I first came across Emi of Stay Fit and Travel through Instagram – we were both doing the Kayla Itsines Bikini Body Guide and I was just blown away by her amazing transformation photos! Those abs! And those pics of scrumptious, healthy meals she’s always making! I loved her commitment to a clean, healthy lifestyle and I was also amazed when I first read the story of her journey to a fit, healthy life on her blog. Plus, I was really interested in learning about what it’s like committing to living a healthy lifestyle in Hong Kong! So I decided to get in touch with Emi and interview her for the Conversation series. She is such a sweet and lovely girl, as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside, and it was a real pleasure doing this interview with her – as you will find out if you read on!
You mentioned on your blog that you began your fitness journey shortly after you had a minor operation in 2013. Could you tell me a little bit more about your journey and how you went from being the party girl who drank every day to the girl who works out 4-5 times a week and eats clean?
When I was in college, the only thing I wanted to do in life was party. To me, that really was the definition of living life to the fullest. I did not want to miss out on any chance to get drunk/have fun because I did not want any regrets when I get old one day. I felt young, wild and free and health was never a concern for me. I would not say I felt healthy at the time, but having a ‘functional’ body and being able to do whatever I want with it were things that I took for granted.
The amount I drank in just four years’ time was probably what a normal person would drink in 10-15 years. I did not think about what it would do to me in the long term. Exercising and eating clean, of course, never crossed my mind. Although I was unfit, I was never fat either, so I never felt like I needed to do something about my diet – I just ate whatever I felt like, whenever.
However, by the end of 2013, I had to have a minor surgery that was actually very common and should not be a big deal – most people would have recovered in less than a week and their lives would resume as normal. It was, however, a completely different case for me. Some complications occurred during my operation and the doctor actually asked my parents if I was an alcoholic or a drug addict because those complications should only happen to people with such habits. After the operation, I could not seem to get well and had to go in and out of the hospital for at least 2-3 months. It was a nightmare – I could not go to work, I could not even go for a walk in the shopping mall without collapsing and being sent back to the hospital. I was extremely weak and it was then that I realize health – something that I had been taking for granted my whole life – is so important. Career goals? Gatherings with friends? Family dinners? Travelling around the world? I will not be able to do other things in life if I didn’t have a strong and healthy body. It was then that I decided once I got better, I wanted a complete change of my lifestyle. I wanted to nourish my body and I wanted to be healthy and strong.
After I got better in 2014, I came across Kayla Itsines’s Instagram page. Seeing how all those girls transformed their bodies – not just losing weight but becoming so much stronger – some of those girls were also sick before and some even went through cancer. But they did it – they took control of their own bodies and they achieved their fitness goals. Their stories were all so inspiring that I was determined I wanted to do the same – I wanted to become my own motivation one day. That was really the changing point of how I turned my life around. To me, living life to the fullest now means nourishing my body, staying healthy, fit and strong, and to travel as much as I can. My life now is filled with goals, purpose and meaning. I’ve never been happier.
Besides doing the Kayla Itsines BBG, I noticed that you also incorporate extra weights workouts in your training. Why did you decide to add this extra workout to your program?
By Week 8, I decided to add lifting and weight training to my workouts in addition to Kayla’s BBG. It all started when I was doing research on heavy lifting for my boyfriend as he was trying to bulk up. The more research I did, the more I learned how it could also be beneficial to me in gaining physical strength. Even though I was happy with the BBG, Weeks 1-12 focuses quite a lot on cardio and losing weight, I would say, and by then getting ‘fit’ was no longer my only goal – I have so many other fitness goals, i.e., having very defined muscles, being extremely strong, etc. Also, thanks to the BBG, I was feeling energized and active most of the time and was excited to try out some new exercises. Another reason is, of course, a girl who lifts sounds cool, hahaha, so it also motivated me to start lifting.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your health and fitness journey?
The biggest challenge for me, I would say, might also be the challenge for many girls who are working towards their ‘Goal Body’, which is the obsession with my own body image. I constantly feel too skinny or too fat and even though I already eat a very clean diet, I always feel like I overeat after every single meal and I would feel bad about myself. I know this is something completely mental and I am the only one who can change that so it is something that I am still working on. It is getting better, though. From Weeks 1-12, I did not even allow myself one cheat meal because I simply could not. Even one bite of ‘less-clean’ food made me want to throw up. I knew that it was not a sustainable lifestyle so from Week 13 onwards, I am forcing myself to be more relaxed now and allow myself 2-3 cheat meals a week. It is going a lot better now!
Besides health and fitness, your other passion is travelling! What has been your favourite travel destination so far?
This is too difficult, haha, there are too many places around the world that I love! The top three places that have a special place in my heart would be Andalucia in Spain, Mexico and also Malta. And now thinking about it, I also really want to add Amsterdam! There are many places that I love while I’m travelling but I know I would not wish to live at those places for a long time. But with the four places I just mentioned, it would be my dream to live at any one of them one day. I was so mesmerized, not just by the places, the scenery, the activities and the food, but, most importantly, the people and the culture.
What are your strategies for staying fit while on vacation?
This really depends on how long the vacation would be. If it is just a weekend getaway, I would highly recommend giving yourself a break if you already workout 4-5 days a week. However, if it is a vacation that lasts at least a week, I would say, try to plan ahead and squeeze out time for some short workout sessions to keep your body active and not ‘lazy’. Also, try to choose healthier options of food – but of course, experiencing local food is also one of the most precious life experiences so I would suggest trying to maintain a balance, i.e., eat healthy most of the time but also allow yourself to try out new food.
I am very inspired by your commitment to eating clean – I always struggle with this! What are your tips for sticking to a clean, healthy diet?
I find one thing that works very well for me is to think back to the workouts I just did – those who do the BBG will know that every single workout is a killer – so do you really want to waste all of your hard work just because of a few bites of unhealthy food that is high in fat/sugar? Well, I don’t! After all, I already invested so much time and effort into my workouts, I do not want all of it to go to waste.
I also find cooking and experimenting with healthy and delicious recipes help a lot. I know I am not one who can eat salads for every meal. I am too much of a foodie! One of my hobbies right now is to make and bake delicious and healthy food – it is fun and the food is so yummy! When all of your clean food is delicious, it is no longer difficult to eat clean J Also, I would now reward myself with a cheat meal every Friday night and also sometimes on Saturday. So during the week I would push myself harder in order to ‘deserve’ the reward when the weekend comes!
What’s your favourite quick and easy healthy meal?
My favorite super quick and easy healthy meal would be my honey, papaya and banana smoothie oats bowl. I eat it almost every morning!
What are your workout essentials?
You can find my workout essentials here. (But in addition to that, I also have a pair of lifting gloves now!)
What advice do you have for those looking to start a healthy lifestyle?
If this is something that’s been on your mind and you would like to start, but am not sure how to – go for it anyway. You do not need to be a nutritionist or a personal trainer to live a healthy life. I started without much knowledge in both fitness and health. I did not even know what quinoa or overhead presses were. You would learn along the way, especially depending on your interests. Trust me, it is not hard work, and it is all worth it in the end. Another tip would be, for those who enjoy being active on social media: FOLLOW PLENTY OF fitness and health accounts on Instagram. Believe it or not, it helps a lot! That’s how I started. You can also share your own healthy lifestyle with others on social media and, as it gets more interactive with people who are also in the same fitness and health journey, you will learn and grow everyday. Being healthy will naturally become your way of life in just a short period of time!
As it’s getting to the end of the year, do you have any plans for 2015, fitness-wise?
It’s good that you asked this because I have already been writing my fitness goals and plans for 2015!
- I want to start doing more yoga, which is extremely good for the recovery of the body and also the mind. I would start enrolling in yoga classes and hopefully be able to do it at least three times a week (each class is 45-60 minutes)
- I would like to start pole dancing. I actually already registered for the course, which will start soon. I would like to get so strong and flexible that by the end of 2015, I would be able to do all those difficult flipping poses on the pole!
- I want to lift heavier and heavier and hopefully be able to lift my target weight, i.e., benchpressing my own weight
- I would finish the Kayla Itsines BBG 2.0 soon so I would like to keep doing at least three resistance training workouts a week and 1-2 cardio workouts even after the BBG is over.
- I want to be able to do 30 push-ups (on my toes) non-stop. Yes, sadly, I can now only do them on my knees!