Category Archives: Life’s Like That

Cleansing the crazies

Cleansing the crazies

My weight is something that I have struggled with for nearly the last 20 years of my life. I spent my teenage years being able to keep my weight down solely because of all the ballet, gymnastics, swimming and track and field I did in school, but once I left high school, my weight began to fluctuate in a rollercoaster ride that would go on and on for the next few years.

I would gain weight twice as easily as I lost it, and finding clothes that fit well enough was an endless chore. Then in the spring of 2013 I fell ill and surprisingly lost a fair amount of weight, after which I decided that since I had already had help there, I would keep it up. So I was surprisingly able to maintain that weight for the next two years, and actually be satisfied with the way I looked.

It wasn’t until last summer, when Empire: Lebanon miraculously knocked off the remaining pounds I had been so desperate to lose, that I was finally the lightest I had been since 2006. And that was when I decided that since I was so close to my target weight, it was time to hire a personal trainer to help me dig out the muscles that had been buried for so long. I hired Zaida and Muna’s trainer, who agreed to come to my house three times a week, and we made such good progress that I was told more than once that I was very fortunate not to have the ‘Chinese ass’.

But when I started gaining weight again after the new year, I worried over whether it was just from my food consumption — which hadn’t changed very much because I was so buoyed by last year’s weight loss — or from gaining actual muscle mass. So I decided to try the Impressed Juice Cleanse program to see if I could lose some of that weight, and what kind of weight it was.

I had previously tried a week of juicing some years ago, but found it difficult to maintain because I was constantly angry due to my job, and the lack of food and caffeine worsened my spirits. But I figured that if I was in a less frazzled state of mind, a juice cleanse couldn’t be that difficult to manage. So I got ambitious and signed up for four days of the juice cleanse, and two days of the master cleanse.

Juice Cleanse, Advanced

Master Cleanse

I was right to deduce that my previous attempt at a juice detox years ago was unsuccessful because the stress of my job was not helping my cause. This time around, with the only thing causing me any kind of stress at all these days was my psycho bitch stalker stationed 4744 miles away, it was easier to focus on just getting my six bottles of nutrients a day. After the first two days, I was no longer thinking about food, or even coffee, and the fact that I could go six days without a drop of coffee — and without wanting to kill anyone — was an achievement in itself.

I was also able to continue with my training; no matter how much I wanted to lose weight, I wanted to maintain my ass even more, ACL and PCL be damned. I had to disclose to my trainer that I was on the juice cleanse, so he toned down my workouts by 20% until he could gauge how much strength I still had without solid food. Even though I ended each session a little light-headed, I was surprisingly not as lethargic as I had expected to be.

On my fifth day of the cleanse, I decided to add two more days to the juice cleanse, bringing my detox to a total of eight days. By then, it was more of the idea that since I had already come this far, I might as well keep going, and I would probably have continued for as long as I could if I didn’t have a baby shower to attend and an impending trip to Singapore after the eighth day.

The result was that after eight days of juicing, I was 3.5kg lighter (and I definitely felt it too), and maybe an inch or so smaller. I was also able to determine that while I could lose water weight, the baju kurungs I had custom-made at the height of the Empire: Lebanon insanity were a little more snug now because of the muscle mass I had gained from the waist down. And given the feedback I’ve received since the dawn of the new year, that’s something I can definitely live with.

A new fear

A new fear

It’s one of the greatest ironies of life that the more we want something, the less likely we are to get it, or the more bridges we have to cross in order to reach it. But just as we are about to reach it, something stops us in our tracks and makes us wonder if we really do want it after all.

Back in December, a day shy of my 31st birthday, I had to sit for the Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE) exam in order to apply for a teaching position in Colombia, because apparently, the Colombian government requires candidates to have a C1 score in order to be able to teach English. In retrospect, I suppose that isn’t asking too much, considering English teachers in Malaysia can barely speak English to begin with.

So with as good a grace as I could muster, I took the exam, which lasted an entire Saturday — literally 9AM to 5PM — and emerged from it limp and ashen-faced. There is a reason Masters- and PhD-holders strongly recommend going to graduate school fresh out of undergraduate: better to get all the exams out of the way while the mind is still young and in studying mode. It had been a very long time since I sat for any kind of exam — paper-based, no less — and it was the first time my own proficiency in English was tested to the point where even I second-guessed myself.

After the exam came six weeks of waiting; the results would be announced by or before February 1. I had to scrape at least 180/210 in order to qualify for a C1 score, which left a very small margin for mistakes in the exam. I didn’t want to think about what my mother — and my pride — would say if I couldn’t get that score when, in my final undergraduate year, I scored high enough on my LSAT to apply for Harvard Law School (yes, at one point in my life I actually considered studying Criminal Law, which, in hindsight, I think I really should have). I definitely didn’t want to retake the exam, and I didn’t want to have to think about what my Plan B would be if I couldn’t find another teaching program that would accept someone from my country.

It didn’t help either that right around the time I had to sit for the exam, business opportunities were suddenly falling at my feet, leaving me with very little room to refuse them, and resulting in my mother happily and unhelpfully quipping, “Well, life never goes the way you plan it!” Barely a week after the exam, I realized that even if I did manage to score 180, I would have to end up deciding which was more important: my dream, or my business.

Then, on January 18, I received an email from the exam website notifying me that my results had been released. After 15 minutes of staring at the ceiling, I downloaded the results statement and had my score read aloud to me before I could register or believe it.

CAE

Immediately after it sank in that I had managed to get a score higher than the required 180, C1 — 207/210! C2! — it dawned on me that I could now do it. I could apply to the teaching program and stand a chance of being accepted. I could leave this life behind and start over in a totally foreign land where nobody knew me, or talked about me, or cared what I posted on social media or wrote on this website. I could — but did I want to?

I had been terrified that I wouldn’t be able to get the C1 and move away from this place. But now, regardless of what had driven me to decide that come July, I couldn’t spend another minute in this country, a new fear has stolen over me. It was a fear of the unknown, a fear of being disillusioned, and above all, a fear of being unable to escape, no matter how far away I run.

Illusion of liberation

Illusion of liberation
Miami, September 2015

Miami, September 2015

I’ve had long hair for as long as I can remember. By ‘long’, I mean at least down to my décolletage, and in the last five years or so I had managed to grow it almost down to my waist. The reason I kept my hair long was to try and minimize my frame, which is bigger and more top-heavy than the average Asian woman’s, so I figured that the bigger my hair looked, the smaller i.e. skinnier my body would appear.

And then for some strange reason, I was gripped by the sudden urge to try having short hair again. I say “again” because I’m sure I must have had short hair at some point in my life, probably when I was very young and it was decided for me that short hair made my already round face even rounder. Nevertheless, I decided some time last year that I would like to try it again; after all, terms like ‘long bob’, or ‘lob’, were coined to bridge the gap that makes all the difference between a regrettable bob and safe-length hair.

But as always, I was crippled by the fear of ending up with a short haircut I might regret and have to spend years growing it back out. So when I went to my usual salon on Christmas Eve, it was with the intent of just trimming my split ends. However, as I sat idle in the hairstylist’s chair and allowed my mind to wander freely, I found myself dwelling on a couple of things that had been distracting me of late, and before I knew it, I was so agitated that when my hairstylist finally came over to tend to me, I told her to chop it all off.

My birthday lunch with Yiu Lin, December 2015

My birthday lunch with Yiu Lin, December 2015

I once read somewhere that getting a drastic haircut is like going bungee-jumping: the first leap is always the most terrifying, but when you realize it’s not so bad, it’s easy to get addicted to it. That was definitely how it worked for me with bungee-jumping, and I was surprised to discover that cutting my hair kind of had the same effect. I was positively rocking back and forth in my seat before my hairstylist made the first snip, but soon after that I was trying to convince her to keep cutting, until she actually had to tell me that she would only cut my hair until it hung a little past my collarbone, in case I found it too short later.

8 inches off

8 inches off

In the immediate aftermath of taking those eight inches off, I felt impossibly light; it was literally as if a weight had been taken off my shoulders, and it didn’t hurt that people around me kept telling me how much younger and happier I looked. Buoyed by this feedback and the illusion of liberation the short hair had left me with, I went back last Sunday to cut it even shorter, and now my hair rests just on my collarbone. It’s true that the absence of hair covering my shoulders makes me look even broader than usual, but for now I’m too busy trying to make sure my hair doesn’t flip outwards like most bobs do, to worry too much about trying to look thinner.

In the short term, I’m happy to maintain my hair at this length, especially if I can lose weight again (even though my thrice-weekly workouts are making that damned near impossible). And while I have a sneaking suspicion that before long I’ll end up missing my long hair, it’s a nice change not to have to watch my hair falling out before my very eyes.