Life transformation

Fitness and health, On becoming vegan, Strokes and Diabetes

This post is dedicated to lifelong journeys of finding balance.

Pictured above (top from left to right: me in September 2010; May 2018; August 2018 and September 2018).

OMG!

It’s a bit embarrassing to post these photos of me – but I am trying to make a point here! The point is that we all have control over our bodies and can change our lives just by making some lifestyle/eating changes.

Lifelong battle…

…with my weight since I was a young kid – probably by about grade 5 (I determined this based on looking at my old school photos). I was made fun of by relatives and people at school. People thought I enjoyed being squeezed on the cheeks – like chubby is cute? My own aunts would say that I am “soooo fat!” (of course the same aunts that normally say nothing to me); a cousin that I never met before until we visited China called me “fay fay” (fatso) when I was 11 years old. So traumatic!

First major change

When I was about 19 years old, I joined a weight-training course in CEGEP (basically college in Montreal between high school and university). I enjoyed the class a lot and felt good. My teacher at the time (a 70 year old former weight trainer) pulled me aside and told me that I was a nice looking person, but there was no room for ‘fat’ people in this world. I felt so ashamed after that incident, that I signed myself up for another session the following semester. I managed to lose a lot of weight at that time. University life found me “thinner”, but I still felt like I was overweight. Body image is so skewed…because that was my ‘normal’ weight back then (but I still felt ‘fat’).

Pregnancy and life

After I got married at age 25, I became pregnant and gained a bunch of weight. By the time my second was born a couple of years after, I gained even more weight. When my daughter was about 8, she asked me why I was so ‘big’. I had no explanation.

I joined martial arts with my daughter and successfully lost 10 lbs in about 3 months.

Then I was pregnant with my third. I was pretty heavy at the time, so by the time I reached full term, I had only gained 10 lbs. When my son was born, I actually lost about 15 lbs – feeling like my body almost returned to my ‘normal’.

June 2017

Then more life happened. By June 2017, my weight had ballooned to the point of no return. I could feel that my skeleton could no longer bear the excess weight. When I went to Montreal to visit my grandma and met up with my sister’s friends for dinner, I was wearing a skirt and I felt incredibly uncomfortable -like I couldn’t sit anymore, and my legs were kinda tingly. When I returned home, I tried to play with my babe on the floor and could barely kneel down (due to discomfort). That’s when the gears in my brain started to churn. I needed to do something and QUICK!

September 2017

In September, I was about to take a 360 turn in my life. It just happened that my brother-in-law was talking about his own diet (Paleo) over a birthday dinner. The next day, I decided to cut the carbs and focus on eating meat and veggies (breakfast, lunch and dinner). After a couple of days, I swore my stomach was flatter! After I lost my first 10 lbs, the usual ‘plateau’ where weight does not come off as quickly. I then tried the Bulletproof coffee recipe for my breakfast. Basically, it was black coffee plus a tablespoon of grassfed butter plus two tablespoons of MCT (medium chained triglycerides) oil (pure coconut oil). After taking that for a couple of weeks, I lost about 5 lbs more.

then…25 lbs lighter

By May 2019, I had lost about 25 lbs. I still wanted to go for another 10 lbs to get closer to my “ideal” weight (and cut body fat), but I knew I needed some help. I saw the 42-day challenge at Anytime Fitness gym (Richmond Hill location) on Facebook and requested to join. I got a text shortly after and scheduled an appointment for a consult. The following Monday, I started my program.

then…7 lbs lighter

At the end of my 6 week challenge, I lost 7 lbs plus about 2% body fat. I just cannot believe that I am almost there…

MERCI! MERCI!

A great big thank you to Maz, Liam, Dan (who is no longer at the gym), Taylor and Leah at Anytime Fitness Richmond Hill, for pushing me to work my hardest and be my best self. The best part of the challenge was being held accountable for my goals. I had the gym staff to help keep me motivated and on track – plus the weekly weigh-ins were a bit of pressure.

What I have lost and gained during my 42 days

Lost:

7 lbs
about 2% body fat
My grandma (she passed away the day after Mother’s Day)

Gained:

Muscle
Confidence
New friends
A new tattoo (in memory of my grandma)
A huge inventory of new exercises that I can do at home on my own

This past year and a half

I have dropped 3 pant sizes (crazy eh?). I know how people love to see photos of before and after, so I will be bold and show them here. Pictured on the bottom left: 2 pant sizes, centre: 1 pant size and right: now. I didn’t even take a photo of 3 pant sizes because they ran out of that size!

Exercise

It is not just about diet – exercise is critical to weight loss and sustainability of ones’ weight and health (both physical and mental). That being said, diet is a HUGE part of it! You cannot pig out on junk food and expect to lose any weight. Our “body is our temple” and we need to fuel it up with healthy food.

Veganism

I have also been vegan for over six months’ now. Being vegan is not just for the environment and the animals, but makes one more conscious of what you feed your body.

Lucky duck

I was really lucky that even at my maximum weight, I did not experience any health conditions like diabetes, high cholesterol, etc. For that, I am truly thankful. Both of my parents had strokes (my mom in her fifties and my dad in his mid-sixties); and my mother has diabetes and high cholesterol, so I am probably more susceptible to these conditions. Gotta stay healthy for me and my family.

Here’s me yesterday, after my home workout. Not the greatest pic, but whatever – I don’t give a damn!

In this thing called life, you have the power to change. No one can force you to change, so you have to change for yourself. No one can want it more than you.

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I’m falling in love!

Events/Shows, Life
words love

I am not writing about the feeling of fluttering in your stomach, the uncontrollable giddiness, etc. that you experience when you fall in love with someone. I’m writing about my experience of ‘falling in love’ with a song. Has it ever happened to you? I didn’t think it was possible and never had this type of sensation before. But it happened. I heard Lewis Capaldi’s song “Someone you loved” on the radio the other day. I was just thinking last week that it would be great to have some new fresh songs on the radio – and suddenly he sang to me. I was in awe – what a powerful voice and composition.

I had no idea who the artist was at that time, but my daughter said that we could just Google the lyrics. Anyway, long story short…I am in love!

Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone you loved”:

I have listened to it at least 100 times since I first heard it. Lewis’ voice, song lyrics and composition bring out so many raw emotions. I can feel my heart drop and hairs stand up on my arms. Just want to close my eyes and feel the music.

“Hold me while you wait” is another of my favs:

Music generally

Music can be so powerful and heal the soul. The world is silent without it.

In this thing called life – feeling means that we are alive. If you have never fallen in love with a song – I sure hope it happens to you!

In loving memory of my grandmother

Uncategorized

My grandmother just passed away at age 88 this past Monday, May 13th at 4:45am in the morning. She is survived by her daughter, son-in-law, three granddaughters and five grandchildren.

It has been a while since I last posted, so long that I actually forgot my login password for a bit. On top of regular life (work, kids, chores), I have extremely busy with the 42-day challenge that I joined at Anytime Fitness (3 times a week workouts), working on my novel, and most recently, going to see my grandmother in Montreal.

If you believe in fate

As fate would have it, I had planned a trip to see my grandma on May 18th. I ended up cancelling my trip because my kids were very busy that weekend. Then I got a text message from my sister, letting me know that she got a call from my grandma’s nursing home. Apparently my grandma had a fever for a couple of weeks but was stable. The issue was the she stopped eating and she was unresponsive. I re-booked my trip, and took off by bus the next day.

Childhood

My grandmother raised us when we were children, while our parents went to work. Yet, I cannot say that we were very close (probably due to language problems (we spoke mainly English while she spoke Cantonese) and the conflict between our mother and grandma). She lived in a nursing home in Montreal for at least five years, so us grandchildren tried out best to visit her as often as we could.

Her last two days

It’s really hard to write this post without tears. I have been crying at random times this whole week since her passing. When I remember how truly lucky I am that I spent the last one and a half days of her life with her. On top of that the last day was Mother’s Day.

The first day, she was totally unresponsive. She could barely open her eyes. She could no longer speak and I had trouble to make her laugh using my ‘techniques’ that would have worked the last time I saw her.

On Mother’s Day, she opened her eyes and stayed awake and was super-aware the whole day. She even ate the full bowl of soup and peach fruit puree! She was able to follow a stuffed animal with her eyes, and she watched me the whole day.

After the nurses helped to change her clothes, I saw she wore a nice pink flowery shirt. I told her that she looked so beautiful and she smiled the biggest smile that you could ever imagine.

I told her that we all cared about her a lot, that she didn’t need to worry about us, and that she could ‘sleep’ if she was tired.

My novel

My grandma was the first person (other than myself) to hear my manuscript. I am about half-way through the manuscript. I told her I loved to write and hoped to finish my book this year. Even though she doesn’t really understand English, she listened and watched me the whole time. She showed no sign of tiredness at all. My novel is essentially a fictional story but based on her life. I believe in my heart that this was her bedtime story, because the next morning she left the earth.

My final thoughts

My grandma passed peacefully in her sleep. With her passing, I experienced a flood of emotions: sadness, happiness, regret and guilt to name a few. Sad that I will never see her physical person again in my life; happy that she was not in pain when she passed; regretful that I didn’t get to see her more often; and guilty that I didn’t really get a chance to know her.

In this thing called life…

  1. Grab life by the horns. Don’t let the moments pass by.
  2. If you want something – GO FOR IT!
  3. Treat every day like your last – live with no regrets.

One bed or two? One blanket or two?

Fitness and health, Life

This post is dedicated to the guy who needs to take control of his quality of sleep. No excuses!

MOST IMPORTANT: QUALITY ZZZs

Did you know that quality sleep is REALLY important for your overall health? If you feel sluggish all the time and complain of tiredness or inability to focus, you may want to take a look at your sleep patterns. I read somewhere that the body does its main ‘healing’ while you sleep, between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. So, if you are awake between those hours – guess what? Yeah, your body is not given time to heal itself. I have a friend that sleeps at about 3 a.m. every night and gets up around 7:30 a.m. every day. Of course, she complains of tiredness every day. I wonder why?

According to Statistics Canada, “Insufficient sleep (short duration and poor quality) is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, injuries, all-cause mortality, depression, irritability, and reduced well-being. ” and “For adults aged 18 to 64 and seniors aged 65 or older, 7 to 9 hours and 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, respectively, are recommended.”

So, any time a couple complains about poor sleep, I ask:

1) do you sleep on the same bed?

2) do you cover the same blanket?

To date, I have had the same conversation with seven different ‘couples’ who complained of poor sleep and tiredness.

Guess what they all said: Yes, we sleep together and yes, we share the same blanket.

Come on guys! Break the social norms/ habits! It’s for you and your health (mental and physical).

Well, it may sound crazy – but I confess that I haven’t slept in the same bed as my hubby for the last 17 -18 years! It started this way while I was pregnant and had trouble to sleep; then after our first child was born, I started to sleep with the baby; then followed the second child about two years later – I started to sleep with her and our son slept with my hubby. The years in between are cloudy, but we realized that sleeping separately was better for us. Then ten years later, number three came along and I started to sleep with him. BTW – all three of my kids were crappy sleepers, so basically I didn’t sleep well for these past 17-18 years. I TOTALLY believe that you have to do whatever it takes to catch some quality ZZZs.

My hubby has sleep apnea, so does not sleep well. He often gets up multiple times a night and likes to turn on the lights and make instant noodles in the kitchen (think noise!). In addition, he has a ‘cold’ body, so needs two big blankets to sleep. Myself, I developed into a light sleeper over the years and have a ‘hot’ body, so just one blanket would suffice.

My parents had the same problem – same bed, same blanket. Finally, I convinced them to at least have two blankets – rather than always fighting for the blanket. They are loving it and get better sleep. To them, I am a genius!

Needless to say, it totally makes sense to sleep separately. It has absolutely nothing to do with separation from a relationship -so I wouldn’t feel guilty about it. The most recent person we talked to said that he understood why some ‘old people’ slept separately. That was such a funny comment, because you don’t have to be old to be practical and conscious of your need for sleep. [In my opinion -sleeping in one bed and sharing one blanket is way over-rated!] He said he had no trouble to fall asleep but woke frequently throughout the night and could not fall back asleep. I reminded him that his spouse might actually be knocking him without him knowing and thus wake him. Perhaps taking a video would be interesting…

Finally, so many studies have been done, linking better quality sleep with a completely dark room. If you have dinky blinds that let in light – just hang a set of black-out curtains in front of them. Something so simple can change the way you sleep. Get on it!

And if you do wake, try not to turn on the lights – or your body’s circadian rhythm will be interrupted.

In this thing called life – let’s all be practical and get some good quality sleep. Don’t feel that you are abandoning your spouse. Your body and brain will thank you and make you a happier person for your spouse. On that note, I ended this post by going to sleep. I love my sleep! But sadly had trouble to fall asleep. Could be because of the smell of the noodles and loud talking downstairs at 1:30 a.m.

I would love to hear from you: One bed or two? One blanket or two?

In search of plant-based food: Oliver and Bonacini review

Vegetarian/Vegan Resto Reviews

I decided to re-name my blog title to…”In search of plant-based food” instead of restaurants – because vegan restaurants are hard to find where I am. So, now I look for vegan menu items at ‘regular’ restaurants.

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill (Bayview & Sheppard, Toronto location) (aka O & B) is not a vegan restaurant but does have a selection of vegetarian dishes, but you should double-check the ingredients with the waiter/waitress before ordering.

My in-laws treated our family for a Chinese New Year dinner back in Feb 2019 at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill. It would have been too hectic at any Chinese restaurants, so we went for Italian-style food.

The main dinner menu online looked promising for me and my daughter, so by request, we went there. But unfortunately, I found out it was part of the Winterlicious festival with a set three-course meal (appetizer, main dish, and dessert). That meant that their entree menu was reduced significantly.

Overall rating:

Food: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)

Ambience/decor: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My fav dish: If I have to pick an item – it would be the mushroom soup (made with no cream and no butter).

I ordered the Spaghetti Pomorado entree (pictured above). O & B made no effort to add a unique ingredient like truffle mushroom to the spaghetti or decorate the plate. So no fancy ingredients or garnish at all. Basically, the pasta had tomato sauce and a bit of basil. I could easily have made the dish myself at home for a few dollars – but it cost $16.

My husband had the Schnitzel dish, but it did not look so great and he didn’t really like it, and my son had a curry lamb, which he did not really enjoy.

Loyalty rewards

Nada.

Feedback: I was disappointed when I tried to ask for a customized pizza to share with my meat-eating 5-year-old. They have Margarita pizza and pepperoni pizza- so I asked for half with just tomato sauce, basil and no cheese; and half with pepperoni and cheese. They could not do it for me.

poem = apple?

Poetry
photo of apples on a tree
You might be thinking…an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

It’s kinda funny how pen-to-paper works. You just start with a general thought, then it develops into something fun or serious. I find writing poetry therapeutic. I suggest trying to write a poem. However, if you can’t handle poetry try keeping a diary. I still have my old diary from when I was about 8 years old. It’s enjoyable to read it occasionally.

“Apples”

A poem a day keeps the shrink away.
This simple remedy keeps your thoughts at bay.
Don't know what to write?
Just grab a pen and turn on the light.
Jot down just one word and soon his friends will join.
And pretty soon, a poem is born.

-Monica Ng

In this thing called life, things don’t always need to make sense.  That’s what keeps things fun.

Negativity and Happiness are contagious

Life
picture of my feet
Happy feet = happy person

Ask yourself – which would you rather? Be surrounded by negativity or happiness? Is happiness over-rated? No way! Happiness is the foundation of life. Gotta have it.

I am not a shrink, but I did study sociology in U. My advice is simple: surround yourself with happy and positive people where possible. There is no rocket science to this. It’s like when you are always around people who like to complain or contemplate life in a negative way…don’t you feel mentally and emotionally drained by the time you finish speaking to them? Well, move those feet of yours away and find some happier and more positive people. If you are having trouble meeting positive people, try finding an activity you like and join a group with people who enjoy the same thing as you.

In this thing called life – the world stops for no one. Make every moment count.

The re-useable knife

Life

This post is dedicated to my husband – as this story would not be told if not for him.

When I tell people the story of the “reusable knife” – they first give me a confused look. Then by the time I finish explaining they tell me their own stories with great frustration.

Don’t be too shocked…but what you are about to read is real and hideous.

The Haunting of the Reusable Knife

Many believe that a reusable knife is just a knife made of heavy-duty plastic, stainless steel or some other material. But no, that’s not it at all.

Chapter 1

The sun had set and darkness was covering the land. Monica was busy cooking in the kitchen and when she turned around – there it was. The knife. It was propped up on a plate. The same plate where her oils were kept on the kitchen counter. There was an eerie streak of light shining off the knife from the under-cabinet lighting. Monica gasped. She was afraid to touch it. After all, there was no reason at all for a lone knife to be lying on the plate. She decided to leave it alone, but it called her name. She glanced over her shoulder. It was still there. At the end of the evening, before Monica went to bed – it was still there.

Chapter 2

The knife wasn’t quite so scary the next day when the sun was shining brightly, so Monica reluctantly put it in the sink to be washed. That night when it was dark again – there it was. The knife. This time there appeared to be peanut butter on the knife. Not only was the knife dirty, but buttery. Goo oozed from the knife and trickled onto the white plate.

Chapter 3

Another day went by. Another day. Another knife.

That evening, Monica was chopping up some carrots for her dinner soup. When she was about to chop the onions, she glanced sideways and there it was. This time, the knife’s edges were covered with bread crumbs. Before bed, the knife beckoned Monica, but she refused to pick it up. She would not give in to its calls.

Chapter 4

The next morning, the breaded knife was lying on the oil plate. Again, the sun seemed to soften the white glows. And again reluctantly, Monica put the knife in the sink. Dinner would be made early that evening because her family had to go out afterwards. Rushing to put together a meal, Monica ran around the kitchen gathering things. Suddenly, when she was putting things on the counter. There is was. Another knife. This time, it was covered in juice from an apple or some kind of fruit. It glistened with slime and tempted Monica to go closer. A very gutsy dare from a knife, she thought. Monica was strong and did not battle with the knife that night.

Chapter 5

To be continued…

Afterword

Yes, this is how this story ends lol. But trust me, the knives do not stop popping up every day. Such a seemingly small/trivial thing just drives me insane! My husband claims that he keeps the knives there “in case” he needs to use it again. But I have never seen one being “re-used”. I ask him every day when he plans to ‘re-use’ it, but he only laughs. One day, a second knife got propped on the first knife. Then for some reason, he cleared one away and left the other. I asked him why and he said he wasn’t sure if it was his! OMG!

In this thing called life – one can hint and keep hinting or say it outright, but the plight may remain unheard.

BTW – what’s your “STORY”? I would love to hear from you!

Review of C Fong Hsiung’s Picture Bride (Book review)

book reviews
photo of C Fong Hsiung's book
Picture Bride and New Land Same Sky – written by C Fong Hsiung

Picture Bride

Picture Bride is C Fong Hsiung’s first book. She recently launched her second, New Land Same Sky. I had the pleasure of attending Fong’s second book launch and listening to her speak about her writing experience. It was also wonderful to listen to a powerful reading of a few excerpts from her book, New Land Same Sky.

If you read my post titled “Interview with C Fong Hsiung” you would know that like many of us out there, we work full-time jobs unrelated to book writing. She is an accountant and I am a law clerk. But through our passion for writing, we can express ourselves and tell stories for all to enjoy and experience.

Picture Bride: Story line

A young Hakka (Chinese-Indian) woman named Jie-Lan is forced by her parents to marry someone through an arranged marriage. She travels all the way from Calcutta, India to Toronto, Canada to be with Peter Chou. But when she arrives in Canada, she is greeted with hostility and indifference from her husband-to-be, which shocks her and makes her want to cry. She is naive to expect that her new husband would want to make love to her after their marriage. Yet she tries to be adaptable. She tries to engage Peter in conversation but he always scoffs her off. She decides to find work in Toronto and make the most of her new life. One day she feels sick and goes home early. Everything becomes clear to her when she walks in on her husband and his male ‘friend’ in his bed.

She wants so badly to end her marriage – but it’s not so easy with tradition and shame that would be brought to her family. Yet how can she continue to endure her marriage? Would falling in love with a fankwei (a white man) be her destiny? Find out when you read Picture Bride. Check out her website www.fonghsiung.com to find out where to buy her books.

Here are my comments:

Having never been to India – I enjoyed having a snapshot of life in Calcutta. Leather tanning being the way of life. The wealthier families owned factories, while the poorer locals often tried to break into the factories to steal money. Arranged marriages, which were (and probably still are) popular in Indian culture brought two people together, initially without love. But can love grow from this type of relationship? Maybe. I would like to hold onto that hope.

In Picture Bride, Jie-Lan is a heroine as she endures so much for her want to be loved and cared for. She leaves her country with an open mind for an unknown life and fights bravely against the man called her husband when he threatens to have her sent back to India if anyone finds out he is gay.

There is an underlying story of Jie-Lan’s sister who died after being discovered dating a non-Hakka. There is a great reveal near the end of the book. A family dynamic unique to each family. I didn’t think Fong could wrap it up with just a few pages left – but she did!

I felt very satisfied when I put down Picture Bride. Will work on reading New Land Same Sky next after I finish up the book I am reading now.

My favourite line

My favourite line of her book which is about arranged marriages:

“Too young to choose my own husband, but old enough to marry.” It so nicely summarizes contradictions in life in general.

In this thing called life – reading is one of the greatest joys. I love to read. We can go on an adventure or emotional roller coaster without physically going anywhere.