Being fit and healthy is a lifelong journey that comes more easily when you have the right support. And Ng Hui Ru, winner of Shape Fit Girl 2019, is set to give you that.
Ng Hui Ru is exclaiming about my breakfast habits (i.e. non-existent). Sitting me down, she urges me to eat the all-important first meal of the day, telling me that it will help to stabilise my blood sugar and give my body the energy it needs (“otherwise it’s running on empty”). It’s the reason why I’m reaching for a 4pm snack, says the 27-year-old. Skipping breakfast can cause spikes and drops in the blood sugar level, where you crash after a meal and wind up craving carbs again.
It’s something of a revelation. We’re in Hui Ru’s happy place, Wellness@Studio, where she works as a personal trainer and wellness coach. Beaming, she introduces us to both staff and clients in the studio, where a Beach Body workout is underway. She makes us a banana and pineapple nutrition shake, which actually tastes delicious. Pausing by a wall of “before and after” photos, she enthuses about the studio’s 21-Day Body Transformation campaign. She’s in her element.
Health isn’t just about fitness
For someone who’s made fitness her career (she’s been a wellness coach for six years now), it may surprise you that this Nanyang Polytechnic graduate did her diploma in engineering. “I never wanted to be an engineer!” she confesses. “I just took it because I didn’t know what else to do.” Fitness was, and still is, her true passion – she played netball in secondary school, and ultimate frisbee in polytechnic – to the extent that she took on coaching gigs, training an ultimate frisbee team in Jurong West Secondary School.
Though she looked fit and radiant, Hui Ru knew that she was far from being healthy. “I ate really irregularly, I had constipation, and I would feel weak,” she recalls.
Her journey to fully embracing a healthy lifestyle almost came about by chance. Her initial dream was to become a PE teacher. It made sense, she figured. Since she loved sports, it would be one way to fulfill this interest. Leading up to her application, she spent a year taking up part-time coaching jobs.
“But it was in that one year where I realised that while I love sports, I don’t actually like to teach it,” she says. It was a sobering realisation, but it all worked out for a reason – in that one year of coaching gigs, she reconnected with an old friend who was a coach from Wellness@Studio, and was introduced to the team.
“They told me that for good health, nutrition is 80 per cent of the game while exercise is 20 per cent, which was something I had never considered before,” she says. “I used to be about 100 per cent exercise.” She started making small but crucial changes to her diet, such as having a smoothie for breakfast (she used to skip breakfast), and making better food choices.
“After training, my friends and I used to reward ourselves with KFC meals. When I ate cai fan (economic rice), I would choose whatever I was in the mood to eat, like fried chicken.” In her diet overhaul, she swopped the oily food for a smoothie, or a more balanced meal of brown rice, vegetables and tofu. She also started taking Herbalife products, which she attributes to playing a role in improving her health.
The results were almost immediate. She had more energy, more consistent bowel movements, and within a month, gained two kilos of muscle and lost two per cent of body fat. “Seeing the results made me disciplined to carry on. I believe people give up because they get disheartened when what they are doing is not working.”
A new convert, she soon realised that being a wellness coach would allow her to combine her love of sports with being able to inspire and motivate people around her. “The studio’s mission is aligned with my personal mission of giving value through health and wellness. I see myself doing this forever.”
Change has to start from within
As a wellness coach and an ACE-certified personal trainer, Hui Ru isn’t formulaic about what she does for her clients – it’s up to what they want. Depending on their needs and budget, they choose and purchase a programme that suits them.
From there, they receive a personalised plan that includes a meal plan, advice and tips on how to adopt a healthier lifestyle, and daily chats with Hui Ru for updates and encouragement. If they’re looking to get more active, she brings them to the club for group workout classes. Heads up: She teaches a K-pop dance fitness class in the studio every Thursday at 7pm – guests can pre-purchase a workout pass.
This job may be her dream come true, but it’s far from cushy. Clients don’t usually come knocking at her door, so Hui Ru finds them through referrals, social media, or even on the street. She walks up to them, makes small talk, and tactfully asks about their lifestyle habits. Her only prequisite for accepting clients? They need to be sincere, and willing to put in the required effort.
“At the beginning, it was hard to overcome rejection,” she says. “Sometimes when I approach people, they make comments like, ‘so you think I’m fat’ or ‘I don’t need to be fit’.” Over time, Hui Ru learnt to deal with it. “Ultimately, it’s all about your mindset. I can only help you if you want to be helped. Now if people say no, it’s okay – they’re not the one.”
It’s a proactive approach that may not work for all, but for those who are open to it, they reap the benefits. Hui Ru waves over a former client to say hello, as she excuses herself to chat with someone else. The latter tells me that Hui Ru approached her along the CBD (where the studio is located) and asked if she would like to try a healthy smoothie. It went on from there, and the weight loss was visible. “I tried many things previously to lose weight, which failed. Hui Ru’s coaching worked for me,” she says.
After meeting people from all walks of life, Hui Ru realised that many of them do not have realistic standards about their health and body. “Most of my clients are women, and the majority have tried many ways to lose weight, from slimming pills and tea, to crash dieting, which are not sustainable ways to shape up for life.”
What Hui Ru does is to be truthful, and encourage them to acknowledge the results, no matter how insignificant they may seem. “Some people think that a 2kg weight loss isn’t much, but when I tell them to look in the mirror, they can see a difference in their body composition. I tell them to love their own body, and not to compare with others.”
For sustainable healthy living, find your tribe
Other than the individual craving for change, Hui Ru believes that community plays a big part in support. “There’s a difference between running alone and running in a team or a club. When you run alone, you’ll be tempted to stop.”
A naturally optimistic person, she believes that the community aspect of team sports re-enforced her positivity. “When you’re doing team sports, it’s not about you. You learn to manage your emotions to pull through.” At the studio, she thrives on the same team spirit. “I started working here since I was 21. This community has taught me how to adopt a positive mindset.” And with that, she wants to pay it forward.
This is why Hui Ru continues to stay in contact with clients, even after they’ve completed a programme with her. As long as they need advice, she’s a text away. “We’re friends!” she says, adding that she also invites them to gatherings organised by the studio. “Once you’re with me, I’ll never stop coaching you.”
To encourage more people to join her community, she is wielding the power of social media. She started @fitbossbabeclub on Instagram this year, to spread her vision that “with good nutrition, getting active and having motivation, you can be healthier, fitter and happier.” She’s bent on bringing like-minded people together, build connections, and possibly meet them in person and introduce them to the studio. If you slide into her DMs to say hello (her personal account is @huiru.fitbossbabe), we wager you’d get a hearty welcome.
Through the Shape Fit Girl challenge, Hui Ru met fellow participants who are on the same page as her. “They are leaders with so much potential. We still keep in contact, especially on Instagram.”
As self-assured as she is, winning the Shape Fit Girl 2019 competition still came as a big surprise. “When I received the email from Shape team, my jaw dropped. I thought, is it really me?” she exclaims. “Everyone else was so strong. But I calmed down, and told myself that Shape chose me for who I am, and the values I have.”
And those values are: to have a lasting impact on the health and well-being of those around her, and through that, leave them the know-how to educate their friends and family. The community that Hui Ru envisages is ever expanding.
5 Quick-fire Questions with Hui Ru
What are your favourite mobile apps? Instagram, Facebook, Stitcher (a podcast app), and YouTube for exercise and cooking tutorial videos.
What do you eat in a day? I’m vegetarian, partly because of animal compassion and saving the planet, and also because a plant-based diet reduces the risk of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. For breakfast, I have a protein shake or aloe vera tea. Lunch is either salad or vegetarian cai fan. Snack would be either a shake, beancurd or eggs, and dinner is a sandwich, or homecooked food. I also take supplements and vitamins.
Who inspires you the most? American entrepreneur and motivational speaker Jim Rohn! Unfortunately, he has passed on. But his wisdom has helped me through tough times in both my work and personal life. One of my favourite quotes from him is, “For things to change, you have to change.”
What do you do when you’re not in the studio? Singing karaoke with good friends never gets old! I love cooking over the weekend as well.