It’s no easy feat being this toned and svelte, even if you’re blessed with good genes. Model Aimee Cheng-Bradshaw spills her stay-slim strategies in this candid interview about all things Shape.
At 176cm with legs that go on forever, Aimee Cheng-Bradshaw is the envy of many women. Though it seems like her willowy figure boils down to perfect DNA, Aimee has worked for it.
The 23-year-old psychology undergrad at King’s College London first made headlines when she represented Singapore in Asia’s Next Top Model 3. During an episode, a judge criticised her for being “lazy” and asked her to work out more. Compared to other contestants who were shorter and petite, Aimee says she was considered “big”.
No matter. She eventually came in third, but the judge’s remark sparked a turning point. Today, Aimee’s the embodiment of health and fitness, and also a sterling Adidas ambassador. Her current fitness routine consists of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) six times a week, and yoga four times a week. She rattles off about healthy eating with ease. Impressive, for someone who started modelling with neither an exercise nor diet plan.
SHAPE: Tell us about the unhealthiest point of your life.
Aimee: That would be during Asia’s Next Top Model 3 in 2015. I wasn’t fat by any means, but I ate a lot of fried food and didn’t really exercise. I thought I could eat whatever I wanted, like in high school, but I was wrong. I didn’t take care of myself, and it showed.
S: What was it like, being slammed for your figure on international TV?
A: It was super tough. The criticism on the show led to negative and mean comments on my Instagram from people who watched it. But I’m stubborn and wanted to prove that despite the drawbacks, I can still be a top model. After the competition, I got my health in control and found my passion for fitness.
S: How did that happen?
A: During Asia’s Next Top Model, I met a friend who was super into working out. She asked if I wanted to wake up at 6am to work out with her, and since I was bored at that time, I said “sure, why not”. That’s how I got started with exercise. After the competition, I took an online course in fitness and nutrition, where I learnt about different food groups, healthier food options, portion sizes, and how to eat right for my body type.
S: What’s your favourite workout now?
A: HIIT and yoga. I love how fast-paced and effective HIIT is, and the calming effect of yoga. For HIIT, I follow a lot of BeachBody Insanity workouts by American trainer Shaun T, either in a small gym in my condo or in my driveway. When I’m in Singapore, I usually go to Yoga+. I love vinyasa flows, and recently discovered the goodness of yin yoga.
Watch Aimee demo the step-by-step moves of a low-impact HIIT workout.
S: If you have only five minutes to work out, what would you do?
A: Stair sprints, non-stop! I’m guaranteed to sweat and feel the burn in my glutes and quads.
S: How do you motivate yourself to work out when you feel lazy or tired?
A: When I started working out, my younger sister Ella would scream motivational quotes at me. My favourite one to date: “Suck it up today so you don’t have to suck it in tomorrow.” I find it hilarious, and it works as a pretty good motivator.
S: What’s your proudest fitness achievement so far?
A: In yoga, I used to focus a lot on external motivation, like simply being able to do a pose. I would get frustrated when a pose wasn’t happening. But lately, I’ve learned to slow down, listen to my body, and focus on the practice rather than the product. The poses will come to me when my body is strong enough and ready for them. This realisation is something I’m super proud of. Progress, not perfection.
S: What types of diets have you tried? What’s your favourite and least favourite?
A: I’ve tried the paleo diet, which is to eat what hunter-gatherers had before the Agricultural Revolution – and I loved it! It was tough to maintain at first since it involves no dairy, wheat, grains or soy, but it made me feel so energetic. I’ve also tried going meatless and doing teatoxes. My least favourite is definitely counting calories. It was so stressful and made me feel guilty about eating everything, so I knew had to stop and reconsider how I think of food.
S: What’s your diet situation now?
A: I’m a lot more mindful about what I eat. Most of the time, I ensure that I’m eating for good health, instead of satisfying cravings. For breakfast, I have either banana and peanut butter or old-fashioned greek yogurt and granola. For lunch or dinner, I love having salmon with asparagus, or something local like yong tau foo. On days when I do HIIT or feel like having something decadent, I’ll go for Hokkien mee or laksa.
S: Any other indulgences?
A: I love chocolate – Lindt, Ferrero Rocher, Kit Kat… anything chocolatey!
S: What are your best tips for flawless, glowing skin like yours?
A: Drink tons of lemon water, be gentle with your skin (don’t overscrub!), always moisturise, and never underestimate the importance of a good toner.
S: And your must-have beauty products?
S: What does being in shape mean to you?
A: Being in shape reflects the self-care and self-love I have. I care about my health and my body, so I strengthen it, train it and feed it with good food to make it stronger. Occasionally, I treat it with something indulgent.