead of minimising calorie intake, make better food choices that fulfil your nutritional needs... It's not about eating less, but eating the right types of food."

    Here are some healthy weight-loss tips from Dr Lapsys.

    1 TIME-RESTRICTED EATING CAN HELP

    Time-restricted eating such as intermittent fasting can be a strong weight-loss tool, says Dr Lapsys.

    "Basically, it's restricting the number of hours in the day to get all of a person's food - and for a lot of people, they end up limiting their calories," he says.

    However, it is vital to choose an optimal eating time period to complement your lifestyle.

    For example, fasting while doing weight training may compromise the results of your exercise.

    2 EXTREME DIETS MAY BE UNSUSTAINABLE

    Consuming too few calories may be unsustainable and can result in a higher tendency to binge-eat afterwards.

    It can also cause a person to sleep poorly, have low energy levels, lose concentration easily and lose muscle mass, which can compromise exercise performance.

    While the amount varies with every person, one should not consume fewer than 1,200 calories a day.

    3 WATCH WHAT YOU EAT

    While Dr Lapsys does not recommend any specific diet, he says it is important to choose food that is high in nutritional value.

    He recommends consuming more whole foods and cutting down on processed foods.

    4 ALCOHOL IS HIGH IN CALORIES

    Alcohol can affect your total calorie count and your ability to lose weight.

    At seven calories a gram, alcohol has almost as many calories as fat, which contains nine calories a gram.

    In comparison, a single gram of carbohydrate or protein has four calories.

    5 GET ENOUGH SLEEP

    When you are sleep-deprived, you are likely to eat more to keep your energy levels up.

    Dr Lapsys says a lack of sleep can affect hormones and hinder weight loss.

He continued going to the gym and now weighs 100kg.

Besides working out, Mr Lim sticks to a clean diet and keeps his calorie intake between 1,800 and 2,000 calories daily.

He eats whole foods and has cut out sugar and processed foods, such as fast food and ice cream.

Changing one's diet and lifestyle is the hardest part, he says.

The journey to weight loss was full of ups and downs for him.

Prior to attending classes at F45, Mr Lim had gone to other gyms but lacked motivation to keep up his fitness routine.

Extreme changes in his diet were also unsustainable, he says. "In the past, I would go on a very strict diet for a few months before going back to my old eating habits."

Now, with the support of his coaches and fellow gymgoers, Mr Lim has found the process of staying fit and living a healthy lifestyle to be more enjoyable.

Besides attending classes together, he and his gym friends also go for runs outside of the class and have meals together every month.

His transformation has spurred his family and friends to lead a healthier lifestyle.

For instance, his mother and younger sister have started to go on slow jogs and to lift light weights for resistance training.

Mr Lim says he can now finally go to clothing store Uniqlo and get a shirt that fits.

"It's been a long time since I walked into a normal clothing store and bought clothes, as I was so big and always had to buy them online," he says.


She lost 20kg

A day before the circuit breaker started in April last year, public servant Jenna Goh, 34, made a last-minute dash to Watsons.

She wanted to buy a yoga mat.

Ms Goh, who is 1.65m tall, then weighed 80kg and led a sedentary lifestyle.

She worked in the office from nine to five and had heavy meals with colleagues and friends about three to four times a week.

She says: "I was thinking that if I was already at this weight when I had to go to the office, if I worked from home, I would balloon."

Instead, she bought her yoga mat, found exercise videos online and did body-weight workouts for 30 to 45 minutes daily during the circuit breaker.

Ms Goh, who had always been self-conscious about being taller and bigger than her peers when she was growing up, says she had put on weight after she started working.

But the circuit breaker period presented an opportunity for her to change her lifestyle.

During that period of strict measures to control the spread of Covid-19, she could not go out for meals with her friends - which made it easier for her to follow a healthier diet.

By the end of the circuit breaker period, she had lost 15kg.

She also had a wake-up call to take charge of her health after a friend, who had led a similar lifestyle, was diagnosed as pre-diabetic in 2019.

"She made me aware that these are not things that happen just to older people or people of a certain lifestyle. We are at risk as well," says Ms Goh. "I didn't want to reach the point where I needed to drastically change what I was eating and how I was living."

Though the circuit breaker period is over, Ms Goh has continued to watch what she eats.

She prepares her own meals in order to keep track of her daily calorie intake, which she has capped at 1,800.

She tries to cut out sugars, such as by drinking black coffee and eating fewer desserts, and piles on three times as much vegetables as rice on her plate at mealtimes.

In July last year, she started going for fitness classes at Haus Athletics after her pals egged her on to try new gyms with them.

While she was reluctant at first, she found that she could keep up with the workouts, as she had been exercising on her own.

Ms Goh, who has been working from home, attends three classes a week, usually for strength training to tone her body and build muscle.

On the days she does not attend classes, she walks on a treadmill for 30 to 45 minutes and tries to clock at least 6,000 steps a day.

By December last year, she had lost about 20kg. She has kept her weight at 60kg ever since.

Whenever she feels like giving up, Ms Goh reminds herself how far she has come.

"Having lost some weight back then, I don't want to go back to the state I was in, because it took so much effort to get to this point and it's so easy to put it back on."

Her motivation also stems from her friends.

"My friends are the ones who keep me accountable," she says.

Going to the gym has enabled her to socialise with them, now that they mostly work from home and see one another less.

Ms Goh's weight-loss success has encouraged her to try new things. She is learning to swim and is looking forward to picking up other activities such as Latin dance.

"This journey has opened me up to do new things or things I used to feel too large to do," she says.

"Weight loss is not the main driver anymore. It's learning new things that makes it more fun."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2021, with the headline 'Pandemic weight losers'. Subscribe