End of Prep : WNBF Singapore 2019

A vlog to sum up my bikini prep for WNBF Singapore 2019.

It felt like a long an arduous process, especially in the last stages of prep, those days can feel like eternity. Now that it’s a wrap, my feeling is completely different, time really flew by so quickly, and I’ve savoured both the good and hard times of the prep.

PREP BEFORE AFTER

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2011-05Whenever people look at me and assume this lifestyle comes natural to me…it isn’t. I still take it as a day to day process, making the foundation stronger by laying brick by brick upon it. 

I will never be able to pen down my thoughts on why I have subjected myself to such a seemingly challenging process.  Besides my genuine love and respect for the sport, the learning process is very alluring to me. On the geeky side of things, I have collected very valuable datas of myself when it comes to caloric intake, fat loss rates, measurement…and how it all correlates with my well being (mood, energy, sleep, cognitive thinking) so on and so forth. Then there’s the challenge of fighting my impulses and restraining myself in our world where food is in abundance. Restraint, a word so foreign in my dictionary, I have to admit, I have been repeatedly humble by the experience.

I did not do the best I could, yet, I wouldn’t change anything If I was given a chance to go back. You truly learn from your mistakes, that’s how you grow.

This is a relatively short post as a summary of my prep, but I want to touch specifically on post-show food related issues. It has been about a week now, and my hunger signal is still very high despite pushing my calories back up to maintenance level. At this point, I still have to exert a certain level of effort to keep intake at bay. While I try to do my best to relax and give myself time, I decided with this prep, I will keep tracking and keep weight gain within a reasonable rate. Now that prep is over, I am also really looking forward to experimenting with certain eating protocol, such as Time restricted feeding and chrononutrition. I have also started using Renaissance Periodization ‘s female physique training template, and I shall report back soon.

Aside of that, I look forward to starting my nutrition course with Mac Nutrition University I am especially grateful for Alan Aragon who recommended it to me (I decided to try my luck to reach out and I was so surprised to receive his DM back, I definitely had a fan girl moment right there and then.) Our official lecture has not even started yet, and yet, I am already getting so much out of the mentoring lab, it’s mind boggling to me how much resources they offer to their students aside of the official course.

Blogging has been slow, I have to be honest dieting has effected my ability to string together sentences, and I look forward to more consistent writing here.

 

 

Distracted

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Image by Lenus.me

Being constantly pulled into multiple directions seems like all we do these days, stimuli often fill in the gaps : whether it’s eating with our screens, listening to podcasts/music when we drive, juggling between a million browsers as we work on our computers…I can go on and on.

On our flight back to Kuching, there was a solo female traveler seated next to us, with a thick book sitting on her lap. Once the seatbelt sign is off, she put the book down, took out a sandwich from her bag, ate her sandwich, cleaned up, and continue reading again. I jokingly mentioned to my husband how the simple ritual of eating differs between this western girl vs us, the Asians, if you go into restaurants and cafes, you will notice alot of Asians tends to eat with the screens infront of them. Either that, or they’d take a million photos of the food untill they become cold and soggy.

Couple of months ago, I forced myself to eat without distraction. Force is a strong word, but that’s how difficult it felt to me. I held on to it for a long time. However, the deeper I got into my prep, the harder it was for me to stick to the ritual, even now, I am still taken aback by how much dieting has impacted my ability to concentrate and stick to my habits, especially towards the last few weeks of my prep. I do thrive on routines and months of habits tracking has built a pretty solid foundation for me, still, I have succumbed to the temptations a few times.

I think setting rules and boundaries for ourselves is so important, even thou these habits may seems frivolous to most, but they can train your discipline and they will add up over time. There are some non-negotiable rules I set for myself daily, such as no screens before 7am (since I wake up at around 5am daily), daily meditation is a must, and I must include a daily 30 minutes, stimuli-free walk outdoor (no podcasts and no music) daily. These small accomplishments serves as daily affirmations for me.

“A lack of self awareness is poison, reflection and review is the antidote.”

“By constant self discipline and self control, you can develop greatness of character.”

“The most powerful control we can ever attain, is to be in control of ourselves.”

An update on Meditation practice

A compilation of my meditation practice back in 2017

When I first started this blog, I wanted to document all things personal development related, at the time, I was in a transition of building new habits, I was inspired after reading the book Digital Minimalism by Dr. Cal Newport, and James Clear’s Atomic Habits.

There were a couple of habits that I wanted to work on, social media addiction is one thing (there will be another update soon), but I want to write about meditation, for I find that it is the backbone of how we can be more aware of our behaviours, thus bettering ourselves in all aspects of our lives.

I am not a stranger to meditation. Back in 2017, I’ve hired an online coach Olivier Goetgeluck. He has prescribed daily meditation practice as part of the training program for me. I believe the Universe knew what I needed then, that’s why I was connected to Olivier. At the time, I had no problem adhering to all the physical training he has prescribed for me, but I struggled with the meditation practice.

I remember how anxious I felt each time I had to start meditating, thoughts were constantly running through my head, it felt as if I was having an anxiety attack, I remember I could barely sit for 3 minutes in the first 1-2 weeks.

I’ve made great progress overtime, I’d meditate for 20-30 minutes atleast 3/4 times a week, sometimes I even took my practice outdoor. I felt so proud of myself, it was even more satisfying that any fitness achievement.

After 6 months with Olivier, I eventually moved back into powerlifting/physique training, I tried to keep up with the practice, but I relapsed. I was doing it very sparingly, until I stopped doing it completely.

Fast forward to March this year, after reading Atomic Habits, meditation was the first habit that I wanted to cement. There are so many helpful tips from the book, but the three main points that has helped me the most was :

Master the art of showing up

Repetitions

Habits Tracking

To summarize the three points as listed above : I only have to show up, duration didn’t matter as much, with that, I’ve gained enough repetitions, which then help the habit stick. I’ve also used bullet journaling to help me stay accountable.

Referring to my blog posts on meditation, I’ve started back in early April, I’ve probably only missed 3-5 days since then. I prefer to do it first thing in the morning, before I even brush my teeth, for 20-30 minutes a day. On days that I have to go out early for work, I simply move it to the end of the day.

It is the single, most powerful tool you can use anywhere, anytime to improve your mental well being, better than any supplementation or medication intervention.

What are the benefits ? I didn’t really care about all the scientific research on meditation, although they may help further convince you to start. What I’ve noticed with myself is that, I am much more aware of my behaviour. Take driving for example, I used to be very hot headed on the road, other drivers used to piss me off easily, not anymore. I use to look for distraction (browsing on the phone…horrible, I know) with every brief stop in between traffic lights, I’ve stopped doing that either…there are many many other examples, but you get the idea.

That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated and angry. I do, more often than I like. It’s definitely much more easier for me to catch myself thinking certain thoughts, if I feel angry, I would be giving myself a pep talk, :”Why are you angry? It’s not going to help the situation.” By then, I would have already calm down. This has been incredible in terms of managing my emotional intelligence…thou I have to admit, I am forever a work in progress.

That’s the whole point, when we aim to become a better human being, there is no final destination, it’s a constant work in progress.

I will be going for a meditation retreat, probably not as hardcore as 10 days silent retreat, (I just can’t do that to Anya) but a weekend away just to learn to skill would be very beneficial for me. I feel I am finally ready.

And I hope I’ve convinced you to start.

 

 

Ego, social media, and bodybuilding

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I am just a little under #4weeksout of WNBF Singapore, after battling bouts of high and low days, I am feeling better this week, I am feeling excited that the show is just around the corner.

I have planned everything that I needed to plan at the moment, there is some other details that I need from the show organizer, but at this moment, I feel prepared.

Everyday, I’d open up my journal to this page that reads “I am absolutely capable of fullfilling anything that is asked of me ; I have all the knowledge that I need to do this already inside me ; I am fully resourceful and able to rise to this challenge.”

What do I do without quotes…

I have just came back from KK (Sabah), and before I write about my thoughts on Ego and bodybuilding, I have to admit this blog post is inspired after being at a powerlifting event. I have flown there from Sibu to be with my best friend Dorothy (a Sabah native, but currently working and living in KL) as her entourage. There is a similarity with both powerlifting and bodybuilding, powerlifters and bodybuilders often don’t see eye to eye, bodybuilders tend to see powerlifters as being egotistic, and powerlifters just think bodybuilders are a bunch of narcissistic vainpots.  If only we could see how similar we all are,  infact, this similarity is consistent amongst all the different pursuit of sports.

Something Mike Tyson said on Joe Rogan’s podcast a while ago has stuck with me, about how he doesn’t lift weight anymore because he finds that it inflate his ego. A light bulb went off in my head, I then thought about my ego, my addiction with social media, narcissism, my constant craving for attention through either bodybuilding or powerlifting, I question my motive, when it comes to the hobbies I pursue, are they in control of me, or am I in control of them? Am I really doing it for self growth, or simply feeding my ego?

I will always be a great fan of both sports, and there’s a beauty in both the pursuit of strength and physique that captivate me. But with the rise of social media, so much of this has become about social approval. By focus my attention on pursuing it for self growth, I have gained a much deeper insight in the process. What was I looking for by posting my “progress” anyway ? Does it help me, or more importantly, others? I was clueless, I was simply a sheep in a herd, following what everyone else is doing.

I have battle with myself more times than I can count this prep. I have found great satisfaction in acknowledging my shortcomings and overcoming my challenges, all without posting or complaining on the social media. I do admit sometimes I slip, and let me emotions drive my actions, with that, I realize I need to safe guard my behaviour and never let my attention slip, because it is too easy to fall back into the rabbit hole.

There are many elements that makes a human being thrive : bodybuilding, powerlifting, or just lifting in general,  it is only a very small part of my self development journey. With bodybuilding, I understand it’s imperative that I use it to improve myself, let it build my character instead of the other way around. Bodybuilders aren’t egotistic, but physique and strength sports tends to attract egotistic people, keep ego in check, and it will nourish you.

 

 

Prep Journal : Six Weeks Out

I’ve been on a struggle bus lately, you can bet there’s a certain level of deceit whenever I share prep related updates, not because I am reluctant to be vulnerable, but mostly because I am more afraid of amplifying the negativity. Again, complaining really doesn’t make the situation better. I am the only one responsible for my prep, and I don’t want to complain about myself.

I am more clear headed now as I am typing this, as I had a good amount of food in me, (approximately 800kcal is consumed before I felt competent to type up this post) perhaps, I am using this opportunity to self reflect,  to sooth and convince myself that I’ll be able to pull through.

I’ve had my fair share of doubts, thoughts of giving up came up repetitively, then I thought about the effort, time and money I have invested in my prep, and I hesitated. With dieting, meal planning and training, I know I’ll have time to perfect my skill, but you can’t get the stage experience without stepping on stage, the answer was clear to me, I have made my decision then.

Momentary lapses happens, emotions rises and falls, instead of repressing them, I just have to wait it out.

I always have to remind myself this is a luxurious pursuit, it is the strangest thing you can put yourself through if you live a relatively comfortable life, you are literally inflicting pain on yourself, while your body fight against you to stay in homeostasis, you fight with yourself 24/7 to control your impulses.  Looking at this from another perspective, perhaps I am the lucky one, as there is no other pursuit in my life that requires this much mental restraint.

I have also learnt to be more forgiving with myself, some things will just have to take a step back at this point, as my energy level took a hit, my family and work requires alot of my attention, my book writing has definitely taken a step back. Regardless of how hard I try, without sufficient glucose, my brain just refuse to cooperate with me. I have also noticed I am more vulnerable to fall back into my old habits, I have started using coffee again after going through the awful withdrawal phase…I tend to look for distraction during meal times…so on and so forth. Even thou I know this is just temporary, I still feel bad regardless.

On the bright side of things…atleast I already beat her.

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Nancy

Of meditation and things 

While attending Claudia’s wedding last night, I was seated next to a beautiful lady. She gracefully held out her hand towards me and introduced herself : “Nancy”, her name. Petite, shoulder length hair, fit, looks to be in her 40s, (looks is deceiving after all, turns out, she’s in her 50s)

I learnt that she happened to be connected to Claudia through meditation. Vipassana meditation facility, specifically, which Claudia has recommended to me when I was going through a difficult time. I couldn’t commit to the 9 days program they provides, perhaps, commit is not the right word, I just wasn’t ready.

Thou I have cultivated a daily meditation practice, I have never been exposed to any formal teachings of meditation, which I think will benefit me. There is only so much you can learn through reading other people’s experiences, or watching Youtube videos. While enrolling into a program will be an ultimate goal for me (settling family and work commitments will be tricky), but sitting next to someone who has been actively practising meditation for 20 years was a good opportunity for me to learn.

As wedding program proceeds and dishes were served, I bombarded her with questions :

“Is using mantra a form of cheating ?” was the first thing I’ve asked.

While there is no right and wrong ways of meditating, I do like to know how to block my thoughts without needing to rely on chanting mantras in my mind. She briefly explained to me while using mantra can be effective for a beginner, but eventually, we have to learn not to use it as a crutch.

“Do you still feel agitated ?”

“Do you ever act out?”

“How about road rage?” (1.5 days with KL traffic was enough for me)

It’s obvious by now that you can get a sense of how I am with my emotions and impulses, and this is why most of my questions revolves around them. I’ll be the first to admit, I am often very impulsive and emotional.

It was certainly comforting knowing that Nancy, even after practising meditation for over 20 years, still feels these emotions on daily basis. She further affirmed my beliefs that as humans, we are emotional beings after all. When impulses or emotions arises, be aware of them, catch the thoughts and stay put, they’ll eventually subside.

When I can’t repress my feelings, I often feel like a failure. I can’t even keep track of the number of times I feel annoyed or agitated at something on daily basis, and when I feel the annoyance, I feel annoyed that I feel these annoyance. (And you’re the real MVP if you’re not yet annoyed by the confusing statement) I realise this is where I get it all wrong, I am not supposed to be emotionless, in true stoicism spirit, it’s how you react upon those annoyance that matters. We are the master of our mind after all, nothing can inflict annoyance on us except ourselves : our own thoughts.

The key to achieving a higher level of intellects and wisdom is no doubt self awareness, with self awareness comes self reflection, which is valuable in any pursuit of self development.

Unsurprisingly, Nancy is also not on any social media, except watsapp, which we exchanged our contacts and already I am formulating on inviting her for a cuppa to extend our conversations when I do visit KL again. Dorothy and I really enjoyed the conversations we’ve had throughout the evening. I felt lucky especially, that Universe (or Claudia, in this sense) connected me with the people that I needed to connect with.

PS : (Another beautiful lady, Lee Kheng, sitting at the same table also happens to be a volunteer at this other meditation facility called Kenchara Forest retreat based in Bentong, Pahang.) They offer short courses on introduction to meditation techniques, requires only 2 days. As I plan for my retreat I also like to share some information on meditation camps here based in Malaysia here.

Vipassana Meditation Retreat

Kenchara Forest Retreat

Good habits are as addictive as bad habits

I drew alot of inspiration from Jame’s Clear’s book “Atomic Habits”. Despite my best effort, prior to his book, my attempt to build habits were futile, as I would always revert to my old ways. It’s a combination between his book and Dr. Cal Newport’s book “Deep Work” that has helped me cement alot of the life changing good habits that I currently have, and I am forever grateful.

I sympathise when people say bad habits are hard to kick, they are, but good habits are as addictive as bad habits. You can build a new habit to get rid of the old ones. I have found this strategy extremely effective, if you were to quit any habit cold turkey without finding another replacement, you are bound to relapse.

That doesn’t mean I don’t ever relapse, I do, but overtime, the frequency of these “relapse episodes” reduce significantly. Good habits are addictive, when you are able to set a rule for yourself and comply to them, you’ll feel really good about yourself.

A few tips that has helped me with forming good habits :

Bullet journaling

Never miss twice (if you miss once, just make sure you don’t miss it twice)

Master the art of showing up

This has been the biggest takeaway I got from “Atomic Habits”. Take my swimming practice for example. Some days I just feel so exhausted and tired and I don’t want to go, but I go anyway, even if I don’t intend to stay for long. I’d tell myself, you just have to show up. I apply the same philosophy to my daily meditation too, “I just have to show up.” Months later, meditation is now my daily routine, as intuitive as brushing my teeth in the morning.

From the Daily Stoic

What bad habit did I curb today? How am I better? Were my actions just? How can I improve?

Impulses of all kinds are going to come, and your work is to control them

“Whenever you get an impression of some pleasure, as with any impression, guard yourself from being carried away by it, let it await your action, give yourself a pause. After that, bring to mind both times, first when you have enjoyed the pleasure and later when you will regret it and hate yourself. Then compare to those the joy and satisfaction you’d feel for abstaining altogether. However, if a seemingly appropriate time arises to act on it, don’t be overcome by its comfort, pleasantness, and allure—but against all of this, how much better the consciousness of conquering it.”

Indulging might actually be worse than resisting, the urge begins to lose its appeal. In this way, self-control becomes the real pleasure, and the temptation becomes the regret.