No Pain, No Gain, No Vain

“You’re just like my sister. You’d order salad or appetizer, but then you’d nibble on my steak. Get your own steaks, girls!”

A man once exasperatedly said that during a dinner out. I rolled my eyes defiantly, for that’s what any self-respecting girl naturally does in such situation, but deep down I knew he wasn’t entirely wrong. I would do that, just as his sister and many other women would. And the most common reason cited by women committing such epicurean crimes is that we needed to keep our health… and our figure.

Counting calories, refraining from certain foodstuffs, or forsaking meals altogether—scientifically or superstitiously—women worldwide have been known to go extra lengths in the pursuit of health and hotness. In the recent era of celebritydom enhanced by magical airbrush software and perpetuated by 24/7 mainstream and social media machines, where flawless and preternaturally beauties grace center front stage, the pursuit is now often committed by mere mortals in the name of vanity.

Yes, I’m allowed to cast the first stone, for I’ve gone down both roads.

Growing up rather plump I earned cheek pinches wherever I went, but that plumpness didn’t serve me well once puberty kicked in. All my adult life I’ve been battling the stealth cruel monster I dubbed “the predisposition to automatically gain seven pounds after consuming a few hearty dinners while skipping several exercise classes”.  I inherited Mom’s pear shape and Dad’s sweet tooth, to make the matter even heavier, all pun intended. Diet? I’ve tried all sorts of them with equal success and failure.

First, the zero-meat diet. Yet as my blood pressure is naturally low I almost fainted after three days on mere veggies and steamed potatoes. It was crystal clear from that point on that I’d never become a vegetarian.

Then came the Atkins a.k.a. tiger diet, where very low carbohydrate intake was intended to push the body to convert stored fat for energy. I did lose a couple of kilograms before constantly suffering from low blood sugar, while my cholesterol level hitting the roof. I came to realization that, unlike real tigers, I didn’t boast sturdy muscles nor I roamed jungle to burn off the extra protein I consumed to compensate the low carbs.

And let’s not forget the college days where I’d just eat nothing but crackers for 2-3 days that, doubled with tequila shots, eventually landed me in hospital twice for stomach ulcers and liver problems.

Fast forward to present time, some tests recently indicated that although my Body Mass Index was still normal the visceral fat level, loosely defined as fat tissues enveloping internal organs, exceeded the normal range and hence posed certain health risks. Added to this is the pressure from appearing weekly on TV for the past year where not only I learned how the “Camera adds ten pounds” rang true, the anchorwoman and weather girl I share the frame with are enviably slim.

Just as luck would have it, I stumbled into a clean-eating catering service. I was skeptical at first since similar diet caterers I’d tried before delivered blah-looking, bland-tasting meals that lost my appetite long before I lost any weight. But I’m very pleased to discover that this caterer sends gourmet-looking, balanced meals that somehow still taste well with low salt, no sugar and no frying at the total of 800 calories for both lunch and dinner. The plan still provides carbs (brown rice spaghetti, anyone?) and carefully-measured, fat-stripped red meat that I didn’t feel starved or deflated to go about my days including exercising. No more picking from a man’s plate.

Have I been shedding pounds? Yes, gradually. But I’m more pleased to discover that the visceral fat level has slid down, in addition to the overall percentage of fat. Another change is my palette. When I had to travel and eat freely I noticed how fast I got full. Some dishes are just now too salty or oily for me. I suppose, just as any other muscle in our body, the stomach and tongue can be trained, too. Thanks to this catering, I think mine now have been.

Haven’t I been tempted to cheat? Sure have. Especially upon work deadlines, when my good old sweet tooth suddenly craves for chocolates and donuts. So I have cheated, and predictably felt bad afterwards. The difference is this time I know a bag of healthy meals will still arrive the next day for me to return to, preventing me from straying further with a bag of fried peanuts thinking all has been lost.

The clean-eating catering plan doesn’t come too cheap, and every time I saw the bill I asked myself if I was paying for my health or ponying up for my vanity. In all honesty, I think it’s a bit of both.  Physically I feel lighter, which makes me feel more motivated to move my bum to exercise.  Mentally I feel better, like I’m being more responsible in my well-being. Looking leaner in tight white jeans or on camera is a welcomed bonus after all the hard work of watching what I eat and kicking myself at the gym. No pain, no gain, no vain, no?

Now it’s your turn to share about your own body issues and conflicted relationship with food. Promise I won’t nibble on your steak.

As promised:

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