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My COVID-19 Vaccination Experience @ IDCC Shah Alam

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic first started raging across the world. In the initial stages, many countries implemented stringent lockdowns, but with economies teetering, it was not a viable, long term solution – which is why people are now putting all of their hopes on vaccines. The rollout in Malaysia has been slow but it’s gradually picking up. We still have a long way to go, but as for my fam and I, I’m thankful that we’ve been able to secure vaccination slots for AstraZeneca.

My dad was the first to get inoculated, and had his first dose last week. I had mine a couple of days ago at IDCC Shah Alam, a convention centre that has been turned into a vaccination facility.

Honestly, it was a little nerve-wracking because I haven’t had any sort of shot for over a decade (I think the last was for HPV, when I was 18 or 19), but I didn’t have to worry – the process was very fast and efficient.

Arriving at IDCC, we were directed by traffic personnel to the 6th floor of the building. Vaccinations are done on the 7th floor, and you can park at floors 4 to 6. If you’re taking Grab, there is a drop off point on the ground floor, where you can take a lift up. Parking is free.

Video (Although I barely had time to film anything because the entire process was so fast) :

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6.45PM: After scanning my temperature and checking in on the MySejahtera app, I followed the signs up the escalator to the 7th floor. There, ushers directed me to the first waiting area outside the hall. We sat for about 10 minutes, and once the area had filled up with people, staff members gave us two forms. There was a slip clipped to the top with a number and QR code.

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These are basically consent forms; Malay in front and English at the back. You only have to fill it in the language you prefer. There are two forms; one of which you will keep later. You can fill it in now if you want, but you can only sign in front of a witness; ie a doctor, when you’re inside the hall. Pens are provided, or you can bring your own.

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7PM: We were told to enter the hall, where there were many counters. I waited for my number to be called on screen, before proceeding to the relevant counter, where a staff asked for my IC and keyed in my details.

7.05PM: I made my way to the next section, where there were more counters, but these were manned by doctors. No numbers called here; simply waited until a table freed up. My doctor was a young lady who proceeded to ask me about my medical history and explain to me the vaccine I would be getting, ie AstraZeneca. After I acknowledged everything, I was told to sign the consent forms. She kept a copy while I held on to the other.

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7:10PM: It was then on to the waiting area for jabs. The jabs are done in sequestered booths for privacy, so you won’t be able to see other people getting their shots. An usher directed me to one of the booths, where my QR code was scanned to update my MySejahtera status to “Vaccinated”. The nurse showed me the syringe and confirmed that I was taking AstraZeneca before administering the shot. It took less than two minutes!

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7.15PM: Waited at another area for my number to be called. A staff gave me my vaccination card, which I will need to bring for my next appointment. Finally, I was told to wait for 15 minutes and report to them immediately if I felt ill or dizzy; after which I was free to go.

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I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient everything was; staff members were helpful and polite, there were clear signs everywhere, and the entire process was smooth. All in all, it took me less than an hour.

Of course, the procedure may differ from centre to centre, so you may have a different experience – but if you’re going to take your shot at IDCC, there’s nothing to worry about. I would suggest bringing a jacket because the air conditioning is super cold.

My second dose is in about 8 weeks time. Hopefully things will go as smoothly then as they did for the first dose!

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Vlog: Is This The Best Halal Ramen in Malaysia?

A couple of months ago, I wrote about Ramen Seirock-Ya, an up-and-coming halal ramen chain that specialises in toripaitan (chicken ramen) – and how it might just be the best halal ramen that I’ve tasted. Well, my opinion hasn’t changed – but this time, I’ve made a vlog about it. And in Malay, no less!

The video clips have been in my folder for some time now, but I just couldn’t find the time/energy to edit them. But better late than never, right? PS: This was filmed before the Movement Control Order 3.0 came into effect, when dine-in was still allowed. Fret not, though – you can order from them online here.

BTW, this is the first time that I’ve vlogged in Malay. Language gets rusty if you don’t use it often, which is the case with my Malay, and that’s why I wanted to at least practice it a bit in my vlog.

“But aren’t you Malaysian?” my non-Malaysian readers might ask. “You should be fluent in Malay, since you live there.”

Well, technically, I am fluent. I learned it for 10 years in school. I even got a “Best in BM” award in high school, which is a pretty good achievement if I say so myself, seeing that I’m Malaysian Chinese.

Here’s the thing though. It’s complicated. Malaysia is a pretty odd country. You have all these different races living together in relative harmony, but racial (and religious) polarisation has been on the rise in recent years, and it’s no longer surprising to find people who aren’t that fluent in Malay, even though they are citizens. My parents, for example, can speak in Malay relatively well. But they tend to mix English words into their conversations, and if you asked them to speak purely in Malay, they would find it difficult. Would that be considered ‘fluent’?

As for myself, well, being stuck at home means I only speak Cantonese and English (my first language) most of the time. And to be honest, my Malay has been on a downward spiral ever since I graduated from high school, because I don’t have that many Malay friends (or friends in general *cough cough*) who speak to me in Malay. The only occasions where I have to dig up my long-lost BM vocab are when I have to visit a government office.

Anyway, I hope to make more vlogs in Malay. I’m already an outcast when it comes to Chinese (I can’t read Chinese characters and I’m not fluent in Mandarin. Third culture kid problems), so I don’t want mastery of my second best language to go down the drain.

If you liked the video, please consider subscribing! Or you could buy me a cup of coffee on Patreon.

Til the next one!

Can I Survive For A Month On RM1,000?

So due to unavoidable circumstances (pay cut + I enrolled in a course; a decision I agonised over for long time before finally taking the plunge lol), I officially have RM1,000  left to spend in the month of October.  For the benefit of my foreign readers (if I have any), that’s about USD250.

Selena said it right

This is after deducting the usual necessities I spend on each month:

  • RM1,000 – Savings, which I do not touch. Ever. Unless it’s for emergencies or large purchases.
  • RM600 – ‘Rent’ aka allowance to parents.
  • RM120 – Phone/internet bill, for the Mom and I.
  • RM80 – Internet bill (home).
  • RM200 – Unit trust fund investment, deducted monthly.

…. okay, so I guess that was kind of a clickbait-y title. 😛 

I obviously can’t survive on RM1,000 if we factored in all of the above. But one grand should be plenty for transportation and food, right?

Hm.

I spend a huge chunk of my salary on the noms. Yes, I know. It’s a problem. I don’t need a RM30 ramen lunch at Menya Shishido when I can just as well eat RM6 zhap fan – I just want it. But as the end of the year draws close (and I get to find out very soon if I’ll be keeping my job), this is the perfect time to train myself to stop spending so goddamn much on eating lol. It’ll be good for the waistline, and for the pocket. I don’t spend on anything else really – shoes and clothes are all items I buy like, once a year. Last month I splurged on a Vans bag which cost RM180 – and even then I was hemming and hawing as to whether I should buy it (my last bag was literally in tatters) so that’s not an issue. It’s just… food dangnabbit.

Since our office tenancy is expiring soon and we have the green light from higher up for a WFH arrangement, I think I’ll be able to save a little on transportation; ie spend less on fuel and toll. I might go to the office once or twice a week, since my neighbour’s construction is still ongoing and the noise drives me rabid. But yeah. I think it would be a good idea to make weekly posts to keep myself accountable on my spending –  and we’ll see by the end of this ‘challenge’ whether we’ve managed to keep to the budget.

PS: I am fully aware that there are plenty of families out there who have to survive on an income below RM1,000, including Malaysia’s urban poor. This post is not meant to mock or complain – if anything, this is a good personal reminder on the importance and value of money. I know that I am more privileged than most, and me cutting back on a coffee or two / dining out less is nothing compared to a single mother worrying about providing milk powder for her baby (did you know that milk powder is the no.1 most stolen items in local hypermarkets? Source: I used to work at a hypermarket when I was a teen) 

PS2: The weekly updates will be on Patreon. You can subscribe here. I haven’t had the time to give my Patreon some lovin’ – things have been crazy at work, and I’m also trying to squeeze in some time to get into the course I just enrolled in. Follow me on other social media channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Your support would mean the world to me! 🙂

Nurture Your Introverts to Harness Their Superpowers

introvert
noun
/ˈɪntrəvəːt/
  1. a shy, reticent person.

Mention introvert and the image that comes to mind is of a person sitting quietly in a corner, surrounded by a mountain of books. They might enjoy hobbies like knitting, drawing, video games, or going for long walks on the beach on their own.

Extroverts, by comparison, are the ones who are forward and ‘think on their feet’; social butterflies who enjoy meeting people. If these terms ring any bells, it’s because they are traits companies use to describe desirable employees. Everyone loves the party animals, because they’re fun-loving, engaging, charismatic. Introverts, on the other hand, get a lot less love. The corporate world is setup to value speed and aggression, and there seems to be little to no space for introspection.

I am here to tell you why introverts matter, and why companies shouldn’t dismiss an employee’s potential, simply because we don’t fit into the conventional mold of what society deems a quote unquote, ‘good’ employee.

Now, before we dive deeper, let me just put it on the table that I have nothing against extroverts. Extroverts are awesome and I envy them their ease at fostering connections and their ability to bring people together. But just like everything in life, I believe in balance – and I think the world would be a better place if we can tap into the strengths of both extroverts AND introverts.

Many people assume that I’m antisocial, because I’m only good to ‘hangout’ for short periods –  and even then it’s usually with a small and intimate group. This is untrue. I do not hate meeting people. Being an introvert simply means that I need time to recharge my batteries. Unlike extroverts, who get their energy from being around people and bouncing their ideas off others, introverts are like sponges – we absorb information and process them within. Think of a sponge that has soaked up too much water: it needs to be squeezed and emptied before it can be used again.

An ex-boss once told me not to be ‘antisocial’, when I politely declined another glass of beer at an office gathering. “You’re so uptight. Chill lah. Open up,” he said, while waving a bottle of Heineken in my face. “Live a little.” This is a very extraverted way of thinking.  Live in the moment. Enjoy a bottle of beer, preferably while it’s cold, in the company of colleagues. And I’m not saying that’s wrong or anything, but introverts tend to take a bit more time to process things. Mine went like this: Another beer will get me drunk = I will have difficulty driving back home = Endangering others = let’s not have a beer, even if everyone else is and they call it ‘socialising’.  Needless to say, the way he delivered his well-intentioned (?) remark did not help me to ‘open up’. If anything, I grew to dread office gatherings because I felt like a total freak, even when I was trying to socialise with others.

The Value of Introspection

“Spur of the moment” is used to describe something that happens without advance planning. Extroverts tend to have this way of thinking – speak one’s mind / get something going first, then work out the deets later. And while it can be a good thing in some cases, other decisions require deliberate and thoughtful introspection. Warren Buffet, one of the world’s richest men, is a famous introvert, and has said before in interviews that he often takes time off to do his own research and deliberate on decisions.

In a meeting, extroverts tend to dominate conversations, as they are more outspoken and willing to share,  while introverts tend to be sidelined as they might only speak up when they feel that they have something valuable to add. This might lead people to believe that they do not have any good ideas at all, when in reality, they are simply taking their time to analyse and process the information, before they share their thoughts. If you need someone to create a report or summarise the minutes – I can guarantee you that introverts will excel nine times out of ten, because of the way our minds are wired. Remember = sponge.

Meaningful Connections 

Introverts are often chastised for their inability to socialise or network well. If you base success on the number of people you manage to pass your phone number to at an event, then sure – introverts are probably not as good as extroverts. But I disagree that we don’t connect well with people. It just takes us longer to find that one person who is worth spending our precious time and energy, because to introverts, this is a very limited resource that has to be spent wisely. We may not be naturally charismatic, but it is precisely because of this that many introverts place a high value on their relationships, both personal and professional, and work hard to maintain these r/ships. These deep and loyal bonds can be a great asset to a company, and friendships for that matter.

The Quiet Sweet Potato Is Filling 

The above is a literal translation of the Malay saying, “diam-diam ubi berisi” lol.

There’s nothing fancy or particularly appealing about a sweet potato’s appearance. And yet, this humble root vegetable fills you up. It means that just because someone doesn’t outwardly say or appear to fit into a certain mold, that doesn’t mean they don’t have anything of value to add, or that they’re stupid. The closest equivalent to this proverb that I can think of is ’empty barrels make the most noise’, although it doesn’t capture the simplicity and essence of diam-diam ubi berisi.

There is a common misconception that leaders have to be outspoken, pushy go-getters. This setup means that charming, charismatic people, regardless of whether they can actually do a job well, are often given leadership positions.  I have personally worked with and met people in leadership positions who are all air and no action: nice to look at at first glance, but with no substance within.

In contrast, quieter, less outgoing leaders are usually more focused on getting a job done rather than gaining approval from their employees and peers – which means that they can be more efficient. I have worked with several introverted bosses, and they are some of the best leaders I’ve had the chance to work with. And because their personalities gelled with mine, they understood how to bring out the best in me.

Many of the world’s most gifted creatives and analysts – from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs to Einstein – are introverts. Magic happens in the space between solitude and monotony, because creating a work of art, whether it’s writing, drawing, painting, etc. is often an introspective activity. We may be inspired by our surroundings, but creativity is drawn from within. We are no lesser, nor stranger, than the rest of the world. There is strength in being an introvert, and we should embrace who we are and work to realise our full potential.

Signing off with a very insightful Ted Talk by Susan Cain !

**PS: You can read more stuff like this on Patreon!  Subscribe here. You can also follow me on other social media channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Your support would mean the world to me! 🙂 

 

 

Patreon?

Hey guys!

If you’ve been following this blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not very diligent when it comes to sharing personal posts or motivational (?) stuff like ‘Lessons I’ve learned from… etc.’  There are a few reasons for this:

A) It Takes A Buttload of Time 

Unlike lifestyle / food posts, which are based on experiences (ie, ‘tangible’ stuff  – you can write about how food tastes, how the service at a resto is like, what went on at an event, etc.) thoughts are much harder to present in a cohesive manner.  It usually takes, on average, a couple of days for me to write a ‘serious’ topic, as compared to a food post which I can bang out within an hour. Oftentimes, when I have a good idea, I run out of steam before it comes to fruition and I end up abandoning the whole thing lol. Also, despite being a writer, I am not the best when it comes to articulating what I feel or think. It’s like running Red Dead Redemption II on a potato graphics card.

True story

B) I Am My Own (Worst) Gatekeeper 

As a former newspaper journalist, self-censorship is almost second nature. Writing and rewriting, reading and rereading each sentence before it is deemed ‘fit’ for publication, is just something that I do unconsciously. But this also comes at a cost: I am often hyper-aware of how some words/ opinions may come off as ‘controversial’… so I avoid writing about them entirely.  I know it’s a shame because this is where discussion stems from, but I dislike conflict, and I feel it isn’t worth the trouble of potentially getting into a fight or getting ‘cancelled’ for my opinions. There are plenty of nasty, spiteful people out there on the net, and I don’t want to see my face Photoshopped over a naked body and uploaded to a porn site just coz someone isn’t happy about my opinions about the new Disney’s Mulan. @-@ There is also the possibility that I might write something a future employer deems offensive and controversial, which might affect my job prospects or other future projects.

C) Separating Content 

Most of the stuff on here relates to food/ travel and lifestyle, so it’s kinda odd that there are random personal posts in them. I want to try and separate the two, because I doubt anyone would be interested in reading about my struggles with anxiety and depression, when all they came on here to find out was how much a bowl of curry noodles from X restaurant costs.

D) Conflict Avoidance 

Perhaps the primary reason why I don’t do a lot of personal posts – is because I don’t want drama. My family reads my blog occasionally (my own fault coz I have them on my soc-med and I share my blog links there too), which has effectively prevented me from sharing too much about my personal life.

I don’t live in a perfect household. I believe every family has problems, and in no way am I saying I don’t love them or care for them. But there are times when I just want an outlet for release – or share my thoughts and connect to others with similar experiences – and I simply cannot do that by talking to them about it. Some might ask, “why are you airing dirty laundry?”, and “why is it easier for you to share things with strangers?” Because surprisingly, many strangers and friends DON’T judge, and even if they do, I don’t care as much, as compared to if it comes from someone close to me. I just want to say my piece, and be done with it. Does that make sense?

Case in point: I once wrote a personal story about my experience during a CNY reunion dinner. An uncle decided it was his place to tell me that “I had a pretty face, but it would be better if I lost some weight.” I didn’t want to cause a scene coz my parents were there, but I went home and wrote a scathing piece on my blog – which somehow went viral (because nosy, rude relatives are a fixture in every Chinese family and I’m sure a lot of people can relate). The BBC even contacted me to write a lifestyle piece for them on a somewhat related topic, which I think was the pinnacle(?) of my career as a writer lol.

But the result was that it somehow got back to the fam. That uncle has not spoken to me ever since, and my mom now uses this as arsenal whenever we have an argument and I say I don’t care (“oh but you do, you wrote that piece about uncle X, didn’t you?”)

See what I mean?

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing Patreon for some time now, because I’m writing stuff on this blog anyway – why not have a dedicated space for more personal topics? So I’ve decided that I’ll be putting up all my personal posts on Patreon. This way, I can write – no-holds barred – and really share my thoughts on things. Maybe I won’t have any readers – or the community interaction I enjoy here on WordPress –  but it will sure be a load off my chest, and I’ll have the freedom to write whatever I want.

I realise this must sound like a very poor pitch – I’ve never been good at sales pitches or asking people to do things – but if you like, please subscribe to my Patreon. I already have a couple of posts and good ideas lined up, and it would mean the world to me to earn a little from this otherwise expensive hobby (been blogging for eight years, never earned more than 400 USD). That comes up to about 50 USD a year, or around 10 cents a day. (If that isn’t the embodiment of the starving, melancholic writer stereotype, I don’t know what is.) But whether or not you’ve been following this blog for some time, or if you’re new, or just stumbled on this by accident, I just want to say a big thank you for spending your precious time to read whatever I have to say. Thank you, and I hope you continue to support this channel, and if you don’t like the content, let me know what I can improve on.

Til the next post!

 

Where To Get Royalty-Free Images for Your Blog / Website

As much as possible, I try to use my own images on this blog, because a) it sucks when people steal my photos without even crediting where they got them from, and b) I want to avoid potential copyright infringement suits because you never know when you might get ‘unlucky’. Just because it’s rampant practice, it doesn’t mean you’re safe coz ‘everyone else is doing it’.

But there are times when I am unable to get particular photos for my posts – and that’s where free stock photo sites come in. Some of these have stunning imagery, and cover a wide variety of subjects, from food and travel to lifestyle, so they make great resources for bloggers.

Here are a few that I use: 

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PIXABAY

There are over 1.7 million images on Pixabay, including photos, illustrations, vectors and even videos and music which you can use without attribution (although it is a nice gesture to include credits and linkbacks) for personal and commercial purposes. That isn’t to say that some copyrighted images don’t find their way to the site, but the company manually checks each submission to ensure that they adhere to the requirements as much as possible. To download photos in high-res, you will need to register as a user.

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PEXELS 

Another easy to navigate stock photo site is Pexels. which also has over 1 million photos free for commercial use. It has a ‘popular collections’ page which looks similar to a Pinterest board, and allows you to easily search according to keywords. There are some rules to photo usage, especially in regards to people as subjects in photos; for example, identifiable individuals may not appear in a way that is offensive, and they may not be used as an endorsement for a product. Sale of unaltered copies is also prohibited. You can download images without signing up for an account.

*Pixabay and Pexels are both owned by Canva.

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UNSPLASH 

Unsplash’s high-quality imagery is a popular choice for editorials; we also use them for the print magazine that I work at. Images are neatly sorted according to category (architecture, food, people, etc.) to make searching easier, and there are photos of current events from around the world as well. There are also search tools to help you search by type, based on the tone of the photo, as well as orientation (portrait, landscape).

TOURISM BODIES 

For travel content, national tourism organisations are a good bet for high-quality photos, and you definitely don’t have to worry about copyright strikes if you’ve credited them properly. I use all of these regularly for work. Tourism Malaysia has an online library of photos divided according to the different states and categories such as culture, food and events. Other tourism organisations that have good resources are Australia, New Zealand, Japan, (although it is quite troublesome as you have to individually fill up a form for every photo, and you have to wait for five minutes between photos to download imagery), Singapore and South Korea. The downside is that you often have to register accounts and some have waiting times / procedures that you’ll have to follow so that they can track what you’re using the photos for.

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FOODIES FEED 

Foodies Feed is an excellent resource for food bloggers, although the number of photos is rather limited (about 2,000). The imagery is high-end and will not look out of place as a front cover of a food magazine.

WIKIMEDIA COMMONS 

Photos from Wikimedia Commons are not always stunning, but they do the job of helping you to visually illustrate something on your blog posts. You are also more likely to find a photo of something more obscure (say, an off-the-beaten-path destination). Photos are easy to embed from the site itself, without having to download them. However, it can still be risky to use as I don’t think the photos are vetted properly, so there might still be copyright issues.

FREESTOCKS.ORG 

Freestocks.org is not as extensive as Pexels or Pixabay, but still offers a great selection of imagery in various categories, such as fashion, food and drinks, architecture, nature and people.

A list of some other sites, although I don’t use these very often:

Burst by Shopify 

Reshot – This site seems to have more ‘niche’ and unique images rather than generic pictures – almost like someone’s Instagram feed.

Styled Stock – If you’re looking for feminine-centric styled photos, this site offers plenty.

Life of Pix – shots by professional photographers, so you can be assured of editorial-worthy quality.

Gratisography – looking for photos that are out of the ordinary that will capture your audience’s attention? A bunny mascot dancing in the subway, for example? You can find it at this site.

 

 

What are some of the stock photo resources that you use? Share them in the comments below! 😉 

The “Secret” To Weight Loss May Lie in the Mind – And No, It’s Not About ‘Willpower’

Hey guys!

Today’s post is going to be a long one – it’s about my weight loss progress and how dealing with my personal issues helped with it. 

My weight has always been a touchy subject for me, but I feel that I’m finally ready to share my thoughts on it, how I’m trying to overcome challenges, and hopefully help others who are in the same predicament.

For the longest time, I felt like shit about how I looked. 

As an Asian with a larger-than-average physique, I grew up with body image issues; no thanks to relatives and a toxic culture that glorifies a certain body shape/look. And while the body positive movement has been going strong in the West for awhile now, attitudes in Southeast Asia (and many parts of Asia, for that matter) are still notoriously slow to change. Partly, it has to do with our ‘collective’ culture: in the West, being different is good; in Asia, as the Japanese saying goes, ‘the nail that sticks out gets hammered down’.

Growing up, I was not exactly chubby – but I was definitely taller and bigger than my peers. By the time I was 14, I was taller than my mom (who is 5 feet and weighs 40 kilos). The running joke among members of my extended family was “what genes did Nim (my nickname at home) inherit? lol”  since my dad is also around 5’4, and my younger brother is as petite as my mom. It didn’t help that I was constantly told things like “don’t eat so much, you’re getting fat”, or “your breasts are too big, you shouldn’t wear those kind of clothes” by people who were close to me, which really affected my self confidence. Were my boobs that big? Was I eating too much? I ended up wearing a lot of shapeless hoodies and slouched whenever I walked, because I was made to feel that men would look lustfully at me if I didn’t hide my chest. That it was my fault if I somehow attracted their attention.

When I was 19, I went through a traumatic experience. I wasn’t able to find the support I needed, and basically had to deal with the entire thing alone. I believe it was then that I started to comfort-eat. My metabolism at the time was still that of a teenager, so I could still eat junk and all kinds of shit without putting on weight, but it laid the foundation for the very unhealthy eating habits that would persist into adulthood. These bad habits worsened when I entered the working world, and I found myself putting on a lot of weight. It was a vicious cycle – I’d get stressed, eat for comfort, feel disgusted, and eat again for comfort. And this went on for years and years. At my heaviest, I was 82 kilos (181 lbs). I have a big frame so it was not extremely noticeable, but if you passed me on the street, you’d definitely call me fat. Obese, even. 

My weight became a point of contention between me and my mother, so much so that there were heated fights that nearly resulted in us severing ties with each other. I know she was trying to help in her own way, but being an Asian parent, she was notoriously bad at showing it. (you know, like when they do something wrong, instead of apologising, they make your favourite food and try to skim over the whole thing?) Instead of encouraging me, she (sometimes unconsciously) shamed me, which hurt me more than what strangers could ever throw at me: because the one person who should be standing on my side wasn’t understanding. So I gorged on food and let myself go.

Some people who have never suffered food addiction think that it’s simply a matter of willpower – that some people can simply will themselves to lose weight. That is a simplistic way of looking at things. There are people who have superb willpower (which is awesome, more power to them!) but weight loss and the journey to a healthy lifestyle is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Oftentimes, comfort eating is deeply rooted in psychological issues. If you’ve ever watched my 600-lb life, Dr Now, the resident doctor, often addresses the person’s emotional issues as part of their therapy, because their eating behaviour is often rooted in those unresolved psychological problems.

The reason I eat isn’t that I’m hungry – it is because food equates to comfort, and since I am not able to find it anywhere else (such as a good support system), I turn to eating when I’m stressed, or angry, or sad, or bored. You can go cold turkey on ciggies, or drugs, but you need to eat to live – and this makes things a lot more complicated when it comes to weaning yourself off an unhealthy relationship with food.

Since 2013, my weight has yoyo-ed dramatically. Back then, I had anxiety (still do, but it’s slightly more manageable these days), which was not helped by the stressful nature of my work (I was a newspaper journalist). It drove me further down the rabbit hole of unhealthy eating. Stress does things to you. Many of my ex-colleagues smoke and drink, and a good number die from heart attacks, which is a common disease among journalists.

Sometime in my mid-20s, I tried Herbalife. It worked while I was taking it, but once I stopped, the weight came back on again, because the bad habits were still there, and the psychological issues that drove me to comfort eating were still there. It’s true what they say about magic pills. There is no such thing.

And so it continued … until this year. In retrospect, despite all the bad things that have been happening around the world (pandemic, riots, uncertain economy, etc.) this quarantine has been good for me, because it allowed me to take a break and re-centre myself. Previously, I’d spend three hours in traffic each day, so much so that I’d feel too tired to work out (I left home around 8.30AM and got home around 8PM). But now that I have a more flexible working schedule, I’m able to set aside some time each day to unwind and do activities that I enjoy.

Another major reason that I think contributed to a positive change is my relationship with my mother. Those who have family members suffering from anxiety and depression know how hard it can be to deal with. Thankfully, our relationship has improved lately. As a result, my overall mood and feelings have improved, and in turn, I no longer feel as much of a need to binge or comfort eat.

What makes the attempt to lose weight different this time, you ask? 

You often hear weight loss stories where they ask the question, ‘what kickstarted your weight loss journey’? Most of the time, the answer would be ‘I woke up sick and tired of being unhealthy’. And perhaps that is the main motivator for many people.

For me, I think the catalyst came a couple of months ago, after a particularly nasty fight with my mom (related to my weight, again). I think she finally understood that her way of ‘helping’ was doing more harm than good – and she agreed that she would not comment further about my weight.

See, it wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate her ‘help’. She’d make home-cooked meals for me in an effort to get me to eat healthily. But it wasn’t the support I needed. 

You know how some people fight because the other doesn’t understand their needs? Like a boyfriend gives a girlfriend a teddy bear even though the girl has already said she doesn’t like stuffed toys, then he gets upset because she ‘doesn’t appreciate the gift’. The same applies here. I know she was trying to help in her own way, but it wasn’t what I needed. I needed her to step back and stop commenting about my weight. 

The thought that I had finally broken through to her gave me courage. I now had the freedom to do things my way.

To other people, this might seem like an odd line of reasoning. But to me, growing up with the need for approval to make my parents proud, to be a ‘filial’ daughter, it makes perfect sense. I was finally free from the shackles of ‘what was expected’ of me; that I had to heed certain advice and follow them simply because my family felt it was best. The moment I no longer felt burdened by the fear of what my mother thought I should do, the power was in my hands to do with my life as I see fit and that became my greatest motivator. (does that even make sense? the human psyche is an odd thing. lol).

It might come as a surprise to some people, but when I was at my lowest point, I did not care if I had pre-diabetic symptoms due to my weight – my thought process was basically “If I die, I die because I’m already like a piece of shit anyway”. I think that a lot of obese or fat people with health issues KNOW that they are in a bad state (don’t you think they know people are sniggering behind their backs? I certainly did) but the hole of despair can seem too big and too difficult to climb out of, so you switch to this apathetic state where you give up on trying or caring.

People say that a healthy lifestyle is not a sprint, but a marathon. I started this journey just over two months ago, so there is a long way to go. But I think the difference this time is that I am in a better psychological state to commit to the race, because my reasons for losing weight have changed. Now, I truly feel that I want to lead a healthy lifestyle for myself, and not for someone else’s approval. 

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PS: I actually started writing this post on a somewhat related note (I wanted to talk about how my weighing scale broke and it was actually a good thing) – but somehow it became super long…so I think I’ll write about that in another entry. 😀 

Diversifying Content – How Can Content Creators Move Forward in a Post-Pandemic World?

The travel and leisure industry as a whole has suffered tremendously since the coronavirus pandemic started its spread across the globe. Lockdowns, travel restrictions and economic uncertainty mean that people are either unable or unwilling to spend on luxuries like travelling.

Social media influencers, who once made a living posting glossy photos of their latest excursions to Bali or other exotic locales,  are forced to dig into their #throwback archives to keep content going. Travel bloggers and vloggers are unable to post their usual videos or blogs, since they’re stuck at home. They are also losing more than followers, as companies withdraw precious ad and marketing spend.

Copyright-free image: Archie Binamira, Pexels

Doubling down on the entire situation is the somewhat negative connotations that are often associated with influencers in recent times. Many people see them as entitled and spoiled, demanding ludicrous payment and treatment for just a couple of photos or videos. The very same glamorous lifestyle that many influencers are known for is now seen as shallow, a target for backlash. Any lament that they too have lost their jobs and income are met with “oh boohoo, other people have it worse so stop complaining.”

I actually sympathise with some of these influencers. Losing your income is never a good thing, so why do we revel in other people’s misfortunes?  Not all of them are entitled, and some actually work really hard to come up with great content. Before you actually say “well they just take videos”, have you actually TRIED filming and putting together a video with great aesthetics? No? Then stfu.

I understand that some influencers/travel bloggers/vloggers have built up their fanbase based on a specific niche (eg travel) so not being able to travel = no content. However, there are others who have taken up the challenge by adapting/tweaking their content to offer something new altogether. 

I follow a couple of Youtubers who produce food and travel content, such as Mikey Chen and Mark Wiens. As they are unable to travel, their channels are now posting more mukbang-esque content, where they order delivery to their homes and review the food as they eat.

Mikey is known for travelling to different countries and trying out food at local fast food chains or convenience stores. His recent content sees him ordering takeout from establishments such as Panda Express and Shake Shack, as well as several hotpot restos around the neighbourhood – and sharing personal stories with his viewers as he eats. He’s also been posting much more on his other channel Cook with Mikey, where he shares recipes. As for Mark Wiens, he still seems to have a stock load of videos from recent travels that he posts regularly, interspersed with ordering food from takeout and doing food challenges such as the Spicy Noodle Challenge, in collaboration with other food vloggers.

As someone who writes mainly about travel and food, I’ve also been trying out new topics on this blog. In a way, it’s a good thing as it allows me to flex my creativity and avoid relying on just specific content – but in other ways, it might also be a challenge for bloggers/vloggers who have already built up a fan base based on a particular niche, as they might lose the ‘connection’ (or what made them appealing) to their audience.

I know it is a very difficult time for the media and lifestyle industry as a whole, and will be for the next year or so at least. I’m grateful to have a job, but the future of my career remains very uncertain. Still, I’m glad I took some time to diversify my portfolio, so I still have something to fall back on.

 

Are you a food and travel content creator? How has the coronavirus pandemic changed your content, and the way you deliver it?