FIRST TIME AT THE BAR (METHOD)

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Faz, before 16 Dec 2014 had grand plans of trying new workouts, all over Los Angeles. Faz of June 2015 is a little bit more modest in her aspirations, especially since she is dependant on her husband and UberX

So my working out has been shot to hell the past couple of months. You know how a couple gains weight when they're happy in a relationship? That's exactly what's been happening to us. We didn't have that get-fat-honeymoon period when we first got together because John was full-on into grad school. 

I joined a gym In January and I quit a few months into because after an experience like Ritual, everything else is just noise. I hated the assholes in the gym, I hated people talking to me at the gym, and I hated being clueless and intimidated. So I quit and I started running. Unlike my brother who says that his "thing" is nothing below 42km — he's doing a 100km marathon this weekend — I have no patience for running. I like fast, painful, things that leave me breathless and crying for God on the floor.

So then I got introduced to Classpass and I decided the first class I should book is something I've never done before, and in this case, The Bar Method in Pasadena. I've seen the spot several times because my favourite poké joint is right smack in front of the studio.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

In all honesty I've never thought much of barre. I first heard about was at a studio in Singapore where I went for aerial yoga classes, but I was more interested in flipping myself upside down than I am to be using 2lbs weights.

That said, sure, I can lift more than my bodyweight and I was instructed to pick up one and two-pound weights, I totally underestimated this class. Despite the fact that I am as flexible as a metal rod, and I was the only brand new beginner in the class, the instructor, Christopher, was patient with me, and he gave me multiple adjustments, particularly for those that involved flexibility. I had trouble when it came to flexibility poses, but who knew small, tiny movements could give you that much DOMS.

I totally understand why and how The Bar Method appeals, and I can see how it sculpts a long, lean dancer body. It's less coordination, unlike dance cardio type classes which is a good thing because my arms and legs never go where I tell them to, and it burns even though I'm carrying the tiniest amount of weights. It's almost like a mix of ballet and Pilates. 

While I spent most of the class like Dopey, looking for cues from the people next to me, and with multiple adjustments from the instructor, my favourite part, was when he had the class do pushups. While most if not all the women spent their pushup time supported against the wall, or on their knees, I busted them pushups like a BAMF. I would've added a clap if not for the fact that I'd actually like to attend their classes again.

I'm definitely no Black Swan, I'd actually do it on the regular if I lived closer to a studio. The poké joint opposite them is a really good draw though. 

ONE POT. TWO HOURS. HEALTHY PULLED CHICKEN!

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One of the things I've always wanted to own is a slow cooker. My mum didn't like the idea of slow cooking - she has a pressure cooker to make it all go by faster. While I understand the appeal of pressure cookers, I wanted pull-apart moist perfection that is not always achievable in a pressure cooker. That, and I'm bloody terrified of getting scalded by the steam from pressure cookers.

After a painful bout of food poisoning over the weekend from a Mexican spot, I got inspired by Natasha's food and decided that I wanted gluten-free chicken wraps for the week. Instead of throwing them chicken breasts in the oven or grilling them over the stove like I usually do, I decided to slow cook them over the stove.

Here's what I used:

  • 5 tablespoons of Chilli paste - I have chilli paste from grounded dry chilli ready for cooking all the time. You can choose not to use chilli paste and just use pepper instead.
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 4 stalks of celery
  • 1 habanero
  • 200g of baby carrots
  • Half a large onion
  • 500g of chicken breast
  • Water
  • 1 teaspoon of dill

Chop up all the vegetables roughly. I chopped up the chicken too. Put all the ingredients into a pot, and pour water into the pot. Make sure the water covers all the ingredients and set it over a very low flame. 

Check it from time to time to make sure the water doesn't spill over. I honestly thought it would take about three hours, but by two, the chicken was pulling itself apart in the pot, and it was ready. Fish the chicken out from the broth, and pull it apart with a fork, it should come apart really easily.

Don't throw away the broth. It'll make a great noodle soup (which is what my husband is having for dinner tonight!)

HOW TO DO CHEAT DAY RIGHT

I know, in the last post, I went on and on about the sucky parts about transitioning my life into my newer life. The truth is, there are a lot of plus points. Some of which include the fact that I'm finally normal-sized in this country, something I embrace and enjoy after being too tall, too fat, too big in Asia for basically, all my life; the fact that gluten-free anything doesn't cost me selling my kidney in the black market and that I love being in a city that embraces my gluten-free worshipping, cage-free eggs devouring and Kombucha-brewing lifestyle.

One of the most important factors is I am in complete control of what I put into my body. Yes, I was in control as well before, but living with my folks, I'd be tempted by the white rice my parents are having for dinner, or the keropok my mother is frying up. Somehow in the course of living together, John and I have started going on unofficial Saturday night date nights; it's our one night a week to eat out at a new spot that we've never tried before. It's also our once-a-week cheat meal.

The problem with cheat meals, or cheat days is that when you're fixed on a relatively healthy diet, you tend to feel really, really shitty after. Not because you're feeling guilty about what you had put into your body the night before (you tend to feel really accomplished about the oxtail chilli cheese fries topped with egg & the Ronin at Bachi Burger, finished with a Hershey's cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Yes. No shame in my cheat meals.) but mostly, because your body isn't used to the amount of junk you've devoured.

I do a cheat meal a week, as opposed to an entire cheat day because one, I'd end up eating an entire bottle of Nutella if not supervised, and two, I have wedding receptions to look hot for. I've also learnt that it's too troublesome for my body to recover after an entire cheat day, as opposed to just a cheat meal. 

I have been experimenting with my body to see what I can do to dispel all the icky feeling in my body the day after a cheat meal. I am not a doctor, a nutritionist or anything of that sort. Consult a doctor or medical professional before you consume any supplements or try this method. It works for my body, and so far, my husband's too.

Whether you're doing a cheat day, or a cheat meal, start your day with either a whole lemon in a cup of warm, or room-temperature water or chugging back a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar. If you can, wait between 1/2 hour to 3 hours before you have your first meal of the day.

My meals are clean and simple before my cheat meal. For breakfast, I have two boiled eggs with Sriracha, a glass of water with Sun Warrior, Raw Organic Ormus Supergreens (more details about Ormus Supergreens available here), lunch is a meat-free salad with a teaspoon of coconut oil as dressing. Coconut oil is a natural metabolism booster. It is made of anti-inflammatory, medium-chain fatty acids that burn quickly and is easily absorbed in the body without being broken down by the liver; this makes it a natural energy and metabolism booster that helps you burn stored fat.

Before I tuck in into my cheat meal, I drink some Apple Cider Vinegar again. I've worked up to 1/4 a cup, which is not necessarily what you stomach can handle. Start with a tablespoon first. Don't be lame and dilute it with water, but do it if you must. I eat a teaspoon of chia seeds too.

Post-cheat meal, I will drink a blended concoction of dandelion greens, or dandelion root, (which is available on iHerb, if dandelion greens are not available to you), fresh ginger, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (yes, AGAIN!)

The following morning, I usually wake up with my body ready to expel all of last night's food into the porcelain throne, or whatever you choose to call it. I boil a stick or two of cinnamon in a pot of water and drink it. Cinnamon is amazing at curing bloating. You can also drink it with your herbal tea (as in, boil the cinnamon with your tea) or boil apple slices and cinnamon for a delicious drink. Bonus: your kitchen will smell so freakin' good!

Let me know if you try this! Go forth and enjoy your cheat meal!

COMMANDO CHALLENGE 2014 POST-MORTEM

There are some things in life you can't believe you have done and you're thankful you've done them. 2014 for me has been full of them - cutting bitches that I've never needed anyway out of my life, saving money, and... going through a military obstacle course with my trainers, and fellow members at Ritual.

The Commando Challenge training started about two months before. This meant that for an entire eight-week period, I went to the gym four to five times a week, I went running (which I absolutely loathe), I was eating clean, and the worst of it all - I had no bottle of Nutella open for that two months. Two months Nutella detox. It was painful.

Every Saturday, we had trainings with our trainer, Shrek, who put us through numerous workouts under the hot sun, and true enough, as he said - the trainings were tougher than the actual obstacle course actually was. I don't mean to sound like an asshole, but my team breezed through it. Sure, it was hard, but the fact that our trainer pushed us, and we saw and felt what our bodies were actually capable of doing, we knew we could nail that shit.

We could do all of it - climb up shit, climbed over shit, jumped off more shit, crawled under shit. What killed us, was what we didn't train, and couldn't possibly train for, the ice plunge.

Yes - we had to jump into a pool of ice, swim under it and emerge the other side. You know how when you watch the movie Titanic and you keep yelling at Jack and Rose to swim? Yeah, that's not even possible. It's incredibly scary how your body shuts down when you're in freezing water. It was literally an out-of-body experience - I heard myself breathing out loud in a way that I've never heard myself breath.

I mean - I know cold. I've been in sub-zero temperatures skiing in Manchuria but this, submerged in ice water (the organisers were extremely diligent about filling up the pool with more ice!) was a whole different ball game all together. The pool came up all the way to my chin when I'm 1.73m tall, so you can imagine how it must have been for the teeny tinier people.

When I emerged, I was dizzy, my ears were completely deaf, and limbs were frozen and I could see condensation smoke emerging from my skin. It was probably one of the most painful, and yet incredibly adrenalin rushing experiences I have willingly put myself through. The entire challenge was.

We went into the challenge not knowing exactly what the obstacles were, and we emerged perhaps, with a new obsession with obstacle-type races. 

Spartan, next, perhaps? I just need to forget the pain of ice challenges for now. 

FAZ'S FAVOURITE PLACES TO EAT CLEAN IN SINGAPORE

If you follow me on Instagram, you would have noticed my incredibly obnoxious photo of my abs that I posted up a few days ago. You can't blame me. Before I turned to Ritual last year, my stomach has always been a big blob all my life.

I digress. I've been on a Shrek-assigned renegade diet for the past week in preparation for the Commando Challenge that we're taking part in on 15 Nov. That means two months of no cheat days, and it's only been seven days and I'm really tired of chicken already. 

So to inspire me to make better tasting food with what I am able to eat, here's a list of my favourite places to eat (relatively) clean in Singapore.

And in case you don't know what eating clean means, it is basically eating whole non-processed foods, that are chemical-free and with as much natural ingredients as possible. You don't have to go to health-specific cafes to have clean food, of course, but it's always better to go to places where the owners are conscious of what goes into their food, where their food comes from and what they use to make their food taste good.

For me, I mostly follow a #ritualstyle diet, which means no bread, no fruit (high sugar content), no sugar at all, and as per my trainer's instructions, rice only after my workouts and I'm intermittent fasting everyday too. My diet's more complex at the moment, and I shan't delve deeper into it

Platypus Gourmet2Go

Like the many things I've discovered in the past year or so, Ritual started me on Platypus. Their salad boxes are like magical little boxes that see me devouring greens like my life depended on them. I love them so much that I featured them in my series of places to eat clean when I "took over" HungryGoWhere's Instagram for the day. My favourite order is pictured here - medium box of greens, no carbs, salmon, chicken and smoked duck with Seville Orange dressing. Their salmon and their duck make life worth living. 

Three different sized boxes at $6.90, $8.90, $10.90 respectively. Menu, calorie content and locations available here.

The Living Cafe

For someone with gluten intolerance and a mild lactose intolerance, The Living Cafe is heaven-sent. If not for the fact that the cafe is literally located on the other side of the island from where I live, they would see me there more often. Unlike in LA where raw and organic cafes are a dime a dozen, The Living Cafe makes its mark in the dining scene by paying attention to each customer's dietary restrictions and needs.

I was asked three times what my dietary restrictions were - and the waitress came to ask again, if oats were ok. It's a trait that's very valuable to me, especially when I dine in restaurants that claim not to use any MSG in their food and I'm scratching myself like a monkey less than half an hour after my meal.

Pictured above is their raw "cheeseburger". It's definitely not for the times when you're craving a hunk of red meat, but it's freakin' delicious for a meal that's completely raw and devoid of any meat. With lettuce leaves to play the role of the bun, the cheeseburger patty is made of nuts, seeds, mushroom, oats, onions and flaxseed. There's also a raw cheese sauce slathered over the patty before topping it with more vegetables including carrots, beets and tomatoes.

Their hormone-free chicken pizzas topped with cashew cheese are fo sho' worth trying too.

The Living Cafe is located at 779 Bukit Timah Road (Just before 6th Avenue). Lunch, Dinner and Brunch menus are available online.

Meat And Green

I LOVE MEAT AND GREEN. My daily conundrum is basically choosing between Meat And Green's salad, or a shake from Ritual.

Their salad base is the same - baby spinach, seasonal vegetables, some nuts (I always opt out of beets. I hate beets) but like the menu says, you get to choose your protein. I've only tried the chicken and the chilli crab and fish (once). I keep going back to the chicken because it's the single perfectly poached chicken in the surface of the planet.

AND they have Sriracha. Life complete.

P.S.: Not clean, but their mac-and-cheese is TO DIE FOR.

84 Circular Road, open till 10.30pm on weekdays and even open on Saturdays!

Common Man Coffee Roasters

So Hollandaise sauce is not "eating clean" since it's basically egg yolk and liquid butter but it's f**king delicious. One of my favourite people in the world, Natasha, (whom I stole this photo from) and I are obsessed with this dish - you can have it without the sourdough bread that's underneath this smorgasbord of messy goodness and with the Hollandaise on the side. What makes the dish, I think, is how the egg yolks ooze out of its poached perfection on to the pillowy soft, melt-in-your-mouth braised beef cheeks. There's also rocket for good measure.

22 Martin Road, menu available here.

Hanare

Unlike some people I know who ball so hard they can make it rain with uni, all I know is good raw fish and shitty raw fish, and in my books, Hanare makes a solid Bara Chirashi Bowl. My usual order - double the fish and half the rice feeds me and Natasha even when we're at our hungriest, and that says a lot because we love our raw fish.

99B Tanjong Pagar Road, $27 for a double fish bowl. (Pictured is the single serving)

The Daily Cut

One of the newest kids on the block - which whips up a #Ritualstyle meal easily is The Daily Cut. Opened in July 2014, think of The Daily Cut as a salad box without the greens. Instead of a typical high-carb diet you can find in hawker and Asian restaurants, The Daily Cut lets you choose several ingredients to make your meal a high protein one.  

My regular box had brown rice, steak (which was really good), avocado, an egg and cherry tomatoes. And I picked the Thai dressing which tasted like it had some fish sauce, some chillies and a sweet sauce mixed together.

Here's the menu:

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1 Raffles Place, #B1-31

Other random clean eating tips in Singapore

  • Yong tau foo, as much as most Singaporeans think it is, is not the healthiest thing in the food court - the ingredients and soup are laden with some of the highest sodium and MSG content.
  • Subway is not as healthy as it claims to be. It's far from "clean eating" with the high sodium content most of its ingredients contain.
  • Just because it's greek yogurt doesn't make it healthier. Some companies throw in chocolate in greek yogurt and make it even fattier and higher in calories than some candy bars. Read and understand what you're eating before putting it in your mouth.