Sunday, May 6, 2012

Complimentary Confusion

Recently, while having lunch with some friends, I found myself irritated by a fellow diner’s remark that I should eat up. ‘You’re too skinny! We’re going to fatten you up.’ What am I, I thought, a Christmas turkey?

It occurred to me that if – by their judgment – I was too plump, then they would not have been so outspoken with their opinion. I can’t imagine someone saying in the same cheerful way, “You’re too fat. We’re going to skinny you up!” If such a remark was made, there would probably be red-faced embarrassment all round: the person the remark was directed at would no doubt feel they’d been insulted, the other lunch guests would probably rise to their defense, and the one who had made the remark would probably be ordered to apologize. 

You’re too fat! You’re too thin! What’s the difference? Overweight and underweight are both health problems and equally serious, yet by society’s standards one is an insult and one is a compliment. This is ridiculous. Slowly, I’ve started to understand why I felt so irritated. What was offered as a compliment was actually a double whammy insult. Essentially, I was told that I look like I’m in an unhealthy weight range and then, confusingly, made to feel that I should be flattered to be told so. 

I’m always small-boned, narrow and apple-shaped since I was young. I have always had difficulty building my arms and shoulders. Despite leading an active lifestyle by indulging in various exercises like swimming, badminton, jogging, etc., my little arms have stayed little. It’s not an asset; it just means that I need help getting the lid off the jam jar. And unbeknownst to the person who made the comment, at the time I was feeling particularly proud of my arms. After a long time of push-ups, sit-ups and dumbbells, a miracle had occurred: I had biceps now! Yes, they were small, but I was proud of them. In fact, I was wearing s tank top to show them off. So, you can see why the cheery ‘eat up, you’re too skinny’ remark stung
I read an article about body images which wrote about there were two films ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘Lost in Translation’ have scenes in which a woman was told that she looked too thin. In both movies, the woman replies with a gushing and heartfelt “Thank you!” These scenes were played for laughs. It’s funny because it’s so stupid, but under all that laughter is the true sentiment of what society thinks about body image – and it’s anything but funny. 

“You look fit!”
“You look healthy!”
“You’re positively glowing with well-being!”
These are compliments. “You look malnourished!” is not. So, the next time we compliment a friend, be sure that what we’re telling them are actually a compliment.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Moment of pride with my Form 5 tuition students

The long awaited moment had finally came on 22nd March 2012 when the SPM results were being released that day and all my tuition students were getting back their SPM results. I was working in the lab doing my lab work or writing paper in the morning as it was more productive for me to write in the morning compared to in the afternoon. Suddenly, my hand phone rang and it was one of my tuition students around 11am. I answered the call and get to know their results. They call me one by one telling me their results. Guess what were their results? Among the 5 students I thought them in SPM Science, Chuan Rong (smutty guy), Seng Ei (cutie), Vincent, Chia and Pei Ru, all scored an A in that subject. I am so proud of them as all my hard work had finally paid off after teaching them for about 10 months and two weeks with all the extra classes I gave them provided with all the trial exam papers from other states. We even spotted some questions based on the trend of the questions set annually. Finally, the questions came out to be easy for them, they said after finishing the exam in November 2011.

I remember when I was first given the task of teaching them January 2011, my cousin sister (the person in charge of the home tuition center) told me that they were from Art class and were not doing well in their studies. When I met them initially, they were so cute and quite polite in addressing me. I realized that they were not that ‘bad’ as told by my cousin sister. For me, they were not receiving attention enough during school time and still wanted to keep chatting during tuition time. Sometimes, I had to pacify them so that they stop talking while in the class. However, banning them from talking would be unhealthy to them psychologically and emotionally. So, I have to talk with them in order to get along with them. They always ask my opinions whenever they are having some problems personally during tuition time. I never fail to answer them but at the same time I had to rush in teaching the syllabus as the content was quite a lot. So, I will change the topic all of a sudden after finished talking with them. They knew my style and they also started to listen to my teaching. After teaching them a while, I started to realize that my method was not effective as they were not paying attention and always feeling sleepy as it was during night time plus it was after dinner. What to do? I had to teach them by using other approaches like video teaching and photo demonstration to attract their focus. See what happens? They always feel energetic while watching the video about a subject in a specific chapter. That method helped them to master the topic of interest easily rather than just talking in front of them. Henceforth, my teaching skills improved for their wellness.

A special pattern shown from them was they won’t study hard when it was not exam time. It was so obvious when their exam was around the corner. They will ask so many questions and paid attention when I was teaching them. But, their school teacher always beat faster than me, so I had to teach them as fast as possible so that they can understand more before sitting for their test. Sometimes, I had to teach them until 10.30pm to cover more topics in the book. Luckily, I always relate what they learned to all the happenings surrounding them so that they know that everything they learned were applicable to their daily lives and able to reason whenever they observe something in their surroundings. After being with them for some time, we started to hang out by playing badminton firstly with their friends. Then, we started going to loiter around the shopping complexes far away like Times Square, Mid Valley and Pavillion KL; Ampang Lookout Point to foster a closer relationship. Besides, we started to have supper at the Mamak stall nearby the tuition center after tuition time. The most memorable moment for me when they were celebrating my 25th birthday during the tuition time and some 1 hour wasted on that. But, so touching for me and I saw their sincerity doing everything in life.

Since then, we always hang out together during some occasions like Christmas Eve’s countdown and year-end countdown and their birthday celebrations. Most of my friends and juniors were so amazed that we still can be with each other for many occasions even though our gap was 8 years. I think I shared one some important characteristics with them like sincere in be-friending others, righteous in helping others and not looking down others. Besides teaching them, I also learned many things from them as they were more Internet-savvy compared to me. I always spoke foul languages with them so that I could get along with them easily and we always had a good laugh after sharing all the silly and smutty jokes. Some of their friends who saw our outing photos in Facebook reiterated that I was not looked like their teacher at all due to my young look, Oopps….Haha, still looked young now, that’s why I like to be with the younger ones so that I look young always.

Sometimes, I did scold them when I was unable to endure their noisiness in class, interrupting the class. Luckily they understand it and accept their mistakes. See, they were good human beings if compared to those so-called intelligent ones in the Science class who are spoilt brat for me, being pampered lavishly by their parents. I remembered one occasion where they helped me to regain my dignity in front of my cousin sister. Initially, I was teaching 3 groups of students, namely Form 3 History and Geography and Form 5 Science. Compared to them, those form 3 students were a few times noisier than them and I had only an hour to teach them in each subject respectively. After enduring them for some time, I broke down finally and yelled at them, scolding their disobedient attitude. Since that time, my cousin sister asked me to stop teaching them the two subjects. I suspected some of them stabbed me in front of her. She even asked my form 5 students about how I teach them and they were telling her the truth of whatever they knew that time. I was glad that I was still able to teach them as I like being with them. That’s why I said they are good compared to the others. They don’t have sanctimony attitude.

I will write more in the next blog post about them. It is quite lengthy up to this point now. If you want me to write about them, it will be a never ending story from me due to the happy memories with them. Just wanted to say something here, perhaps not seen by others. I love them so much and they are all my brothers and sisters in life. I will never give up on them if they want to learn something even from the first day I met them. That’s my promise for them. I will keep it as I am a man of word. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 3, 2011

My feeling towards the movie Nasi Lemak 2.0

Malaysia is a funny place. We have so many unique characteristics, idiosyncrasies, habits and conflicts that any outsider looking in would think we are a pretty funny bunch. Despite this diverse cultures and traditions, it's not easy to make a Malaysian movie. I am talking about a true-blue Malaysian movie, not a Malaysian-Malay, Malaysian-Chinese or Malaysian Indian movie. I am talking about one that celebrates all aspects of being Malaysian, and not just one that focuses on one race, language or religion (Some might call it a 1Malaysia movie; personally I don't see why we can't just call it a Malaysian movie).

For me, Nasi Lemak 2.0 is out to make us take a good look at ourselves and laugh. It is also not meant to offend, criticize or insult anyone. What it wants us to do was to laugh at ourselves, at how we interact with other Malaysians, at our obsession with food, our culture, our national car, our politics, and at Malaysian life in general. While the story (which uses various languages and dialects, including Malay, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Tamil and English) is pretty much just an excuse to string together gags, it does focus on something Malaysians are very proud of - our food.

The movie's humour flits between outright hilarious and somewhat cringe-worthy, one of Namewee's best attributes is that he has never been afraid to laugh at himself. Here, he tries really hard to get us to laugh at ourselves. He is not out to offend anyone though (compared to his YouTube videos, the jokes here seem pretty mild). What he does is hold a mirror up to our faces, and shows us our flaws and our idiosyncrasies, as well as the funny side to being Malaysian.

The best bits of the movie are the subtler touches that Namewee puts in - the constant pokes at a certain national car, the usage of bits of 'popular' political quotes in the dialogue. No matter what you may think of Namewee, give this first-time director a chance. Nasi Lemak 2.0 may not be perfect, but it has its moments. Just try to look past the obvious flaws in the movie - its disjointedness, the awkwardness of some of the dialogue, and the preachy monologues - and revel in the fact that Malaysia really is a funny place.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The new food rules of the new century- Part 2

The new food rules of the new century – Part 2

Continuing from the previously written first part, the following are the remaining 5 more rules. Besides rules related to food and nutrition, I would like to discuss about the benefits and the necessity of exercise in our daily life.

Rule 6: Stop eating before we are full

I would like to share the evidences from various cultures around the globe. The Japanese have a saying ‘hara hachi bu’, which persuades people to stop eating when they are 80% full. The Ayurvedic tradition in India advises eating until we are 75% full; the Chinese specify 70%; and Prophet Muhammad described a full belly as one that contained one third food, one third liquid, and one third air – in other words, nothing. Eat more plant foods instead of meat-based foods is the best practices.

Rule 7: Eat sweet foods as you’d find them in nature

In nature, sugars almost always come packaged with fiber, which slows their absorption and gives us a sense of satiety before we have ingested too many calories. That’s why we are always better off eating the fruit rather than drinking the juice. We need to avoid those highly processed fruit juices and cordial drinks as they give nothing except added ingredients and plasticizers.

Rule 8: Break the rules once in a while

Obsessing over food rules is bad for our happiness, and probably our health, too. Over the past few decades, dieting and worrying too much about nutrition has made us no healthier or slimmer; cultivating a relaxed attitude toward food is just as important.

There will be some special occasions when we will want to throw healthy eating rules out the window. What matters more is the habits that govern our eating on a typical day. “All things in moderation” should always be in our consideration. I will enjoy eating luxuriously at buffet dinner occasionally with friends by showing them my strong appetite on delicious foods but still can maintain my healthy body image now as it’s always about what we eat and what we do daily. I will ensure my daily energy intake balances my daily energy expenditure by walk more. How can we achieve that? I always take stairs rather than taking the lift whenever I am going up or down at my work place. I feel like we are so technologically pampered by using lift until we are so lazy to move our foot or get our backside stand upright. I seldom use lift in UPM, that’s why I always remain fit and thin now. I am 6 kg underweight from my normal weight now, as a result of my daily lifestyles. I will make sure that I will exercise for at least 4 days a week by jogging for at least 30 minutes every time. Our fat will only starts burning after exercising for about 20 min, that’s why we have to strife until after 20 minutes every time. If not, we will feel tired easily as it burned out the glycogen storage easily, making us feel tired easily initially whenever we exercise. Please take good note of that as it is from my own experiences.

Rule 9: Pay more, eat less

If we spend more for better food, we will probably eat less of it, and treat it with more care. And if that higher quality food tastes better, we will need less to feel satisfied. Choose quality over quantity. Or, as wise grandmothers used to say, “Better to pay the grocer than the doctor”.

Rule 10: Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients

The specific number we adopt is arbitrary but the more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is.

Hopefully everyone will be benefited from my sharing above. It is always about what we eat and what we do daily. Together we live healthily ever after.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The new food rules of the new century- Part 1

As a nutritionist, I am often inundated by information about the latest disease, the newest cure, the healthiest diet or the best exercise. It’s a lot of information to digest but from my experience, all we really need is a bit of common sense moderation on food consumption and motivation to get our foot moving. Here’s one tip I swear by: avoid food products that contain more than 5 ingredients. I cringe when I see a long list of additives, enhancers and preservatives on food packaging. We were never meant to eat emulsifiers, stabilizers or thickeners, and I don’t even want to think about what it does to our body in the long run. Healthy, wholesome food usually only have few ingredients other than additives.

Hereby I have simplified the mountain of nutritional geek speak into some basic principles. You can heed these ‘personal policies’ of mine that should make everyday decisions easier and your eating healthier.

Rule 1: Eat Food

This is easier said than done, especially when so many new products show up in the supermarket each year, all vying for our food dollar. But most of these items don’t deserve to be called food – nutrition experts call them edible food-like substances. They’re highly processed concoctions, consisting mostly of ingredients that no normal person would keep in the pantry. Today, much of the challenge of eating well comes down to choosing real food and avoiding industrial novelties.

Rule 2: Eat food with variety of colours

A healthy plate of food with the feature of several different colours is a good example that turns out to be good science as well. The colours of many vegetables and fruits reflect the different antioxidant phytochemicals they contain – anthocyanins, polyphenols, flavonoids and carotenoids. Many of these chemicals help protect against chronic disease, but each in a slightly different way, so the best protection comes from a diet that contains as many different phytochemicals as possible.

Rule 3: Eat mostly plants, especially leaves

This one is in accordance with the newest dietary recommendations by many well known nutrition board such as the United States Food and Nutrition Board as well as World Health Organization (WHO). They contain a lot of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber with fewer calories. Plant foods with the exception of seeds, including grains and nuts – are usually less energy dense than other things we eat.

Rule 4: Eat food that will eventually rot

What does it mean for food to ‘go bad’? It usually means that the fungi , bacteria and creatures with which we compete for nutrients and calories have got to it before we did. Food processing and biotechnology began as a way to extend the shelf life of food by protecting it from these competitors. This is often accomplished by removing nutrients that attract the competitors, or by removing other nutrients likely to turn rancid. The more processed a food is, the longer the shelf life, and the less nutritious it typically is.

Real food is alive and therefore it should eventually die. There are a few exceptions: honey has a longer shelf life naturally. Also note that most immortal food-like substances are found in the middle aisles of the supermarket found in United States, European countries and other developed nations. I am still not sure about our country yet.

Rule 5: The whither the bread, the sooner you’d be dead

This suggests that the health risks of white flour have been popularly recognized for many years. As far as we concerned, white flour is not much different sugar. It offers none of the good things (fiber, B vitamins, healthy fats) in whole grains. So, we should eat whole grains and minimize our consumption of white flour.

It is just 5 rules I shared here. I will continue sharing another 5 rules in future. Thanks a million for the read. I hope you will enjoy learning from my own experiences.I welcome any comments from all readers if you have any to share to to correct my points.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Nostalgic again when watching sunset alone at Putrajaya

Came to my favourite place for jogging again, the straight-long road at Putrajaya stretching from Putra Square in front of the Prime Minister’s Department until Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC), then ran back to the place I parked my car. It was a normal routine for me to stop by the lakeside near the Malaysian Treasury building, lying down restlessly on the soft whizzing grasses, enjoyed watching the sunset alone as I did few times before whenever I was having some disturbances in my hearts of hearts while nobody was there to comfort my disturbed heart.

Not thinking of anything, the gentle wind come, sweeping away my tiredness, wipe away my profuse sweat, sobering my pounding hearts after jogging for almost an hour there. The giggling of cicadas, chirping of birds and breezing of wind were like a gigantic orchestra performing life before my eyes freely. All these provide some sobering effects to my mind and soul. Thanks a lot, the creation of the Almighty of this wonderful nature.

A lovely couple came by, asking my help to take their intimate photos beside the lake where I was watching the sunset. Luckily it was not my first time to hold DSLR. If not, it will be shameful on me. I envied them so much, being so close and intimate by teasing each other ceaselessly. Since then, my mind flashed back to the time when I was still in the 2nd year of my undergraduate studies, holding the post of students’ representative of UPM. I remembered that I missed the opportunity of establishing a relationship with my close friend as I was quite busy in my work as a student leader, looking after people’s welfare and actively involving in other clubs while focusing in my studies the same time. I felt awfully regretful on her as she was a good one. Luckily she got a good one with her now, to ease my pain of disappointing her. Nevertheless, we are still good friends now.

I remember when I was studying in form six in 2004/2005 where I was also busy involving in many extra-curricular activities even though it was a tough time to balance it with academic. Form six was really not easy. The relationship among my classmates were quite good as we had wonderful time with each other in many occasions such as sixth form night talent competition, graduation dinner, gatherings, to name a few. It was a surprise for me when they celebrated my birthday by giving me a special present with many wishes written on small pieces of paper by all my classmates, being inserted into the bottle containing a lovely bear. I didn’t make effort to read those written wishes one by one that time due to the same excuse, busy. I managed to read those wishes after some time. Then only I found that one of my close friends uttered her feeling out. It was too late for me as even though she was at the same university with me, working together in the same society. Hearsay told me that she was going to start a relationship with one of my friend. They have a good relationship until now. I am happy to see that. Yet, I regretted of sparing some important ones beside me. Tears blinded my eyes. I missed many things in my life, a sin which is not easily forgiven for me. I do think that there is still hope beyond the rich tapestry of our life. Long road ahead.