Her weight loss journey started when she discovered and fell in love with Zumba.
It was a rude shock when Celine Leow first went out to work after graduating from polytechnic in 2010. Her colleagues passed remarks about her appearance because of her weight.
“My colleagues said I looked older than I was, like a mother of three kids. Seeing my colleagues wear nice dresses in high heels made me very envious,” the 31-year-old account executive recalled.
Weighing 108kg then, Celine could only fit into clothes from stores selling plus-sized apparel. “When I went shopping with my friends, I would just observe and help them with their fittings. I didn’t dare look at the clothes on the rack because I couldn’t fit into them,” she added.
In addition, her hefty size caused knee pain and hindered her in daily life. Physical activities such as chasing the bus and walking up the stairs would leave her panting hard. “I felt very insecure as a plus-sized girl turning up for work sweaty all over,” she shared.
Long-term struggle with weight
Since young, Celine had been overweight. She had to join the Trim & Fit (TAF) Club in Primary 2, which meant doing runs around the field during recess. The boys in school made fun of her. In the last few minutes of her recess, she would buy fried finger food from the canteen out of convenience and her love of eating it. She also enjoyed snacking. By the time she was in Primary 6, her weight ballooned to 68kg and she had developed a low self-esteem.
The running station for the NAPFA test was something that haunted Celine throughout primary and secondary school. “Whenever I ran, I would feel very heavy. It was so taxing on my knees that I had to walk. In Secondary 3, I failed the 2.4km run for the NAPFA test so badly that I had to redo it for seven consecutive weeks before I finally passed. Needless to say, this created a fear of running.”
Her three years in polytechnic was when she hit her heaviest of 108kg. On top of studies, she worked part-time in a retail shop after school and on weekends for extra pocket money. Due to her hectic schedule, she often bought foods that were convenient, such as fast food, fried food, bubble teas and cakes.
When she started her first full-time job, she felt more insecure than ever. However, she did not do anything about her weight until she discovered her love for Zumba, an aerobic fitness programme inspired by Latin American dance.
Chancing upon Groupon (currently known as Fave), Celine purchased a fitness voucher for four Zumba classes with her colleagues then. At her first class, she realised that working out could be fun. She liked Zumba so much, she proceeded to buy a package.
“I went for classes twice a week. The people were friendly, and I felt safe in that space. I didn’t change anything about my diet until I read my instructor’s blog post about her weight loss transformation. Then, I approached her,” she said.
At the same time, Celine signed up for ‘Lose To Win’ in 2013, a 12-week weight management programme with guidance from professional trainers by the Health Promotion Board. Her Zumba instructor Charlotte Mizuki was also one of the trainers for this programme, which included physical activities twice a week and healthy cooking demonstrations.
This marked the start of Celine’s weight loss journey. After three months on the programme, she lost 12kg. Upon Charlotte’s encouragement, Celine went on to become a certified Zumba instructor, and has been teaching Zumba for six years now. Leading Zumba classes has served as a huge confidence boost for her.
Overhauling her diet
In 2017, Celine joined the now-defunct TripleFit and went for six to eight group fitness classes a week, including trainer Sara May’s Core 360 and Latin dance. After a year, she started doing personal training with Sara twice a week. Besides the physical training, Sara also helped Celine plan her diet. Celine would then prep her meals accordingly.
This is an example of her daily meal.
Breakfast: Green smoothie made with ½ banana, ½ mango, 1 cup kale, low-fat Greek yoghurt, ½ small avocado, ½ cup nonfat milk
Morning snack: 1 apple + 1 oz nuts
Lunch: 2 cups of veggie soup or salad with 150g of protein (chicken breast/white fish)
Afternoon Snack: 1 cup baby carrots + 20 almonds
Dinner: 4 oz salmon + 1 cup steamed carrots + 1 cup steamed broccoli + 2 tbsp teriyaki sauce + 1 tsp sesame seeds
Within 1.5 years under Sara’s guidance, she lost 16kg (from 92kg to her current weight of 76kg).
At the moment, Celine is doing personal training with Sara twice a week, where she does a mix of cardio exercises like walking on the treadmill, and strength training for the arms and core. At lunchtime, she goes for yoga and handstand classes.
“I am learning how to do arm balancing and inversions such as headstand, forearm stand and handstand in yoga classes. My goal is to master these movements. I don’t have any weight loss target; I just hope to reduce my fat percentage by the end of the year.
Diet wise, she has no qualms modifying her meals as long as they fit her macros – her recommended daily calorie intake, and proportions of carbs, protein and fat. “Breakfast could be overnight oats with blueberries, lunch could be a baked chicken breast + tempeh + cauliflower, and dinner could be fish soup with vege and tofu. When I’m feeling peckish, I’d usually have black coffee, egg whites and cucumber, or almonds for a snack,” she said.
“This massive weight loss of 30kg has definitely increased my self-confidence. In the past, I didn’t dare to wear sleeveless tops, and would choose to wear baggy and dark-coloured T-shirts to cover my tummy.
“I also used to stay quiet because I was afraid of people’s criticism and also concerned about how people would think of me. But now I’ve found the courage to speak up,” she shared.
More importantly, her friends and family have been inspired by her transformation, and many have started exercising more because of her. Her mum is the most supportive, waking up early every day to prepare meals for her!