Updated: Feb 9
I was the “chubby Asian girl” in high school. (I was nicknamed FUP, standing for fat ugly pig.)
Then, the summer before university, I started to go to the gym with my brother because I wanted to be hot, lol. To feel confident.
I went sporadically and ate whatever I wanted. Somehow, I still managed to lose weight, but I was light years away from loving my body.
Then, after getting braces at the end of my 1st year of university, I lost a ton of weight.
I thought, “Hallelujah!” I was finally skinny.
So, to maintain my weight, I barely ate for three years and obsessively did Blogilates videos to tone my butt and abs.
But following a breakup in my 4th year of university, I fell in love with the gym.
I got addicted to training (sometimes, I spent three hours in there…) and with wanting a big butt and a flat stomach. I was also obsessed with getting enough protein.
Fast forward to today…
I’m finally at peace with where I’m at in my health and fitness journey. I’ve gotten to the point where all I care about is being physically and mentally healthy.
So, here’s what I’ve learned after 10 years on my journey:
1/ Putting yourself through physical challenges toughens your mind to withstand adversity.
As David Goggins advocates, lifting weights callouses your mind.
Because here’s the thing… weightlifting is hard. It challenges your body. It pushes your body to the limit. And it puts you through massive discomfort.
But the good news is…
Overcoming that discomfort and pushing past your previous comfort zone are what will help you unlock a higher mental state. You’ll become tougher and more resilient. And you’ll be better equipped to handle any situation you may face in life.
2/ You need these qualities to have a successful life.
When you regularly exercise, you build:
You can’t expect to get healthy and strong if you only exercise once a month.
Because you’re not putting in the time and effort to build muscle and lose fat.
For example, it’s like the 10 000-hour rule popularized by Malcolm Gladwell. He says, the key to achieving true expertise is a matter of practicing it (in the right way) for at least 10 000 hours.
Now, you definitely don’t need to put in 10 000 hours to get healthy and strong.
But the point I’m making is, you have to consistently put in the work to get results.
This rule applies to everything else in life.
If you want to become a better writer, you have to consistently write. If you want to be a better partner, you have to consistently invest in your relationship. If you want to have a better business, you have to consistently do the things that’ll move the needle forward.
As Wim Hof said,
“Exercising on a regular basis is a great way to improve your self-discipline. It will teach you how to focus on a task at hand, and by doing so you learn how to persevere and accomplish your goals.”
Going to the gym to work out is hard. Why?
Because you probably have a million reasons not to. Maybe, your reason is you’re tired. You’re lazy. You don’t have time. You don’t have money. Insert x excuse here.
But, if you go to the gym despite the voice in your head telling you not to go, you’ll start to build the habit of self-discipline. You’ll start to act on your goals despite not being motivated.
You might have heard the saying,
“Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
This philosophy applies to every area of life including exercise.
Because here’s the truth. Building a healthy and strong body requires tons of patience.
You won’t see results after exercising for one day. Two days. Or even one week. Instead, progress happens little by little over a long period of time, not overnight.
And sadly, because society is addicted to shortcuts and quick fixes, most people don’t have the patience to plant a seed, take care of it every day, and watch it grow. Instead, they want to see a change immediately.
But the people who do have the patience to keep exercising even when they don’t see immediate results?
If they can apply this philosophy to other areas of their life, then, they’ll be able to accomplish worthwhile goals.
3/ You’re not a victim.
I’ve noticed when I stop exercising, I start to become resentful.
What do I mean?
Well, when I stop working out, I start to feel insecure about my body.
Then, after a while, I start to blame people for taking my time away from the gym, for making me eat unhealthy foods, and for being a bad influence in my life.
Essentially, I start to blame everyone and everything for what’s wrong in my life, having zero personal accountability.
But when I regularly work out, I feel unstoppable. I feel in total control of my life. And I feel prepared for whatever life throws at me.
So, here’s what I’ve learned.
If you want to leave behind your victim mentality, the first step is to build a strong body.
For me, I prefer to lift weights. I love the feeling of walking into a gym. Of getting stronger as I increase my weights and repetitions. Of progress as I improve my form. And I love seeing my body transform over time.
If the gym isn’t for you, that’s fine. Maybe, you prefer swimming or riding a bike. Whatever it is, just find a way to move in a way you enjoy doing. Because if you don’t enjoy it, you won’t sustain it for the rest of your life.
4/ Self-love comes from doing hard work.
I really wish loving yourself was as simple as:
Saying “I love you” in the mirror
Repeating positive words of affirmation
Taking a bubble bath while having a glass of wine
But as Jay Shetty said, these activities are more for self-care rather than self-love.
Because self-love comes from doing hard work.
It comes from knowing that because you’ve done, survived, and overcome difficult situations, you can do it again and again and again.
And the harder things you do (in this case, exercising even when you don’t want to), you’re reminding yourself, “I am capable. I am worthy. I am who I say I am.”
And over time, this belief in yourself will allow you to control and manage any of your self-doubts. And it will utilize your past successes to fuel you to new and bigger ones.
5/ You can’t pour from an empty cup.
When I was younger, I catered to the needs of others, often at the expense of my time, energy, sanity, and depletion. I was afraid to say no, of letting people down, of others’ opinions.
Eventually, I learned to prioritize myself. I learned to prioritize taking care of my mind, body, and soul.
When I first started prioritizing myself, I feared I was becoming less humane.
But I realized it’s not that I cared less about other people… I was simply better at setting personal boundaries.
And paradoxically, because I had begun to prioritize myself by taking care of my physical and mental health, I became more compassionate, patient, and present in my relationships.
Because here’s the truth…
When you look better and feel better about yourself…
You’ll have more energy, happiness, and fulfillment. And ultimately, you’ll have more to give to others.
It’s like the oxygen mask rule that you hear every time you fly:
“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the mask over your mouth and nose before assisting others.”
The bottom line is…
Take care of yourself before you take care of others.
6/ Health isn’t complicated.
When I first started my fitness journey, I used to:
Search for the “best” exercises, fitness programs, and diets.
Look for the “secret sauce” to lose weight and get toned quickly.
Obsessively track my calories, macronutrients, and water intake.
And honestly? Doing all that gave me a bunch of anxiety and it didn’t make me enjoy the process of taking care of my health.
So, here’s my advice for you if you’re just starting your fitness journey: Stick to the basics of good health. All you have to do is:
Move your body. Go on daily walks in nature, and lift weights 3-4x a week.
Eat nourishing foods including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean proteins, and legumes.
Get good quality sleep. Aim for 7-9 hours of high-quality sleep every night.
Stay hydrated. Drink about 3.7 L a day if you’re a guy and 2.7 L if you’re a girl.
Have healthy coping mechanisms for stress like journaling, meditation, or yoga.
Invest in your relationships.
7/ Without your health, you have nothing.
As Steven Bartlett said,
“Our dreams, ambitions, experiences, relationships, and passions are all contingent on a foundation of good health - without our health, we have nothing. Therefore, my physical and mental health have to be my first priority.”
Last December, I got sick with the flu, and I was bedridden for one whole week. I had a fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, runny nose, and a cough. To make matters worse, I had trouble sleeping and had no appetite. I stayed in bed the entire time.
And you know what? I was downright miserable because I couldn’t work, write, read, exercise, spend time with people, or do anything.
The biggest lesson I learned from that experience?
Never take your health for granted.
Wrapping Things Up
Here are the 7 pieces of wisdom I’ve learned on my 10-year health and fitness journey.
Putting yourself through physical challenges toughens your mind to withstand adversity.
You need consistency, patience, and discipline to succeed in life.
You’re not a victim.
Self-love comes from doing hard work.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
Health isn’t complicated.
Without your health, you have nothing.