Down with COVID

Two years after the pandemic began, I’m finally down with COVID. With so many cases daily and almost all sectors operating at full capacity, catching the virus is inevitable. I just wasn’t prepared for how shitty it would be.

It started with my dad feeling unwell. He went to do a PCR test, and it was confirmed positive. My mom did a self-test with the same results, while my brother’s RTK also came out positive. My husband and I went with him and our tests were initially negative (symptoms hadn’t manifested yet). Because we all live in the same house, the plan was for me to get food and groceries, while they isolated themselves in their rooms.

Lo and behold, the very next day, the hubs and I both had a sore throat, self-tested, and were both positive. The upside is that since everyone in the house now has it, we don’t need to quarantine in our rooms anymore. The downside is that nobody can leave the house, so we have to rely on Grab delivery for necessities, which is already racking up a hefty bill.

The first day I tested positive, the symptoms were pretty mild. Sore throat and lethargy, but not too bad. Day 2 was when symptoms worsened. I started feeling feverish, had a massive headache, had muscle aches all over, and a raging sore throat – it felt like scraping sandpaper everytime I swallowed. There was also a lot of phlegm caught within, and no amount of hacking or coughing could dislodge it from my chest.

It’s currently Day 3 and I think I’m a teensy bit better, but not by a long shot. The headache is less, but I’m still super tired, feverish, and the cough last night was so bad I couldn’t sleep a wink. The only good thing is that I don’t have too much difficulty breathing–I’ve actually been having that since August (I know I should go for a checkup so shush), but it hasn’t worsened so that’s a plus. Since we can’t go to the doctor anyway, we’ve just been popping flu, fever, sore throat and cough meds.

Photo via pexels

I know some people get mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, but unluckily for my fam and I, this was not the case. We’re all fully vaccinated with boosters, but still had moderate symptoms, so I can imagine how much worse it would have been without vaccination.

We reported ourselves to the health authorities via MySejahtera, where we’re required to do daily assessments, and if symptoms worsen, they’ll ask you to go to a hospital or quarantine centre. But apart from that, there isn’t much to do other than rest and wait for the body to do its thing.

Some other helpful tips:

  • Have medicines ready – for fever, cough, flu, sore throat, and phlegm.
  • Drink lots of fluid – apparently lemon water or coconut juice helps.
  • If you’re having phlegm and congestion (I think it worsens at night), try to sleep with your back propped up slightly against the pillows. It helps me breathe better
  • Eat lots of fruits
  • Get your daily dose of Vitamin C
  • Rest up!

I admit that I haven’t been as vigilant as I should have been–I’ve been going around visiting places and dining in. It’s almost impossible to coop yourself up at home for two years, and I believe at some point life has to move on. But despite the precautions: double masks, avoiding crowded spots, leaving once I’m done with my meal, showering once we get home, paying by card rather than cash to avoid touching surfaces–the inevitable happened. Thankfully my parents, who are elderly and have comorbidities, seem to be doing alright and are recovering (they’re on Day 5).

Since we’ve already gotten it, there’s nothing to it but ride it out and hope everyone gets better soon!

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You’ll Want To Take Better Care of Your Body After Watching This Anime

Did you know? 

  • Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout our body, working relentlessly throughout their life cycle (about 120 days), after which they are replaced with new cells. 
  • White blood cells protect our body against diseases and foreign invaders. There are several subtypes, including macrophages, which destroy bacteria, as well as T-cells that destroy infected cells. 
  • I learned all this from an anime. 

Okay, so that’s not 100% true. I learned it in biology class. But that was 15 years ago, and I’ve long since forgotten everything but the most basic facts about the human body. So watching Cells at Work: Code Black was a fun (albeit dark) refresher. 

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Seriously, if we had shows like this back in the day instead of boring ol’ textbooks, everyone would have aced their biology exams. It has everything that a good anime should have: beautiful art, interesting characters, a great plot, awesome action. But most of all, it’s educational, and it carries an important message beyond just entertainment: Take. Better. Care. Of. Our. Bodies. 

Based on a popular manga series, the first anime season of Cells at Work! details how a body functions through the eyes of anthropomorphised cells, ie a red blood cell and a white blood cell. I haven’t watched the original, but I’ve heard it’s light and fun, with a focus on comedy. Code Black, however, is much darker – and shines the spotlight on what happens to an unhealthy body caused by bad lifestyle habits and stress. 

Synopsis 

The series opens with our ‘hero’ AA2153, a rookie red blood cell. Somewhat naive in character, he starts off enthusiastic and pumped (ha!) for work, but soon discovers that there are plenty of problems with his work environment, from angry, overworked cells to pathways clogged with cholesterol and plaque, hindering oxygen deliveries — a reflection of the body’s unhealthy state. The environment is also hostile: AA2153 often gets verbally abused by other cells, as they are all stretched to their limit and often have to prioritise certain functions over others.

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During a delivery run, our protagonist is saved by white blood cell U1196 from an invading Pneumonia Coccus, and a friendship blossoms despite their different roles. The two characters will continue running into each other throughout the course of the series, as they both try to fulfil their duties to keep the body running. 

AA2153 does his best under terrible working conditions and tries to keep his optimism up. In the first episode, he witnesses a terrible scene: his co-workers turning into zombies (carboxyhemoglobin) after coming into contact with carbon monoxide (from smoking). Although initially terrified, he hardens his resolve to deliver oxygen after his senpai sacrifices himself by running through the gas, so that AA2153 could deliver oxygen through a safer route. However, this is just the beginning of the body’s troubles. 

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Throughout the course of the anime, our characters will have to overcome various situations, some of which are self-inflicted by the body, from heavy drinking and a bad diet to consumption of caffeine and energy drinks, which in turn cause the body to weaken further, making it prone to disease. After battling conditions such as hair loss, kidney stones, gout, erectile dysfunction, gonococci and pulmonary embolism, AA2153 starts to lose hope that the hellish environment will change… 

Verdict 

I absolutely love this anime. Pretty art style aside, I think it’s brilliant how the writers have managed to turn somewhat complicated concepts into easy-to-digest (pun intended) stories— and they’ve also done an excellent job depicting the anthropomorphised cells and the various organs creatively. 

The kidney, for example, is shown as a traditional bathhouse, and the glomeruli (the filtering unit) as bath girls who help clean up the red blood cells. When bacteria invades one kidney, threatening to destroy it, AA2153 urges the girls to evacuate – but they are prevented from doing so by the matriarch Glomeruli, who tells them that the kidney is a ‘silent organ’ — always working, never complaining. This hit me hard because I know that kidney failure is often called a silent killer, and it isn’t until they are failing that we realise something is very wrong. The kidney is eventually saved after the body ingests antibiotics, which help the white blood cells defeat the invading bacteria. 

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Another good example of the anime’s creativity is the liver, represented as a red light district with hostess clubs, where the red blood cells go to ‘unwind’ and detoxify, especially after alcohol consumption. But as the body continues drinking excessively, the once bright and colourful district becomes a dark and gloomy place, with exhausted and sickly hostesses (hepatocytes). I think it’s just great how they used real-life scenarios and applied them to the anime in such a way that is easy to understand. 

But more than just spitting facts, the anime manages to depict the emotions of the anthropomorphised cells and the seemingly hopeless state they are living in. The characters aren’t just there to tell you about how the body works: they have their own hopes and dreams and feelings. The main character is your typical anime hero: bright, cheerful and enthusiastic, always trying to inspire others — and while it’s nothing original as far as animes go (think Naruto, or Luffy), AA2153 is endearing in his own way.

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AA2153 and AC1677

The side characters are equally well developed. In episode 7, our hero’s best friend, a fellow red blood cell designated as AC1677, becomes jealous of AA2153’s achievements, having always been overshadowed by the former’s achievements.  He also feels somewhat guilty at AA2153’s persistence and dedication, as he doesn’t have the same zeal. AC1677 turns to the high that caffeine produces in order to try and outshine his friend. The body suffers a nosebleed, and AA2153 almost loses his best friend as red blood cells are sucked out and AC1677 loses his strength after crashing from a caffeine high — but he manages to save him, and eventually returns to his former self and works harder. (AC1677 is my favourite character by the way!) 

It’s episodes like these that make me feel a twinge of guilt — of course, I too have made my own body suffer from bad decisions (lack of sleep, for example, eating unhealthy food, and stressing myself out lol) and watching Code Black somehow drives the point home that I’m letting it down. I’m killing these cells in my body even though they’re working so hard for me — always working, never resting — so that I can enjoy a good quality life for as long as possible without suffering and pain. 

Since the pandemic began, I’ve made some changes to my lifestyle, including more exercise and a better diet (because I haven’t been able to eat out lol). I’ve lost about 12 kg, and I’m feeling much better compared to the days I used to gorge on fried foods coz of work stress. I couldn’t even climb stairs without feeling winded. My body must have been screaming. 

I’d like to think I’m providing a better ‘working’ environment for the cells living in me these days. So that’s a good thing. 

Rating: 8.5/10 

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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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Covid-19 and Life Updates: Getting The AstraZeneca Vaccine

Malaysia has come a long way from last year – and I don’t mean that in a good way. From being lauded as a ‘model’ for other Southeast Asian countries for its quick response to curbing the coronavirus pandemic, we now have the highest cases of coronavirus per million people, at 205.1 cases (at the time of this writing) – higher than that of India.

How did it go so wrong?

Well, if you ask me, it’s a combination of many factors: poor governance, weak leadership, a lackadaisical attitude and a lack of discipline among the public, poor enforcement, double standards… the list goes on. Malaysians are also notorious for being super invested and enthusiastic at starting things, but are terrible at sustaining them. Sure, in the beginning, it seemed like we had our shit together. Everyone cooperated, and there was a sense of solidarity that we’d all get through this together. But as time went on, people either got tired of keeping up appearances, or simply did not care anymore. There are some who have no choice but to be out and about, due to economic reasons. But there are also plenty who are contributing to this current wave because of a “it won’t happen to me” attitude. And frankly, as someone with two elderly parents in the vulnerable category, I find this behaviour disgusting, and I cannot fathom how anyone can be this reckless and selfish.

There was a viral post by a local doctor recently on how she had to perform an emergency surgery for a pregnant woman who was diagnosed with COVID, and yet STILL went to visit relatives over the holiday season, KNOWING FULL WELL she was putting everyone’s lives at risk, including that of herself and her unborn baby. It’s time like these that I wonder if there could be a waver of some kind; like if we know you’re going to contract COVID because you’re being a stupid idiot, doctors can refuse to treat your stubborn, selfish ass.

But we can all talk about my lack of faith in the human race until the cows come home; it doesn’t change the fact that we are in a serious situation. I’m not trying to be a doomsayer, but our front liners are exhausted and on the verge of a breakdown, many people have lost their jobs, our hospitals are bursting, and our vaccine rollout is super slow.

Which is why I signed up for the voluntary AstraZeneca vaccine programme recently. And I was very VERY lucky to be among those who managed to grab a slot, because thousands of others did not make the cut and will have to wait for whenever the next one, whichever brand it is, becomes available. Of course, AZ was not my first choice, but with how things are going, I think it’s the ONLY choice for many people to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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To give you a bit of a background, Malaysia is supposed to get a bunch of vaccines from different countries. The three main ones are AstraZeneca (12.8 million doses), Pfizer (32 million) and Sinovac (12 million), and we’ve also placed orders for Sputnik V from Russia, and CanSino Biologics, from China. That sounds plenty for our population of 32 million. The problem, however, is that only a sliver of these orders have arrived in Malaysia, and our government is extremely slow at administering the vaccine to the population (you can read a more detailed report about the reasons why in this article). So it is that while neighbouring Singapore has already vaccinated 25% of their people, and even Indonesia with its large population has done 4%, Malaysia is lagging behind at an abysmal 3%.

In the early days, the government announced that vaccination would be done in stages: frontliners first, followed by seniors and those with comorbidities (since they are most at risk), followed by everyone else. Being a relatively healthy 30-year-old, I fell into the LAST category, which meant that if everything went according to plan, I’d be inoculated sometime at the end of the year, or early 2022. Seniors, like my parents, were supposed to start their vaccination in April.

Malaysia being Malaysia, April came and went, and my parents (and many other seniors) were still waiting for an appointment. The government seemed to be dragging their feet, and the lack of info further added to public frustration. Now I’m not blaming our medical system. I know our front liners are working crazy hard. But I think they are limited by many things (like manpower and availability of vaccines and facilities), and the poor way the programme is coordinated isn’t helping at all.

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The vaccines that arrived earliest were small batches of Pfizer, which were given to our frontliners. Then came the AstraZeneca shots, and many were reluctant to sign up because of the blood clots scare. This was a couple of months ago when cases weren’t that high, so a lot of people adopted a “wait and see first” attitude. The take-up was so bad that the government opened it up for volunteers, even if they weren’t from the Phase 2 (seniors/comorbidities) category. I initially wanted to register for this, but my mom cautioned me strongly (I’m being polite here) because she was worried, despite me explaining that it was all rumour-mongering and that the percentage of blood clots happening is really low. Like 8 per 1 million. To set her mind at ease, I decided not to volunteer. Cases weren’t that high at the time, and I thought as long as the seniors were vaccinated first, then I could always wait, since I didn’t get out much anyway.

But then May came and there was the Raya holiday. Despite being warned that there would be fines and possible jail time for travelling interstate or visiting friends and family, thousands still slipped through the cracks and risked their lives and health to go see their loved ones. I know it’s difficult to be away from family. Heck, I haven’t seen my husband since we had our wedding ceremony in February 2020. But that isn’t license to do whatever the hell you want. Sacrifices are necessary – we are essentially at war with an invisible enemy. The worst thing would be to infect a loved one and watch them die because YOU can’t fucking stay at home. Well, maybe you wouldn’t feel the guilt, because if you did – if you had even a shred of responsibility in your being – you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

So here we are, at 8,290 cases as of May 28.

Now, seeing that shit has hit the fan, people started to go into panic mode. My mom, who was initially so against getting AstraZeneca, finally asked if I could register for her on the MySejahtera app, when the second phase of the voluntary programme opened for seniors aged 60 and above.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“Well, I called your cousin and he was talking about how your aunt and uncle are getting it. And it seems like the chances of blood clots are low.”

“That’s literally what I’ve been telling you since Day 1, and you didn’t believe me.”

“Yeah, well… the cases weren’t that high before. And our rollout is so slow. Even seniors haven’t been vaccinated yet. Who knows how long we’ll have to wait?”

I would have very much liked to say “I told you so,” but I didn’t want another fight so I just did what she asked. And as long as my parents are getting vaccinated, I guess it doesn’t matter if it took an outsider to convince her lol. “You and Cyrus (my brother) should take it too,” she said. “You’re both in the last category, and we’re not even sure if you’ll get it next year, at the rate this is going,”

From naysayer to advocate! I thought.

Unfortunately, the time for being able to leisurely sign up was over. EVERYONE was thinking the same thing. On Wednesday, when the government opened registration for below 60s, it was pandemonium. If you’ve ever tried buying concert tickets for a popular band online, it was exactly like that.

I knew it was going to happen, and that the website would probably crash due to traffic, so my brother and I had our laptops and our phone at the ready at 12pm. The registration got delayed until 12.15pm. Once the button appeared, we were both clicking furiously on both sides: I had one hand on my mouse and the other hovering over the refresh button on my Samsung. True enough, the website kept crashing. At one point, I managed to get to the registration page – but it wouldn’t allow me to select the state I was in. At another, I got past that stage, but it wouldn’t allow me to set the date, even though the slot showed it was still available. Then, of course, the dreaded “I am not a robot”, and having to pick out the frames with bicycles or highways, only to have it crash and repeat everything all over again.

By sheer luck or force of will, I finally managed to submit my details after 40 minutes, and my brother got his shortly after. Registrations were closed after just over an hour, in which over 1 million slots were snapped up.

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You won’t believe the relief I felt when I saw this screen lol. Like I can finally give my fingers a break.

I was one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends expressed frustration, not only because they didn’t get it, but also because the entire experience with the website was such a shitty one. There were memes about how many laptop mice and phone screens must have been damaged that day.

Surprisingly, there were people who appeared not to have gotten through, but received a notification the next day that their application went through. My notification came almost 48 hours later. The earliest available date when I clicked was on 4 July. So July it is. My parents are getting theirs in late June, and my brother in late July.

Honestly, I just feel like it’s a load off my back. I’m not really worried about myself, because I feel I’m fairly healthy and strong – but I’m worried about catching it and spreading it to my parents, who both have comorbidities. Beyond the physical aspect, I also think getting the vaccine is a good thing for my mom’s mental health – at least she would feel a little safer knowing that we have some form of protection. My mom has always been an excessive worrier, and this pandemic has just exacerbated the condition, to the point that it makes things difficult for everyone else living under the same roof. Not that it’s her fault, of course – that’s just how some moms are, and I know that despite her demeanour, she wants what’s best for us.

Life feels like it has been on hold for the past 1.5 years. Can’t wait for things to resume some semblance of normalcy again – or at least normal enough that it’ll be safe for us to go out again (and for the hubs to travel here!).

It will be a long and hard road, but I’m hopeful the day will come. Until then, all we can do is keep ourselves, and our loved ones, as safe as we can.

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PS: Update – The government has just announced a full lockdown from June 1 to June 14, whereby only essential services will be allowed to operate. This will be similar to the first lockdown we had back in March 2020. Dunno, just feel it’s a bit too little too late seeing as how people have been calling for one for the longest time.. rather than allowing leniency and just letting things drag on until it got to this point – but hey. I’m not a policy maker, nor am I an economist, so what do I know?

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Bug’s Paradise Farm, Puchong – Organic Farm and Cafe by BMS Organics

Organic food has risen in popularity in recent years, as more people adopt a healthier lifestyle – but farm-to-table experiences are still relatively rare in Malaysia, as is awareness to the concept. BMS Organics, a popular local organic food and cafe chain, is aiming to change that – by bringing the experience to urban dwellers.

Video here:

Located within a quiet spot in Kampung Pulau Meranti Puchong, Bugs Paradise Farm is a relatively new endeavor, having opened in the later half of 2020. The compound houses a spacious open-air shop selling organic goods, next to a cafe and a plot of farmland where organic vegetables are grown. There is also an enclosure with small animals like rabbits, chickens and ducks. The cafe serves fusion dishes by day, and steamboat (hotpot) by night. PS: This is a vegetarian cafe, so most of their products are plant-based.

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Parking is free, but note that the parking area is not paved and spots are limited.
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The fam and I visited on a weekend and the place was not too busy. Most of the visitors were families with young children. There is plenty of space, so definitely a better option than crowded shopping malls. The cafe itself is a simple structure with attap roofing, which gives the place a rustic feel. The ceilings are high, so even though there is no air-conditioning, it’s quite cooling even in the afternoon.

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Kiosks serving hot cocoa and drinks, although these were not open during our visit.
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The menu has a variety of dishes, including rice and porridge meals, noodles and spaghetti, poke bowls and appetisers. Prices range from RM15-RM25 for mains.

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Visitors can go on farm tours, where a guide will share knowledge on organic farming and take visitors on a stroll around the farm, followed by lunch at the cafe. Pre-bookings are required. (RM38 per pax)

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Organic food lovers will be thrilled as there are lots of products available at the shop, from organic soybeans, quinoa and tri-millet, to fresh vegetables, kombucha, sauces, jams, and more. There’s also a frozen food section where you can buy pre-packed food that you can cook at home.

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As for the cafe, we had a hiccup during our visit. Orders are made by scanning a QR code, but for some reason, they did not register in the system. We ended up going to the counter, where the staff manually keyed in each dish into the computer.

Even so, there was still a mix-up, and all the dishes that came to our table were the wrong orders. The kitchen had to make our dishes again from scratch, and we had to wait about 50 minutes to an hour for them to arrive. It didn’t help when other people who arrived to the cafe later than us got their orders first. We inquired with one of the waitstaff, who took the receipt we had and disappeared to the back of the resto for a long time.

I think it was genuinely a computer error and miscommunication, as the items printed on the receipt were correct, but the orders came out wrong. Still, it would have been nice if they had communicated the situation/updated us on the status of our dishes, rather than have us wait for an hour unsure if we should remind them again in case they had forgotten our orders.

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Mom’s Herbal Soup with Yee Mee (RM16.90), which came served in a claypot. The soup had a good amount of red dates and wolfberries in it.

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Pops’ Herbal Soup with Multigrain Rice (RM15.90). You can opt to change to cauliflower rice at an additional charge.

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I ordered the Lion’s Mane Mushroom Wrap, which is essentially a vegan burrito. Inside was fresh lettuce, carrots, purple cabbage and mushrooms plus a creamy sesame sauce, which bound all the elements together. I don’t like vegetables in general, but these were fresh, sweet and crunchy, and the mushrooms had a nice meat-like texture to them.

Also got two half-boiled asthaxanthin eggs (not pictured). Asthaxanthin is an antioxidant that is present in many types of sea creatures like salmon, crabs, lobsters and shrimp, and is purported to have health benefits such as boosting the immune system and cardiovascular health. Chicken feed is mixed with it to get eggs rich in asthaxanthin – which is a good option for vegetarians who can’t consume seafood.

PS: When we made payment, the cafe gave us a free packet of veggies as an apology for the mix-up with our orders, which was a nice gesture.

Bug’s Paradise Farm is a good place to visit, especially now that interstate travel isn’t yet allowed due to the pandemic. Aside from the issue I mentioned above, which I think they tried their best to rectify, I enjoyed my time there. The food is slightly more expensive, but that is to be expected for organic ingredients. The location isn’t ideal, since it’s in an area surrounded by factories, but the fencing around the plot helps to block out the view.

Bookings for farm tours can be made here. Tours are in Mandarin or English.

GETTING THERE

Bugs Paradise Farm is located at Lot 46692, Jalan Pulau Meranti, Kampung Pulau Meranti, 47120 Puchong, Selangor. It is a 20 minute drive from the Puchong city centre (IOI Mall area), and about 20 minutes from Cyberjaya. Opens 12PM – 10PM from Wednesdays to Fridays, and 10AM – 10PM on weekends. Closed Mon – Tues.

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Of Weight Loss, Body Shapes and The Land of In-Between

Hey, guys!

Been a hot minute since I last wrote anything about weight loss and body image. If you’ve been following this blog, you might recall that I talked about how tackling psychological issues might help with weight loss, and how you shouldn’t measure success based on the number on a weighing scale.

Well, I did step on a weighing scale recently (out of curiosity) – and I’m happy to say that I’ve shed a few pounds! Back in March, when I first started this ‘let’s-be-more-mindful-of-my-health’ thing, I weighed 78+ kg, or 172 lbs. Currently, it’s down to 73 kg (160 lbs). Yay!

I’ve been at 78 – 80 for such a long time, I honestly can’t remember when I was last at my current weight. While there’s still a lot to work on, I have to give myself a pat on the back (because self love, lol). Some people might say that five kilos in four months is slow and that I could have lost more, but hey. Progress is progress. After many failed weight loss attempts, this is by far one that I’ve stuck with the longest – and that should be an achievement to be proud of.

The most apparent reduction is in my belly, because some of my pants are actually loose now. I’m also feeling much better physically; I can walk faster and longer, and I don’t get winded so easily. The only discouraging thing is that the weight loss doesn’t show much in the parts where people actually notice, like the face (still round, still got that lovely double chin!) I told a friend about my weight loss while we were out for dinner recently and he went, “Really? I don’t see a difference.” BURNNNNNNNN 

But I digress. I actually wanted to talk about shopping. Lol. 

People are often quite surprised when they find out how much I weigh, mostly because I have quite a stout (?) build and it just looks like I’m big rather than obese (I guess in many people’s minds, 5’3 women who weigh 70 kgs and above must look like massive blobs or something). They forget that women’s body shapes are amazingly diverse, with descriptions running the gamut of everything from fruits (pears, apples) to objects (spoon, lollipops) – and that everyone carries weight differently.

Cover image: Anna Shvets via Unsplash

While clothing brands are picking up on the idea of diverse bodies, it is still quite difficult for big-sized people to find clothes that fit properly and don’t look like they’ve just thrown on a curtain and called it a shirt. While there are a number of plus-sized brands out there that offer bigger options, they are harder to find in Malaysia, and are often catered to those who are extremely large, like sizes 3XL and above. Regular clothing brands rarely have anything above a UK size 12. (For the record, I can be a size 12 to 16, depending on which brand I go to).

Even when I was thinner, I was quite busty. Basically a lot of chest and no butt. I did lots of squats to try and get that rounded ‘lift’, but it just didn’t work. This posed a problem when I was buying clothing. I actually hated shopping. Clothes would be too tight across the chest, and extremely loose everywhere else. The same thing for pants – the waist would be too loose, but the thighs and calves would be too tight. If I bought a loose-fitting shirt from the plus-sized corner, I ended up drowning in fabric, and it made me look much bigger than I actually was.

I call this the land of in-between. Not big enough to shop at plus sized stores, not small enough to go to the S, M, L section. 

I understand that you can’t get a one-size-fits-all when it comes to mass-produced clothing, but I wish there were more options on the market for people with bodies other than the conventional ‘petite’ or ‘large’ figure – especially here in Asia. Brands like H&M (coincidentally where I get most of my clothes) are more inclusive, but options tend to be limited – I find that not all of their outlets stock certain sizes, while some have designs that I like but unfortunately can’t buy because they won’t fit properly.

Only time will tell if brands here will pick up on the body diversity movement, although I think it is high time we get the conversation going in Malaysia. We as a society are still hung up with the idea of thin = healthy, when in reality, that is not always the case.

Let’s be clear though: I am not promoting obesity, nor am I body shaming anyone. I just think that we should all strive to being healthier, whatever our shape or size. You can’t tell me body positivity means accepting that someone is 600 lbs, unable to move around on their own and suffering from 10 different health conditions at once, that they should ‘love themselves the way they are’. Similarly, if someone is prone to starving themselves or going on crash diets to be thinner, that can’t be good either. I think the key should always be balance – find what works best for you, and take steps forward each day.

I’ve always looked at my body and weight in a very negative way, and it is only recently that I’ve started to change this unhealthy habit. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m hopeful that one day, I’ll be able to say with confidence that this is the body I’ve worked for, and that I’m happy with it no matter what others say –  as long as I feel good and healthy. 

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Until then, I guess I just have to shop harder. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Cinemas And Spas Are Open Again! Theme Parks to Follow On July 4

Hey guys!

We’ve officially entered the second half of the year. I don’t know about you, but I think the first half of the year was shite. Bushfires in Australia, COVID, social unrest in the States… I wouldn’t be surprised if an alien invasion is next on the agenda lol.

Malaysia has not gone unscathed. The economy has taken a hit, businesses have closed and people have lost their jobs. The one good thing is that we seem to have controlled the spread of the virus for now. By and large, the government’s measures have proven effective, and although we had over 8,000 confirmed cases, mortality was relatively low (121 deaths).

In the middle of June, the government announced that the country is entering a ‘Recovery’ phase. Since then, almost all sectors have returned to full capacity (but this means the traffic jams are back too, boooo). Non-essential services such as spas and cinemas have also reopened on July 1, and theme parks will resume operations on July 4.

Some of these businesses are also implementing safety measures to minimise the risk of transmission, which I laud. For example, Sunway Lagoon, one of Malaysia’s premiere theme parks, will only be allowing a 50 percent guest capacity for better crowd control. There will also be adequate distancing on rides and regular sanitisation of surfaces.

 

Cinemas are finally open to cater to another favourite Malaysian past time – watching movies.

While it’s great to hear that businesses are back on track (since this means the economy can recover!), I think it’s important to remember that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon, and we must stay vigilant. We certainly don’t want a theme park or cinema cluster. I know people (myself included) tend to have a tendency to return to old habits, but we must all adapt to a new way of life – one that includes things like being aware of social distancing and maintaining high standards of hygiene. At the end of the day, if you are still worried about going out for non-essential services such as shopping / entertainment, there’s always the option of staying home. 🙂

 

My Weighing Scale Broke – And Why It Was A Good Thing

Hey guys!

If you’ve read my previous post about how fixing psychological issues might help with weight loss, then you’ll know that I originally intended to write about something else (me being me, my thoughts are rarely linear :P).

SO. This time around, I want to talk about how my weighing scale being broken was actually a blessing in disguise, as it ultimately helped me in my quest to a healthier lifestyle.

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Now before I jump into it, I’d like to clarify a couple of things, lest some misguided SJWs jump down my throat about ‘fat shaming’ or whatever. When I say ‘weight loss’, it implies that weighing less is the only way to be healthy – but that’s not what I mean at all. You can be heavy / big-sized, and still be healthy. In my case, weight loss is a goal I hope to achieve, because I can feel the ill effects of this much weight on my frame: bad knees and a bad back, for example. You may have other goals, like bulking up /building muscle, or gaining weight. The bottom line is that we’re all striving to live healthier, happier lives. Body positivity is about loving yourself – and that includes recognising that you may have health problems due to your lifestyle.

As mentioned in my previous post, quarantine measures were put into place in Malaysia on March 18. I told myself that I’d utilise this time to take steps to a healthier lifestyle. Lo and behold, my weighing scale was broken. I wasn’t able to get a new one or have the scale fixed coz most businesses were closed. didn’t think of measuring my initial stats either (my thought process at the time was ‘let’s just get this thing started’) – but I believe my weight at the start was around 78 – 79 kilos.

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(Left) Sometime in August 2019. I didn’t take many pictures when I was fat because I hated how I looked. I had the same body shape / weight in March 2020. (Right) April 2020. 

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(Left) Also from 2019 and (right) April 2020. 

Since the quarantine first came into place, it has been 70+ days.  I actually don’t know how much I weight right now. But here are some of the things I’ve learned:

  1. NUMBERS ARE NOT AN ACCURATE REFLECTION OF PROGRESS

In retrospect, it was a good thing the scale wasn’t working, because it removed my old way of ‘measuring’ success. In all of my previous weight loss attempts, I was often hung up on how many kilos I had dropped, and would get discouraged if the numbers did not reflect the amount of effort I was putting in.

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This is a dangerous way of thinking, and it set me up for failure. I would get frustrated (“I ran for 30 minutes every day for a week! Why does my belly still look like I swallowed a hippopotamus!?”). I often gave up by the end of the first month. The cycle would repeat itself – work out for a period of time, control food intake, get discouraged, give up. Rinse, repeat.

Not using a scale meant I was forced to rethink the way I measure progress – based on how my body feels. It’s in the simple but often overlooked things, like feeling (and looking) less bloated in the morning. Reduced intestinal and stomach problems. Less acne. More energy. Better stamina; being able to walk longer distances without feeling winded. Being able to lift heavier objects. Less pain in the knees and back. Pants that feel looser. Even something as simple as being able to touch my toes more easily. I might not have a six pack, but these are all small but important victories, and it’s important to recognise and celebrate them.

2. MEASURE PROGRESS ON YOUR OWN TERMS 

#Fitspo was a trap that I fell into and couldn’t get out of for the longest time. I’d follow celebrity fitness trainers and influencers on soc-med, and tell myself “I can look like that too if I work hard enough”. Reality, however, is not always as straightforward.

No matter how you paint it, people have different bodies. If you’re big boobed (Believe me, it’s not all fun and games, especially when you’re running and trying to keep them from falling out), there are things you can do to naturally reduce your breast size slightly – but to think that you will ever be flat chested is an unrealistic expectation. And that is often the problem with many of these #fitspo posts. What we see online or in the media can often be distorted; a ‘perfect’ ideal that we can all strive for but never achieve.

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I’m not saying that inspiration isn’t a good thing. If you are motivated to achieve a certain ideal or aesthetic, then perhaps looking at people with six packs can be used as inspo to achieve that goal. But just because you didn’t lose 10 kilos in 1 month like that other guy on Youtube, doesn’t mean that your efforts are for nothing.

This is something I’m still trying to learn, because I still feel doubt creeping in whenever I watch ‘weight loss success stories’ (“I lost 20 kilos in 3 months!”). I have to constantly remind myself that my progress is on my own terms, and that I shouldn’t compare my journey with the journey of others. They lost x amount of weight? Good for them. I can touch my toes without my belly getting in the way? Good for me!

3. YOUR LIFESTYLE SHOULD BE SUSTAINABLE 

A healthy lifestyle is not a sprint: it’s a marathon. Being able to stick to a sustainable way of living will give you better results in the long run. I’ve tried diet fads. I took Herbalife (for what it was worth, it did help me to lose weight while I was taking it. Hence, my stand on sustainability. Buying that stuff was expensive af, and once I stopped, the weight came back because I was actually starving myself, lol).

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One of my ex’s friends is a naturally tall and lanky guy. For a time, he was an extremely dedicated gym-goer. But although he built muscle, he still wasn’t at the ideal that he wanted, so he took whey protein and ate steamed chicken breast and boiled eggs everyday.

He succeeded. But he was miserable. And once he stopped the protein, he lost the muscles he worked so hard to gain. I could tell it was very discouraging. These days, he no longer takes protein, but has found a more sustainable way to balance a healthy diet with his workouts.

Some people may argue that this is a ‘sacrifice’ that you have to make in order to achieve a certain physique, and that many people do that, to great results. It is my belief that at the end of the day, it boils down to what you think is a sustainable lifestyle – if you’re okay with eating steamed chicken breast and boiled eggs everyday for the rest of your life, then that’s a sustainable lifestyle for you. If it’s making your miserable, however, then perhaps it’s time to relook things.

4. PROGRESS TAKES TIME

This is another thing that I’m trying to come to terms with. Like many millennials, I am used to instant gratification – after all, we live in the age of the Internet, where you can get information and services in the blink of an eye.

The problem with many of my previous weight loss attempts was that I expected fast results. My ‘cut off’ time was usually a month: if I wasn’t losing enough weight, then I’d feel discouraged and give up. This is why I said that not having a scale around this time helped, because I’m not able to see any numbers.

Of course, I’m constantly reminding myself that I did not get to this point overnight. It took me seven years to gain 20+ kg, so how can I expect to lose all of the weight I gained in a month? 

5. THERE IS NO ONE-SIZE FITS ALL

What works for one person might not necessarily work on another. I mentioned in a previous post about willpower, and how it isn’t the only answer to weight loss. To a certain extent, you do need some willpower – society would be in pandemonium if we were all animals without self control. You should definitely have the will to make a change, for yourself.

BUT. I just don’t agree that in all cases, you can rely on willpower alone to overcome ALL challenges. I have had personal trainers who went about things the wrong way, insulting me and ‘pushing’ me to do better because they feel that is the ‘correct’ way to motivate someone. The truth is, there is no right or wrong way – only the way that works for you.

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I remember an encounter with a particularly nasty trainer who plunged me into hardcore training without taking into consideration that I was a total beginner.At the end of the session, he told me I’d never improve if all I did was complain (I felt dizzy and told him I felt like puking).  Needless to say, I never went back to that gym again. Maybe he has had success with other clients, using that method. But it certainly did not work for me.

So perhaps I have weak willpower. Perhaps I don’t respond to that kind of treatment kindly. The question that needs answering, then, is what works for me? 

I eat whenever I’m stressed – and I am stressed most of the time, lol. It’s funny the way some people tell you to ‘chill’ (I know they mean well, but still), because if everyone could ‘chill’ upon command, we wouldn’t need therapists, and the world would be free of problems.

Having identified this trigger (stress = comfort eat), my solution is to divert my thoughts as best as I can to something else, or at least keep food away from my reach until that feeling of stress has passed. Being forced to stay at home more often during the quarantine has actually helped, because I am only allowed to go out for work; hence my ability to go out to look for junk food has also been reduced.

If all else fails and the need to comfort eat becomes maddening, I feed the machine a little, ie I allow myself a small portion of something (say, I feel like downing a pint of chocolate milk – which I used to do, as scary as it sounds –  I would instead opt for a 200ml of low fat milk) , which is usually enough to calm the beast. By identifying these triggers and working to minimise them, I can avoid behaviours like binging.

Again, this is what works for me personally – you may have other ways of handling things. It’s about finding your personal trigger ‘safety’.

6. IT’S OKAY TO ‘SLIP UP’. 

Bad habits die hard.

During the first month of quarantine, weaning myself off high calorie foods was no easy task – I literally had withdrawal symptoms for fried chicken (my favourite comfort food). I had dreams about eating fried chicken, and you know shit is real when your cravings are so intense you dream about eating unhealthy stuff – that’s what they call an addiction.

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The good news is that I don’t have those intense cravings anymore. I had fried chicken once last month, but that was it. Even then, it was more of a ‘I don’t know what to eat, I THINK I want fried chicken’ but after eating my body just didn’t feel good, so I stopped. It’s a far cry from before when every waking minute was spent battling my stress and my cravings – which was often a losing battle. Back then, I had fried chicken every couple of days (gasp). This current lack of cravings is, to me, a sign that I’m moving in the right direction. The mind is a strange and powerful thing. It can be wonderfully resilient when used for good, but also super destructive when used for bad.

That being said, I have had days when I slipped up and ate something unhealthy. The me before would have berated myself horribly and just said “fuck it I fucked up today so I might as well just fuck up the rest of the day and binge”. These days, I try to tell myself ‘okay, so you ate a fucking cookie. You enjoyed that mfing cookie, it was great. Now you still have the rest of the day. Skip rice for dinner and get your protein and greens in. Do an extra 10 minutes of exercise.’

Of course, no one says it is easy. It’s an ongoing process of conditioning the mind. Give yourself a break – don’t beat yourself up for a few bad decisions. The problem comes when you constantly make bad decisions.

7. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO, RATHER THAN WHAT YOU CAN’T 

I hate most forms of exercise.

There, I said it. Lol.

I get that people enjoy doing Tabatha and yoga and Insanity and feeling themselves getting stronger. I enjoy feeling stronger too. But I dislike doing all the stuff that fitness trainers recommend for getting fast and proven results. Mostly because when I was really heavy, jumping and things like lunges/burpees and even some ‘low impact’ routines felt horrible on my knees.

There is one thing I like to do though – walking. All the weight I’ve lost so far have been from indoor walking routines. And while the results may be slower than doing HIIT/kickboxing or whatnot, I believe that consistency is key. Slotting a 30 minute walking routine at the end of my evening feels doable, and I am more likely to follow through.

(Lucy Wyndham-Read is one of my favourite online trainers. Her workouts are usually short, doable but challenging enough to feel that you’re making progress). 

On good days, I push myself to do more challenging routines (the ones that I usually hate, lol) that offer variety. My point is, if I had started off doing exercises I hated, I would definitely have given up. By mixing it up with an activity that I enjoy, ie walking – I am able to gradually build up my stamina and perform those exercises better. As my strength improves, I’m sure that HIIT workouts won’t feel so daunting. And if I don’t feel up for it, I can always fall back on walking, then take on the challenging routine on another day.

8. HAVE A GOOD SUPPORT SYSTEM IN PLACE 

I might not be the best to talk about this – but sometimes I wonder if things would have turned out differently if I had a good support system. I’ve always had to do things on my own – and the few times I’ve reached out for help, I have been disappointed. It is a bitter lesson, and I am still learning to trust. But while that is my personal experience, it doesn’t have to be that way for others. Weight loss and a healthier lifestyle is a personal journey, but that doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. If family isn’t supportive, look to your friends. If they aren’t supportive, join a support group for weight loss, or a local gym where you can find like-minded people. Just don’t be afraid to find what works best for you.

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Ending this with a selfie – I finally feel comfortable and confident enough to take selfies again without feeling like I look like an ugly potato lol.

It might sound cliche, but to everyone else who is trying to lead a healthier lifestyle – you are definitely not alone! Stay strong and know that you’ll always have people rooting for you – me among them!