Food tasting is her job but exercise is her passion and helps her beat stress. By Ng Wan Ching
Food columnist Victoria Cheng works out twice a week with VibroGym equipment because the vibrating movements help her achieve results more quickly. Her routines vary through the week, with bike rides, tennis, wakeboarding, martial arts and salsa dances all adding to her efforts to keep fit. Photo: Yeo Kai Wen / The Straits Times
About Victoria Cheng
The food writer, who also provides digital strategy and production for food and beverage brands, hails from a family of fitness buffs.
Her four younger brothers are active in sports such as biking, tennis, running, hiking, judo, taekwondo, aikido, badminton and ice hockey. Her father is an amateur ballroom dancer who practises at least two hours a day. He also does yoga and Wing Chun, a Chinese martial art. Her mother is into tennis and running marathons.
“Actually, my parents are even fitter than my siblings and me,” she said.
Her father, a Hong Kong-based entrepreneur and businessman, worked in the United States for many years. She was born there and is a US citizen. Her mother is Thai.
Five years ago, Ms Cheng chose to come here to work as a food writer. She lives by herself.
Q. What is your secret to looking so fabulous?
A. When I started my fitness routine four years ago, I would get bigger at some points, even though I was at the gym every day.
Later, when I started working with my current trainer, I came to understand that I gain muscle mass easily. We figured out a formula to help make my muscles lean, rather than bulk up further.
Also, I always try to look on the bright side and to look ahead in a positive way. I think this affects how I carry myself.
Q. Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?
A. Yes – when I moved, at age 15, from a sports-centric town, Garden City on Long Island in New York, to cosmopolitan Hong Kong.
I grew up participating in many physical activities at school, such as gymnastics and dance.
But in Hong Kong, I became less active. The sudden slowdown in activity, plus hitting puberty, led to a weight gain of about 4kg.
Five years ago, I came to work in Singapore for a food publication magazine. I gained 10kg in less than two years from lack of exercise, constant eating and long work hours during which I was stuck at the desk. Food writers and editors order lots of fast food to eat at their desks when they are stuck at work.
Q. How did you get fit again?
A. I got fed up when I couldn’t fit into anything in my closet. I felt self-conscious and lethargic. So I started working out.
I felt more alive and more alert, and I had more energy. What started out as torture at the gym eventually delivered an endorphin high with each workout. I lost 10kg in half a year.
Q. What is your diet like?
A. I try to avoid doing too many restaurant reviews unless they seem worth the calories or the read.
In the morning, I have green tea, a supplement, probiotics and two eggs. For a mid-morning snack, a red apple and coffee.
At lunch, I often go for tastings for an article or for a restaurant brand I consult for – which usually means delicious, but maybe not-so-healthy, food. If I don’t have a tasting session, then I usually have something I prepared at home, such as salmon and asparagus, a tuna salad or a turkey avocado sandwich.
My mid-afternoon snack is another cup of coffee and maybe another apple.
Dinner is typically Japanese – nigiri, chirashi and soba, rounded off with ice cream.
If I indulge in supper, then I go for local food, of course.
Q. What are your indulgences?
A. I have a particularly weak spot for pizza, french fries, good whisky, Hong Kong wonton noodles, char kway teow, sandwiches, baguettes and sourdough bread, vanilla ice cream and cookies.
I head out to cocktail bars quite frequently as I’m friends with many of the bartenders and owners around town. I can’t say no to a delicious cocktail.
Q. What do you do to relax?
A. When I’m stressed out, any water or high-impact sport gives me a huge endorphin rush. A session with punching bags or slamming tennis balls for two hours always makes me feel good.
Q. What are the three most important things in your life?
A. Family, including my dog and friends in Singapore; keeping focused on my goals; and staying inspired and motivated to improve my mind and body.
Q. What’s your favourite part of your body? And the least favourite?
A. It took me a long time to accept my curvier body type.
I have a love-hate relationship with my legs – they’re thick and muscular like those of Chun-Li from the Street Fighter arcade game, not long and lean like those of a Victoria’s Secret model. But then I can also kick like Chun-Li, so that’s the trade-off.
Q. How important is it for you to keep up with your fitness routine?
A. I can feel it when I’ve missed more than five days of my usual fitness routine. Any more than a week, and I feel the lethargy kick in. I’m sleepier when I don’t work out.
Q. What is the most extreme thing you have done to stay fit or diet?
A. There was a time when I prioritised going to the gym over everything else, including work and meeting friends. I also took just 500 calories a day. It showed results physically, but the imbalance it created in my life was not worth it.
Q. How large is your home collection of sports-related paraphernalia?
A. I keep all my sports trophies and medals at my parents’ home since I move around a lot.
I notice I have an excessive number of sports bras, and my collection of sneakers – once upon a time my least favourite type of shoes to buy – is growing.
Q. Would you go for plastic surgery and why?
A. No, not even botox. Maybe one day in the future, but I’ve reached a point where I am content to accept myself the way I am. Also, I worry about things going wrong while I’m under the knife or needle.
I’m grateful for what I’ve been born with: Healthy teeth, a full head of hair and clear skin. Why fix what ain’t broke?
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline ‘Food writer’s secret to staying slim’.