Sure as Autumn Flame


The Mother of all Detox Plans (till date)
September 23, 2012, 10:54 pm
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Food, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , , , , , ,

Detoxing is an ocassional 1-3 days plan I embark on in my years of living insane schedules (ie. work hard play hard exercise harder party decently hard). The great thing about detox is that it doesn’t last very long, it cleanses the body inside out, and you feel pretty good again and ready to start that cycle till the next session.

I was kidding about repeating the cycle. However, I also have to point out that we inevitably fall into the cycle of living it to extreme, and going cold turkey via “detox”.

image from Press Tag

My usual routine was honey-lemon water or green tea throughout the day, fruit juices or fruits for 2 to 3 days. Flushing everything out felt really great, but you would be ready to devour KFC by the end of the 3-day programme. This kinda thing is easy especially after festive occasions such as Christmas, Chinese New Year and Thanksgiving when your body takes in four times the normal amount of turkey, roast, beer and wine.

Plus, I was never really a fan of diets. I believed in eating what I liked and burning it all off through exercise.

However, I reached the point in my life when work took over exercise, and the pleasures of wine and dine are alot easier than hauling myself to the gym. Sure, there was the 50km bike ride I try to clock once a week, yoga once a week but the weight stubbornly clung on.

Until my friend told me about the Optrimax 5-day programme. Or rather, she did not really tell me about it – she asked if I detoxed and I gamely said yeah, and she plonked the detox kit on my desk after sending me an email containing information which I confessed to having no time to look at.

Optrimax 5-day plan: The contents of one meal

The instructions were simple. 5 days worth of meals that come in the form of smoothie shakes, and one after-dinner snack at the end of it all. I picked a week where I was busy running events so that I don’t have time to eat and think about food, figuring it would be a pretty perfect way to get through the week – get busy, get work done, get detoxed.

The Optrimax Guru also tells me what I need to do to prepare, even offering cheat tips just to make me feel better. I have to admit, those almond nuts (as pathetic as eight of them sound), salad, fat-free yogurt helped curb those nom-nom-nom pangs. I’ll leave out the instructions and stuff because all it really matters is, how did I feel?

Day 1: Went through 3 meals, only to discover that I could only eat one damn sng muey (sour plum) at the end of the day? Shake tasted strange, but acceptable. The stress from work certainly did not help, I was depressed, feeling faint and needed Vietnamese coffee – badly.

Day 2: Went through 2 meals before my body suddenly decided it ain’t gonna go through another strange-tasting shake without some proper food. Looked through cheat-sheet and resorted to skinny flat-white. (They said I could drink coffee!) Day felt better. Colleagues did steer clear away from me though, they noticed I was alot grumpier than normal and immediately attributed it to detox.

Day 3: Back in office after two hectic days of running around. Fatigue helps because all I wanted to do is to sit down and not eat, and hammer away at the keyboard. Went through the lot of shakes with coffee in between. (I really needed the coffee). Lots of toilet breaks for me – seems that Optrimax did work its way through my system. Unhappy with sng muey treat at the end of the day though. Optrimax, if you must, please do not call it a treat but stick to your reason why green tea powder and sour plum helps in keeping the weight low. Having a good reason to eat that is way better than rewarding a grumpy person with a sour plum. I would chew the head off someone who says that to me!

Day 4: Out filming again, with mad rush around town. No time to have lunch, not even make a shake. I made it up by having Starbuck’s Green Tea Soy Latte (sorry I cheated 😦 ! ) Came back to office starving and really stressed. Needed a beer but decided against it. Ordered Timbre’s pizzas for the team and my talents and watched them eat…damn.

Now here’s the amazing bit. After 4 days of initially not very enticing smoothie shakes, my palate got used to the taste by Day 4 dinner hour. I got really used to having nothing to munch on, and when I finally played cheat on Day 4, I nibbled one small square of the pizza crust and felt really satisfied after that. I supposed the Green Tea Soy Latte helped loads too. But hey, it’s green tea powder and soy milk, still reasonably healthy, yes?

Back to Day 5: Figured the way to downing those shakes is to have really cold water, squeeze out ALLLLL the fruit punch, shake the Zymes and VG bits in and chug it down. Got through breakfast and dinner, lunch was coffee again because I was feeling really sleepy. Decided to celebrate by joining the night cycling group on their usual Friday night 40km leisure cycle, and realised I was feeling more fatigued than usual, must have been the lack of food and sleep. Left the group halfway and went home to crash hard, dreaming up my next proper meal to come.

image courtesy of KFC Singapore

And recall what I said about post-detox. I really had KFC on post-detox Day 1.

Verdict: The MOTHER of all Detox plans, this one is a challenge both mentally and emotionally. 5 days of having no solid food is bound to get anybody…ANYBODY hungry enough to devour everything in his/her way. To be fair, I did lose 2kg (mostly water) and almost 1cm off my hips. Ate probably half of it back, but appetite’s definitely smaller now. 3 days of this would be enough, though. However, the weight tends to stay off alot longer because you somehow enter a habit of eating less, feeling incredibly satisfied even after a small portion of whatever-food-you-wanted-to-have.

I’d still stick to my insane exercise plans. This definitely works when I’m busy – worth a shot, but you had better keep at it.

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Look Good #1: To look like a bombshell…
May 20, 2011, 2:10 am
Filed under: Beauty & Health | Tags: , , ,

(I decided to start a series of “Look Good” reality check posts simply for the heck of it. This used to be on Polkadot Monsters but I no longer contribute to that site, hence I decided to migrate content back here and continue my reign from here. After all, a blog serves to inflate one’s ego, no?)

Get real.

In all honesty, I believe the trick to looking good is to include exercise (even walking an hour everyday helps), a decent diet and enough sleep in your schedule. I have to admit I am not the best example recently, although my ideal world will encompass an hour’s exercise in any form daily.

No one is asking you to look like a skinny model (see above), because we all know good make-up skills and hair styling transform a drab to a fab on the streets. But can you spare the 2 hours everyday to look this good? Imagine, waking up at 5am just to leave work on time, worrying about your make-up melting away and not being able to fall asleep and wake up next to the man of your dreams simply because you fear that he might flee upon seeing your nude face.

The happy truth is that even those models you see on TV go through a 24-hour preparation process – think about the number of stylists who have worked on them from hair to toe; the diets they have to go through; the 24-hf dehydration process they put themselves through before each shoot (ie. no food no water just to get the skin taut and muscle definition showing and to prevent water retention of course). Think of the DLSR cameras that erase every flaw from your face; of the photoshop work to airbrush those tiny little stretchmarks off…

Famous Nikki before and after airbrush effects

Beauty glows from within. With a little discipline, you can get there too. But if you are too lazy (for now) – just photoshop all your photos, lah.

Check back for the next post, Look Good #2: L-A-Z-Y is the 4-letter word.



My personal NIKE trainer…
April 14, 2011, 1:49 am
Filed under: Beauty & Health | Tags: , , , ,

…is one hot lady.

Besides her blonde ponytail, killer abs and sculpted arms, I assure you, readers, that I discovered more motivation behind the incredibly toned body – the amazing number of workouts that the Nike Training app provided.

You start out with four choices – Get Lean, Get Toned, Get Strong, and Get Focused. Each choice provides you with a series of full-body workouts to cater to your selection, comprising either cardio circuits, calisthenics training, a combination of both, or simply 15-minute workouts that target specific areas such as those flabby thighs, bulging stomachs or saggy arms.

 

 

 

I was getting bored of my gym routine and hence decided to put aside my pride and succumb to the enthusiastic feminine voice egging me on. Choice of the day: Abdominals. Pretty soon Ms-Hot-Nike-Lady-in-App had me huffing and puffing doing Russian twists, toe-touches, crazy oblique twisters and grimacing at plank holds. Results after 30-minutes? Burn, baby, burn…those muscles were working!


What I did not appreciate about the app was the major lunges and squats, side-steps and what nots given my extremely small exercise area – whether in the crowded gym or in my tiny apartment. Well, there are plenty of other choices which gave me no excuse to skip a workout, whether it was 15-minute or 45. What’s more, there is a leaderboard that keeps track of the total number of hours you chalk up working up a sweat, which interestingly tickles your ego and keeps you motivated at the end of the day.

Great for women and those who do avoid gym machines like plague, one could achieve a pretty decent body with this mobile trainer (of course, watch your diet!). This app provided me with plenty of options should I ever get bored with my exercises any day.

My thumbs up for this, and I sure hope Nike keeps this app updated and free.

 

 

 



Make-up for students – what for?
March 15, 2010, 6:04 am
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , ,

Peeling off a pore-pack has a strangely satisfying effect on one’s psychological self. Seeing the pores glued onto the adhesive and knowing they are no longer embedded in your nose somehow makes the ten-minute wait feel like a skin detox , almost like a facial spa treat minus the soothing music and waterfall sound effects.

And if you are a poor tertiary student cleaning tables at Starbucks or furiously mauling your fingers on the keyboard as part of your temporary data entry job, there is a simple solution of looking good. Six hundred dollars monthly during an internship is not going to allow you to splurge on Mac’s eye-shadow palette, Bobbi Brown’s foundation nor Anna Sui’s catwalk eyeliner, so one has to get creative and resourceful when it comes to battling those skin-care giants.

Because you are a tertiary student, you have the everlasting edge over any other woman you see on the street – youth. With youth comes supple skin, rosy cheeks and perfect highlights…that is, if you do not spend your sleeping hours in clubs and your waking hours in bed. Hovering between 18 to 23 years of age have got to be the best times of your life and possibly, the peak of your youthful looks.

Three paragraphs later, I am telling you young women, you do not need make-up. Why would you want to look like a jaded 28-year old whose skin has not seen the sunlight because she has been working from 7am to 9pm every day? Why would you cake your face with powder and smother your eyelids with eyeliners and shadow when there are neither open pores nor tired eyes to hide? Honey, there is no way you will snag that 35-year old man you have been eyeing by trying to look older. If he wants you, he wants you. If not, behaviour will automatically classify you into tertiary category and not “grown mature working adult” category. Trust me, we can tell a 22-year old university student from a 24-year old working lady even though the former might be dressed in a perfect suit. And unless you want to strut the stage like Lady Gaga, my personal advice would be to steer clear of fake eyelashes that have beads in them or are more than 5-mm long.

Alright, we all love to look beautiful. And like any mother, drill this into your head – start with basic skincare. Reduce those pores with a pore-pack, use a facial cleanser that suits your skin type best, apply your toner, moisturiser and eye-cream if you are really that paranoid. Really have got to hide those flaws from your lecturers in a semi-dimmed lecture room? Fuss-free, budget and reliable products are your best bet.

You need to look sharp and presentable for an interview:

First of all, let us go back to basic, basic, basic. With these in store, they take you from normal lecture days (which in my opinion, do not require make-up at all), to interviews, parties, functions and house visits. A make-up base and concealer ranks top priority, for they erase most imperfections and zits to turn your face into a clean slate for layering on the other shades. Oh, and trim your eyebrows.

Make-up base:

On a clean face, prep your face with Ettusais Medicated Acne Whitening UV EX (SPF 24/PA++) or opt for Skin Food’s Aloe Sun BB Cream (SPF 20/PA+). These offer decent coverage of open pores and reduced dark spots without caking your face like quick drying mud. For extra coverage, lightly smear eye rings and spots with stick concealer or something like Sephora Lasting & Perfecting Corrector.

Liquid or powder?

While some prefer liquid foundation for longer-lasting effects, others opt for powder foundation to beat the heat and run a lesser risk of an oily look by the end of a long day. Liquid or powder, the decision rests on how disciplined you are on blotting your face at least once a day.

Liquid foundation for the most natural coverage:
– Revlon Beyond Natural Skin Matching Makeup SPF 15
– Ettusais Flat Design Liquid SPF 18

For a natural finish, use a make-up sponge and dab the uneven patches with it. Do not waste the product by dabbing across your entire face, especially when you have got only certain trouble spots which you want to conceal.

Compact foundation with finest finish:

– Lancome Maquicake UV Infinite Everlasting Compact Foundation SPF 20
– Majolica Majorca Skin Remaker Compact Foundation SPF 18

Foundations these days usually have a two-in-one UV protector for daily use and decent skin coverage, so there is no real need to apply another layer of sunscreen and risk clogging up your delicate pores. Foundation is not nude paint, then again neither is make-up an artist palette – you can’t change “ugly” to “pretty” with mere strokes of the sponge. It might be wiser to save up for plastic surgery correction instead, honey. They say you might be able to get a recommendation from the National Skin Centre to enjoy a subsidised rate.

At this point, all you need is a blusher, some clear lip gloss and you’re ready to go (and glow). Save time and dust your cheeks with Clinique’s Quick Blush in In-A-Rush Blush for natural finish.

Trust me, ladies. This is it. Trim your eyebrows and use a pore-pack.

What, nothing for the night?

Darlings, you are young. The clubs are almost pitch black with crazy neon lights. If you look gorgeous, you score. If you look hideous, rely on the lack of lighting and shake your booty instead. Okay, we will allow smoky eyes for the night, so pile on the liner, shadows and finish off with your mascara.

Get it right:

In summary, there is a time and place for different types of make-up. Everyday wear may consist of the above recommendation, perhaps with an eyeliner and mascara to spruce it up a notch higher. Having a night out? Okay, more eyeshadow. A dinner function? Coverage is important. Going to the beach? Fall back on a good sunscreen lotion instead, not the damn eyeliner.



Be bold this summer – snip ’em off
March 6, 2010, 1:04 am
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Fashion, Lifestyle | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Plucked off polkadotmonsters, a site where I contribute:

Singapore recorded its lowest rainfall this February, complete with one too many scorching “summer” days in a row. The weather, plus its humidity, makes it impossible to even layer the thinnest camisoles, wear your bangs straight without having your hair plastered to your forehead, much less walk around with a lovely long-sleeve shirt to work.

It is not like the weather is going to change itself. We only have hot and wet, no drastic changes, which allows the perfect hairstyle to wear out this summer season. Asymmetrical cuts have been the rage since Victoria Beckham appeared with her asymmetrical bob, and we Asians must realise that we are able to pull them off too.

The trick to these hairstyles simply lies in wax, wax, wax. Be religious – search for a long-lasting wax that holds your hair in place the entire day. I personally like Gatsby clay or Zoaa Vibrance Styling Clay. Forget Lucidol L that claims to transform your hair magically, just use clay! Of course, the essence of a good hairstyle lies in a good cut, so pick your stylist carefully. Show him/her photos of what you want and don’t look back after that.

Clay is an amazing product. Pinch a small blob off (about a finger dab) and smear it all over your ten fingers. Stick your fingers straight under the top layer of your hair and start scrunching, from sides to the back and deftly at the top – you wouldn’t want too much clay on each strand since it will weigh it down. Don’t forget the ends, scrunch them with a little twist so they wave out nicely.

Think you look better in long hair, or decided to chicken out? Fear not, Summer 2010’s styles feature more texture, more layers and wavy locks for the busy lady. It’s all about letting your hair characterise you – less products, better cut, more volume. Pin it up, braid it, or simply wind toss it. And don’t forget the wax!



Here’s why you can buy happiness:
February 28, 2010, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Two Cents' Worth | Tags: , ,

There have been noble sayings that happiness cannot be bought. Whist the rich scorn the poor for their frugal ways and scoff at what they lack, the ones with their pockets lined with dollars are at the mercy of discontentment, loneliness and what have you. Happiness exists in intangible terms – of love, content, satisfaction, undescribable joy, warmth etc. Money gives you the means to purchase a route or shortcut to achieve these, and here’s how money can buy you happiness (indirectly, of course):

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs addresses the psychological state of content and happiness a person feels upon fulfilment of his various needs. We begin first with the base level – of food, shelter, sleep, sex etc.

With money, I don’t have to eat economical rice (stalls that allow you to pick three types of dishes with a bowl of white rice) that costs me $2.80 each day. At the rate we are penalised to eat healthy these days (when getting a salad from Subway requires you to add in an additional $3 for more shredded lettuce; when opting for a juice blast costs you $8 more than home-made ice lemon tea), it makes more sense to spend a mere $100 on a plate of sushi, another $10 on salad and lo behold!

Too ugly and can’t get laid? Money solves it instantly. Snap your fingers, drive your flashy car with your top down (and sunnies up on your nose) and the girls will come. Just gotta promise them their Pradas, LVs and Louboutins.

With money, friends will flock to you to provide their entertainment, and in return they bestow upon you their fabulous company, laughter and shared drunken stupour. Girls will dangle from your arm, like a Prada bag accessory…you feel like you are at the top of the world.

The roof over the top of your head need not be the HDB, where prices soar and never get justified enough. I could live on the Nautique Nautilus very easily, drive to work everyday – and go home to a weekend getaway daily.

Decadence aside, I wondered out loud to my other half whether dating would be as pleasant if we were earning less. It would be, but money makes it easier to purchase a more luxurious sort of life which we both could then enjoy. Nice restaurants, occassional martinis and holidays, cable-skiing every weekend and what not. That would not have been possible if he was drawing a monthly salary of S$3,000.

It would have been less agonizing with our pockets full of cash; or sitting in accounts waiting to be spent. There will be no necessity to be stuck in a job we hate yet are bound to simply because it pays the bills. Drop the shackles, and one is free to pursue his or her dream job.

Perhaps, you could very well buy happiness with money.

The author believes that happiness is of an intangible value, for there can be no happiness without satisfaction. The rich will always hanker a better life than what they have, and they will never stop at the amount they have at present.

Happiness stems from satisfaction, gratification and a sense of fulfillment all found in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs addressed earlier. Money makes life a little easier, but whether it could buy you happiness – she will leave that thought with you.



My Affair with Mr Scissors-Hands
July 10, 2009, 12:54 am
Filed under: Beauty & Health, Lifestyle, Woven Tales | Tags: , , , ,

I love my new hair.

Each time I look in the mirror, each time my fingers grazed the styling clay, I thought of his teasing fingers shaping my bangs, and the image freezes there.

If the word “affair” is loosely termed, my affair with Mr Scissors-Hands begun last year. Like every relationship, I bolted away crying from my previous hairstylist, convinced that the love of my life has ruined the future ahead for me. Till I met Mr Scissors-Hands when I wandered through the corridors of dodgy Katong Shopping Centre – I entered haltingly, he beckoned gently. I stiffened a sigh, and plonked myself to an experience I could only hope for the best.

The first encounter. Like a first date, we did not know what to make of each other. I wondered how good his fingers were, while he wondered what baggage and scars I carried with me. Like a dance of lovers, we begun slowly, hesitant, a brief touch, his hand guiding the way. I tip-toed along those pages of flowing curls, I made my decision, and closed my eyes for his magic…

Why did I choose to leave the man who had toyed with my hair for the past six years? I confided in him, I wanted him to make me the prettiest girl in school, I begged for him to try new things on me. He was the dominant one in the relationship, he held the reins. He gave me what he liked, and I loved it because he liked it too. Eager to please, I modelled his dreams and he painted his desires on me. I cried my sorrows and life’s worries while he smoothed my hair, and somehow his words – though not many – managed to make me feel better. It might not have been his words but the magical tough he had on my hair, because I remember leaving his salon happy and feeling more beautiful than an hour earlier. Like a relationship facing the inevitable stagnant phase, where nothing exciting happens anymore, he was harsh with his words. “No matter what you want me to do with your hair, face it – you’ll still look the same blah girl.”

I did not need a man who saw no hope in making magic with me anymore.

Mr Scissors-Hands was a renewed hope, a refreshed vigour and a whiff of adventure. I felt assured and safe with him as we explored textures and colours, sharing an anticipation as the hair-dryer reveals the final product bit by bit. I was always stunned to awe by his skill with the scissors while he took pride in my adventurous nature. Curls, bob, the asymmetrical cut…it was like having snapshots of our memories, with stories woven behind them. The curls allowed us to discover our mutual friends, and each other’s likes and dislikes. The bob revealed a more intimate side of him – he had a daughter, but he is alone now. I hummed along a similar tune – single child, single mum – and we silently understood each other, the pain, the loneliness…and our courage to march through life. The asymmetrical was a fun excursion, him teasing, I was laughing. I am hooked to him, like another lover in my life.

——————————————

In reality, chosing a hairstylist is almost like chosing a boyfriend. Women flock to men who seem to exist for the sole purpose of making them beautiful, and it is in our nature to find the perfect match who understands our hair, our roots, and our nature. I belong to the statistics – they do not call the hair a crowning glory without a reason. Hair changes our complex, our impression on others, and at times releases our alter-ego within us.

Three hours with a hairstylist is almost like going out on a date. Such close proximity, do we simply sit in silence? Conversations, laughter, the need to find similar interests to generate topics to chat…hairstylists have moved from a mere hair-transforming agent into a professional friend. Women seek that professional friend for a quick confidential outburst, for a confidence booster, and at times, a convenient coffee date when she is around the area.

In cases where some will take this friendship level to the next one that of lovers, a relationship that blossomed out from such stylist-customer origins are few and scattered wide. My told-story of “My Affair with Mr Scissors-Hands” will stay a purely fictional one, because the professional friendship is worth the next few good years (or more, I hope) of lovely hair.