(Or the benefits of walking and good eating)
2011 vs 2013
In 2011, I went to America from Australia to visit Andrew, my then-boyfriend, who is now my husband. I knew that he ate a lot of unhealthy food, and that he was overweight (220 lb, or 100 kg), so I was concerned about him. I went to the US hoping to start him on exercises and healthy foods so he wouldnít always eat burgers, pasta and pizza.
When I journeyed overseas, by myself for the first time ever, on the plane, I packed all the kitchen stuff I thought I would need, including pots, pans, bowls, kitchen knives and meat tenderisers (to bash massage him).
Sadly, my two bags never made it out of the airport (they must have been thinking: WHO IS THIS CRAZY PERSON with five meat pounders and a knife? Does he/she want to blow up the airport or something???? The bags, as checked baggage, never even made it out of Australia! They were kept in Australia so when I arrived at LAX, I panicked because I couldnít find them and had only 2 hours to hop on a plane to JFK. When I finally arrived in NJ, they had to MAIL the two bags to his parentsí house. (They must have thought mailing it is much safer than letting me have these WEAPONS at the airport!)
When I got to Andrewís flat, there was NOTHING in the fridge. Not even an APPLE! AND he only used PAPER PLATES!
Andrew had not really cared about his weight or how to lose some of the excess. I tried to get him to agree to a regime of walking, but he always had an excuse to avoid exercise; if we went to the shopping centre and walked around there for 30 minutes, heíd always say, ìThis counts as my walk time.î
I felt as if he was walking just to show me that he could actually walk. But now heís used to the exercise and can see and feel how much healthier, weíll go to the shopping mall and heís changes his tune to: ìNO WAY does this walk count as my walk time. Of course Iím still going walk the set time!î
Previously, he had said he didnít even think it was possible to lose weight, so heíd stopped trying, as if he was already in such bad shape, he was giving up because it was impossible for him to recover.
At first, I had to force him to give up a lot of unhealthy foods, and to exercise for his health. I canít remember how much arguments we had about him giving up certain food such as fatty sauces and cheeses; in fact Iím not even sure that I want to know! At the time, the arguments were serious and not very funny at all; now thinking about it, we were really silly. When we first would go on a holiday, Iíd spend the entire time worrying about what he would eat.
Can I make a couple of observations here, please? Firstly, Andrewís self-esteem has risen: he feels good now that he has lost weight, and doesnít want to undo all that good work. He says it took so long to learn to walk and now that he has finally done it, he doesnít want to waste the effort. Heís also very cautious about how much he eats and doesnít want to over-eat and re-gain all that weight.
Secondly, he couldnít walk very far before his weight loss as his body felt too tired or his legs were sore (this was not entirely because of his excess weight: he limped because he had a bad leg due to a fall on the ice and the ache persisted for a long time). Now, he barely feels it. Andrews comment now? ìThe legs feel a bit weak but never painful.î
Before I had the chance to help him discover the ëgood lifeí, I was scared that if I went back to Australia, even for only a year, that heíd eat himself to death with junk food and no exercise! Now I know that thereís nothing to worry about. I just need to teach him to cook more foods.
We went to Australia in March 2013, so Andrew could meet my grandma; he had only a weekís vacation from his work and study, while I was able to stay for another four weeks. Before he went back to the US by himself, my parents and I showed him how to prepare all sorts of food. During that four week period that we were apart, he was able to cook all sorts of delicious food, and I had no fear that he would relapse to his former eating habits.
Andrew never seemed to care that much about meats, but he was CRAZY about sauces. Most sauces were filled with sugar and fats, so I was worried about him eating it. That led to lots of debates, arguments and confrontation, but I created my own sauce, which he absolutely loved and called it ìLIFEBLOODî sauce, because I used all healthy ingredients. (IS THERE ANY sauce out there without a minimum of 7g of sugar?)
We also started having lots of fruit because in Australia, my mum always made a bowl of fruit before dinner, so I did the same. We started having fruit on a daily basis, and havenít looked back.
In 2011, when I first cooked vegetables for Andrew, I started with cabbage. He was CRAZY about it and ate a whole bowl in seconds. He couldnít believe that vegetables could taste so delicious. The first time I made greens, he was absolutely stumped, he saidÖ Thatís impossible; you did some kind of magic to it. Well, it wasnít magic, but some Chinese and Asian sauces.
Then the dreaded day arrived, he tried BROCCOLI! He was completely stoked. ìThat was ABSOLUTELY NOT BROCCOLI!î he said, refusing to believe it and demanded to know what magic I had done to it: again, no magic, just Chinese and Asian flavouring.
However there were some foods he was afraid to eat, like asparagus; I was sure he hated it. One day, I asked him to buy it for me. Good thing he can be forgetful most times because a week or two later, heíd completely forgotten what he had bought so I sneakily added small pieces of asparagus to the vegetable mix and he didnít even notice.
In the end, I told him he had been eating asparagus all this time, and he was SHOCKED. ìNO WAY!!î He said.
Another food he used to not like was carrots, but the way I make them, he likes it. He also refuses to believe that was carrots.
He said green beans and anything green tasted like sweaty garbage in the past. Most of what he ate was steamed or baked but without adding salt.
He just hated to even taste it. What he hated most was that bigger, cold vegetable crunch. All vegetables were bitter, he said. He does seem to be very sensitive to bitter; he even thought peaches and rockmelon were bitter; cucumbers, capsicum and celery, too.
What I did was add more salt and stir fry the vegetables. When salt is added, it gives it flavour and removes that bitter taste; without the bitterness, he likes it much more. He absolutely loved my green bean recipe that it has become one of his favourites.
My salt theory was proven when we all went to the Indian restaurant. I happened to order a dish with cauliflower that was salty and his dad ordered cauliflower that was not salted. He didnít like his dish but liked the one I ordered.
We all know salt isnít good for health but like most things, it can be good of not too much is eaten. Mostly salt is bad for those with heart disease or high blood pressure.
If you can cook vegetables to make them taste better, just I did for Andrew, thatís much more effective than just banning salt and only eating meat or burgers or unhealthy stuff. If you only eat meat and unhealthy food, then your body would automatically not be able to cope with the salt. Thatís why heart patients are often told not to eat that much salt.
But have we should remember that in China, every family, every person cooks like I do, with salt. If itís so terrible, then why donít we see all of them becoming ill from having too much salt? As long as you can eat healthier WITH salt, your overall health will improve, therefor your body WILL BE ABLE TO cope with more salt.
Thatís why you shouldnít be afraid to use salt in your cooking.
Making vegetables taste better is so important, if vegetables taste bad and nobody wants to eat them because theyíre bland, then people will automatically just focus on eating meats and stuff.
So at this time, all was good. He ate the vegetables and didnít have a lot of meat, but whenever we go out, weíd
Walking on the Treadmill
When he first started the treadmill in 2011, he walked at a rate of 2.5 miles an hour. Before that when we walked after dinner in the university gardens, heíd be leaning on me because of his leg injury and couldnít walk long at all.
Slowly, he increased to 2.6mph, then 2.7mph. Even that was a huge challenge.
After perhaps six months, he finally made it to 3. But at that time, it was his ultimate limit. Anything above that would make him go out of breath.
One day, he happened to have some veggie soy protein balls (kind of like meatballs but made from soy) with pasta and he SUDDENLY felt an ENERGY BURST which got him SO ENERGETIC that he was for the first time able to walk at 4 mph. Soon afterwards, he started to be able to walk at that speed even without having the soy protein.
Before, he hated walking because it was just boring and wasting time. So, we decided to buy an iPad. Now, he can be on the treadmill watching his favourite game play throughs, TV shows or movies, and he is never bored or feels that heís wasting time.
The iPad is extremely important because if youíre working out for a long time on the treadmill, you need to have something to do.
In the past, heíd just lie in bed right after eating a big meal, and never did any exercise. Now, heíll worry if he doesnít his daily ëfixí. Some days, Iíd suggest that he take a break from his routine, but likes what heís become, and wonít hear of missing.
He has consistently walked 1.5-2 hours each day. When he eats more food like meats, and gains a bit of weight, heíll walk 3 hours.
In 2012, he was down around 155-160lb (70-72kg), a great improvement in his weight, and of course so much fitter. During this time of weight loss, heíd weigh himself three times a day. No, wait; heíd check his weight before he urinated, and then afterwards, seeing how much a bottle of water added to his weight. He did it before and after every time he went to the toilet.
I think eating vegetables has really helped him, even at restaurants; when we and his parents go to a restaurant, they all comment that Andrew is eating salads (he used to pick them off his plate and refuse to eat). Once, we even fought over salad! Yes, fought over salad ñ he wanted more! Even his parents couldnít believe his drastic change. He just seemed to be enjoying vegetables and was able to eat more; and not just fruit and veggies. Even fish; heíd never liked fish but after eating the basa fish I cooked, he got used to it and heíll eat fish now at restaurants and say itís nice.
At Chinese restaurants he kept saying how my cooking was better than theirs, especially the Bok Choy (itís because Iíve had a good cooking teacher ñ my mum.)He loves things cut in tiny pieces and because I always tried to do that, he liked it better.
Now, in 2013, his schedule is that on Monday, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays, heíd eat a relatively big dinner with brown rice or other carbs, whereas on the other days, he would still have a multigrain lunch with vegetables but for dinner, would mainly eat vegetables. We also cook fish, turkey or chicken once a week.
He says he feels healthier, his legs are no longer itchy, and his snoring is almost non-existent now. Before his improvement in health, I could hear him five rooms down the hall (we lived at the dorm for about a month). I couldnít sleep in the same room as him; the noise was thunderous. This reminds me of that when he visited me in Australia in 2007, my parents were discussing: POOR SUSANNA, how will she sleep with that loud snoring?
In the beginning, he used get this snoring controller thing you put on the nose but didnít help much at all. It was still loud as thunder. Then as he lost weight, his snoring went down.
He also had sleep apnoea; I was frantic, thinking heíd die in his sleep because not breathing.
The Overall Progression
Itís been a long journey and I feel that a lot of positives came out of this. One of the best things is that instead of going out to eat a burger, he now eats vegetables and fruits at home.
However, one thing people tend to fall into the trap of doing is focusing too much on their weight on the scale and restricting too much food. I feel that instead of restricting all food, you should focus on eating healthy foods and keeping balance. Once you reach a certain weight, thereís no need to keep losing. People can easily become obsessive about everything they eat and how many pounds it added to their weight, but I feel that shouldnít be the focus. What we should focus on is eating so that we can live longer, healthier lives.