At the kids' section, you'll see me buying tops sized "4-6 years old" and skirts "9-11 years old".
I'm not buying them for my children (I have none), nor my godchildren. I'm buying them for myself.
I'm still stunned about my relatively recent reality. Last April, I was at my biggest. 55.5kg, and a UK Size 10 started to feel tight. As someone with tiny bones and who has always been skinny, I thought my metabolism had given up on me. I knew my body was gaining weight because I was eating to escape the reality of my abusive relationship. Then I also believed I was paying the price for my years of eating rampantly. I’m not exaggerating. There was this time when the maitre'd looked in shock as I savoured six slices of cake, after a full Moroccan meal. He gave me the rest of the cake in awe.
And before you think I now starve myself, hop over to my Instagram account. Like my handle @redlippedglutton suggests, I eat. A lot. And apart from walking between Location A and Location B, I haven't lifted a kettlebell in three months.
So what's my secret, people ask me.
It's Spice Yourself Skinny by the vibrant Nagina Abdullah, which has now become my lifestyle. Meaning that ever since I've shed the weight, I've been doing what I call Spice Yourself Skinny Light, following the basic tenets.
May 2016 marked the beginning of my new lease of life. I started the diet, sold by how I didn't need to deprive myself. It was mindlessly easy. (See here for my last writeup).
By the end of eight weeks, I was a new woman. I’d reclaimed the body of my adolescence, and enjoyed so much more vigour. And because I was committing to self-care via it, I finally packed up and left my abusive ex-partner. For my 30th birthday, I claimed my 25-inch waist proudly and gratefully.
In August I started to eat cake and chocolate often again. By then I'd built in some kettlebell exercises, because they're easy, quick and efficient. Great for self-confessed lazy people like myself.
Then I stopped.
I stuck with what I call Spice Yourself Skinny Light.
A high fat/protein breakfast in the morning to train my body to burn fat through the day. More vegetables to bulk up my fibre. Cold spiced infusions in the morning to oomph my metabolism. I'd anoint my foods with spices- by then the combinations became second nature- hot chocolate, salads, fish, teas. And when I went out, I had no qualms grinding black pepper into lemon water, to stoke my body's fat-burning furnace. So what if I was eating pizza? I was still feeding my body spices!
What stunned me most was how the weight kept shedding and my waist became smaller. One day, I jumped in fright. 23-inches? Hallelujah!
Then December rolled about. Christmas and winter in England are the perfect excuses for feasting, and I live in a city with countless cafes and a restaurant for every 250 people. My body looked more toned than ever. I took my body on a test-drive back to my home country Singapore, for a 3-week Christmas holiday. Having last visited 14 months ago, my food bucket list was massive.
Singapore is a place where we greet each other with "have you eaten", instead of "how are you” or "what gloomy weather". We go on food pilgrimages. I grew up watching my Gran cook, and then realised I'm happiest feeding people. Food is in my blood.
How would my body fare, I wondered.
A little history: I left Singapore in 2009, and gained 2-3 kg. Over the years before visiting my home country I would crash diet on the Four Hour Body regime. Even though I became the same absolute weight (49.5kg), I couldn't zip up many of my old clothes. I'd wear some cropped tops but would hide my muffin top with high-waisted trousers. I struggled with pesky underbust fat, and put on the weight within four weeks. Surprisingly, I didn't have these problems with Spice Yourself Skinny.
For three weeks, I feasted on white carbohydrates and deep-fried foods across Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, whilst on Spice Yourself Skinny Light. My waist remained tiny (apart from during my monthly pre-menstrual bloat), my weight stayed at 49kg.
Then I flew back to Singapore again shortly for Chinese New Year celebrations and multiple meals a day. We have short films heralding how calorie-laden our Chinese New Year goodies are. Amazingly, I look the same. My skin glows, and I'm mighty grateful.
Or perhaps I shouldn't be too amazed.
Over the years I've been geeking out on nutrition and digestion. Without a blood test, I cannot definitively tell you why my body continues to burn fat happily. But here are my hypotheses.
My firmicutes-to-bacteroidites ratio has changed
Bacteroidites are the microbes in our gut responsible for burning fat. Firmicutes, on the other hand, cause us to store fat. I believe that my eight weeks of relative religiosity on Spice Yourself Skinny (Note: I ate quality dark chocolate everyday) have reset my gut bacteria. Which means that I'm always burning fat, even if I'm no longer avoiding white carbs.
I nourish myself everyday
Once upon a time I used to believe that self-love was narcissistic and a luxury, but would encourage my friends and clients to take care of themselves. As a psychologist and coach working with high-achievers, I started delving more into self-care. I uncovered research where high-achievers who were compassionate with themselves actually achieved more than those who beat themselves up. And they had more peaceful lives. That was a turning point for my perfectionist, Type A++ self. So these days I set the intention to care for myself everyday. And the easiest way is to steep my eating habits with it.
I no longer self-sabotage
Any action can be a mixture of pleasure and escape, be it alcohol, food or shopping. I've learned to stop doing things out of the impulse to escape. Because all forms of escape-oriented behaviours lead to regret. Escape-shopping often lands me with clothes and shoes I dislike, and escape-eating often involves crap food rather than the gourmet beauties that I'm used to. These days, I also know when to stop. I don't go "screw it" and have my third slice of cake at one sitting, just because I've had one.
My bowel patterns have changed
Bear with me on this one, because believe me, this feels uncomfortable discussing. I’ll keep it short. The more times you move your bowels, you lose more weight. This is part of my story, perhaps due to the increased fibre intake.
My life is happier and more peaceful
When continuously stressed, large amounts of cortisol and adrenaline course through our veins, and our adrenal glands become overstimulated. The body starts to think that we always need extra fuel, stored as fat in our lower bellies in women. Fat cells also have more receptors detecting cortisol, meaning stressful conditions are practically begging for more fat to be deposited in our bellies. Indeed, most of my once-immovable fat were located there. Once I started to detox my environment and my heart, I felt happy and light. I was no longer in fear of being a victim of serious physical violence or homicide-- as the policewoman at the domestic violence shelter assessed me to be.
Of course, I continue to commit to Spice Yourself Skinny Light. The system is so ingrained within me that I know how to hack my way through a holiday.
- No cold infusion? Eat more eggs, and anoint them with cumin and pepper.
- Too much white carbs? Do a few squats in the bathroom whilst brushing my teeth.
- Need to burn fat at night or stop emotional cravings? Order a cup of peppermint or calamansi tea.
And I’ve also begun carrying pure essential oils that are fit for ingestion, that I mix into my water, everywhere with me. These contain the essential spices and herbs like cinnamon, peppermint and lemon. My favourite is Doterra’s Slim and Sassy, which helps to raise metabolism and release whatever’s unhealthy— whether physical or energetic.
We resist changes, no matter how much we want them.
As human beings, we are adept at adapting but crap at evolving. Staying where we are can serve us, too. Having my excess fat was a great way for me to pity myself and stay entrenched as victim.
So we sabotage ourselves and give ourselves multiple reasons why something awesome will never happen to us. We tell ourselves that the success stories are outliers who have won a combination of the genetic and circumstantial lottery. Then we make up reasons why we will not succeed.
Despite those, a part of me remained a Doubting Thomas.
You can personally witness the mindblowing transformations here. Such as 7.5 kg (16lbs) lost without exercising.
We’re all at different phases of our lives- some of us in full-time employment, some entrepreneurs, and others retired. We have women who’ve been through difficult situations in their lives, and those who are breastfeeding or post-menopausal. And we’re from all around the globe.
When I spoke to my fellow Spice Yourself Skinny Sisters, I realised I wasn’t the only one shedding weight after the program despite eating less religiously.
Nagina experienced that too.
But I got some actual quotes for you.
Karen Ang— a busy entrepreneur with young children— shares that “My tummy disappeared. .. I allowed myself the pleasure of desserts. Asian food is lots of rice and noodles. . I expected to gain weight but in fact lost 1kg”.
Deepshika Sairam, a consultant and mother, says ”I have treated myself as a guinea pig quite a few times and really indulged in way too many pizza slices but the weight always comes off as soon as I’m back to SYS”.
And Christine Hansen, a Sleep Coach with a #1 iTunes podcast says that she is “6kg less than when I started and I have indulged more than just once a week”.
Nagina may have given us the Keys to the Fat-burning Kingdom, but clearly, you can’t just buy the program, watch Netflix and stuff your face with McDonald’s every night, and hope to shed the weight.
In journeying with 100+ women and in my own professional work, here’s what I’ve gathered are necessary to make your success inevitable. And remember, most of us are busy women.
Trust the system, and commit to it
It’s one thing to set goals, it’s another to implement systems. Systems take away the emotional question of “should I do it today” and kill the resistance. They stop us from sabotaging ourselves, and keep the momentum pumping.
You do not have to come up with a system. Nagina has it all laid out for you. Every week, you get a grocery list and instructions on what to prep, and when to prep them. It’s mindlessly easy.
So once a week, I’ll shop and spend an hour on prep work, knowing I’ll always have nourishing meals. It’s no longer a debate of whether I should eat healthily on a certain day.
And if there’s one thing I’d add, do not make prepping a stressful event. When you do, you’re likely to resent it and drop out.
Having limited time, I’d choose a few dishes out of the plethora and stick to them. Instead of making smoothies and having to keep cleaning my blender, I simply threw the ingredients into a salad.
You’ll find a way around it.
Stop stressing out over “I don’t know how to cook”
Perhaps no one taught you, or perhaps you’ve never been bothered to. That’s okay.
But now, “I don’t know how to cook” is a limiting belief that can obstruct your journey. So be aware of that.
And know that, Nagina has your no-cooking-skills back covered.
She’ll tell you what to do.
And it’s easy. Mindlessly so.
Like my fellow Spice Yourself Skinny sister Li Lin says “It taught me that I CAN cook”.
Don’t do it alone
If there’s anything my Spice Yourself Skinny journey ingrained in me, it was that I could traverse the road with other people.
As a fiercely-independent introvert, many things in my life have been a lonesome path.
But I forced myself to engage in the secret Facebook group.
We’d ask burning questions, post pictures of our food and fridges, and talk about the times we have slipped. We encouraged each other, and spoke candidly.
And every week as we measured ourselves, we cheered each other on.
Believe me, the collective energy gives your effort a much-needed boost!
Celebrate your successes
Many of us have an innate resistance to this, believing it’s pompous or narcissistic. It’s not.
When you celebrate your successes, you are showing gratitude for the wonderful changes in your life. And with that, you invite more goodness in.
You also show other women what’s possible in their lives. We all know that weight is a concern for many of us; that’s why it’s a burgeoning industry.
So be unapologetic about celebrating the awesomeness in your life.
Wear the clothes you really love, rather than hiding them away. Book a photoshoot. Treat yourself to a massage.
Essentially, do the things that make you feel fabulous.
You deserve it.
Set the intention to take care of yourself
It hit me one day that the supposedly-good things we do- like exercising, green juicing and popping supplements- can be fuelled by fear. Perhaps that’s why we are chronically unhappy. FOMO doesn’t just apply to a fear of missing out on the It events and shiny new toys, it extends to a fear of being fat, having cancer and sporting terrible skin. And that’s a horrible way to live.
So we have to go a layer deeper, and ask ourselves, “How can I use my diet as part of my self-care ritual?”
When we set the intention, we will take action in ways that align with it. And we’ll reap the results.
Li Lin says, “Treating myself differently made me more confident. . I made some different relationships choices, and I started wearing clothes that make me feel fabulous instead of hiding myself”.
Amen to that!
So please don’t wait till you lose the weight to take care of yourself or love yourself. It starts now.
For years I found it difficult to be proud of the way I look. Sure, I’m vain and love to dress up— but a huge part of me was self-conscious about being pompous. And that struggle was a substantial source of shame. Spice Yourself Skinny has given me the ability to truly love myself, and own the fact that it’s wonderful to embrace who I am. Vanity, geekery and all.
I’ve read research studies and annals of energy medicine from ancient healing traditions that say you need to sleep early in order to burn fat. For various reasons and my own Night Owl predisposition, there were about 5 nights in 2016 when I slept before 3am. So if you’re nocturnal, I want you to know it’s possible.
And amazingly, too, I haven’t lost an inch of my curves.
Out of habit, I still pick the wrong size when I shop. My heart still pounds when I zip up a UK6 dress, wondering if it’ll fit. I still get amazed when I can wear the clothes I wear today.
I don’t ever want to lose that sense of gratitude.
For the first time in my life, I can say, “I am grateful my (2015/6) clothes no longer fit”, whilst blissfully chomping down on a slice of dark chocolate cake.
For the next 11 days, you have an opportunity to be part of this journey. Nine months later, I can affirmatively tell you, your life will change.
This article is a personal, unsolicited review. I am not an affiliate for the program, nor do I receive any monetary compensation. I’m a believer.