Felicia Kaw, 36, used to push herself to extremes in a bid to keep fit. She shares her story below. By Dawn Chen
Photo: Winston Chuang
Thanks to the number of classes she leads, this bubbly freelance fitness instructor has a super-packed workout schedule. Part of it includes teaching six zumba classes, three pilates sessions and three spinning workouts every week. It may sound overwhelming, but this is already a toned-down version of what Felicia’s exercise regime looked like in the past. A love of working out drove her to extremes, and she learnt the hard way that too much of a good thing can be bad for you. (Also Read: This Fit Mummy Earned Her Taekwondo Black Belt When She Was 37!)
When did you become interested in fitness?
When I was in primary and secondary school, I used to be overweight and people would mock me. It was really embarrassing and my self-esteem took a hit. Around the time I was 16, I finally made a conscious effort to watch what I eat and exercise more. There wasn’t an exact eureka moment, but I just had an internal realisation and longing to be more attractive – just like any girl at that age, I suppose.
What was it like when you first became more active?
Exercise is like love – the more you give, the more you get. The more I worked out, the more I enjoyed it. By the time I went to university in Australia, I was taking part in intercollege sports and worked part-time as a fitness instructor at the school gym. But the truth was, I swung from being sedentary to the polar opposite of the spectrum and started becoming obsessive about my fitness.
Could you share more?
I obsessed over everything – from the food I ate, to my calorie input and output, to how many hours I needed to run to burn it all off . It drained me mentally. I had zero rest days, and would even shy away from outings with friends. I felt like I couldn’t meet people till after I’d done over two hours of crazy, intense workouts because it was only then that I’d feel my most confident.
At that time, my exercise schedule went something like this: run, spin class, combat class, and another spin class before ending off with cross-training workouts using gym equipment. This went on for close to 10 years before I realised I needed to stop.
What was your turning point?
It was a combination of two factors. It hit me that I sacrificed so many relationships that were dear to me – I no longer had time for loved ones. And beyond that, my body started breaking down. My period became irregular, and during a circuit training session once when I was studying on exchange in Chicago, I suddenly couldn’t move or feel my body from the waist down. I panicked and called my friends, who had to carry me to the car and drive me to see a doctor. He diagnosed me as having hypothermia, and pointed out that my body fat level was too low.
What’s your approach to fitness now?
I’ve learnt to vary my workouts and strike a balance. Instead of focusing purely on cardio and high-intensity activities, I also do pilates regularly. It has taught me to be more self-aware, and I know better than to push myself overboard now. My insecurities don’t control me, and I’m definitely more confident than I was.
Do you think that confidence shows?
I believe a woman is most gorgeous when she’s comfortable in her own skin, and you can always tell by her gaze. Eyes always speak, and they offer a glimpse of how someone is truly feeling. If they’re genuinely happy, you can see it from the twinkle in their eyes. As such, it’s important to me that the delicate area around my peepers is well taken care of. My eye area is usually very dry in the morning, but it was noticeably more hydrated after just one night of using Shiseido Ultimune Power Infusing Eye Concentrate. Even though the formula is light, it kept my skin really smooth and moisturised.
This story was presented in collaboration with Shiseido Singapore.