You in shape: Lim Kwee Chuan
Make-up trainer Berry Lim Kwee Chuan, 31, never gave two hoots about her large size. ‘Exercise’ was an alien word to her until she had to hike up a mountain in Iceland. That, along with the death of her grandmother from diabetes, led her to her fitness journey. Over the last year, the 154cm lass has steadily shed 26kg and is loving her new shape.
Tell us about yourself “In the past, I thought there was no reason to lose weight. I had a good career teaching make-up (my students love me because of my artwork, and not my size); I was happily married with a husband who didn’t mind my size, I didn’t encounter any red flags in my health, I chilled out with friends to have a good time, I was respected for being a make-up trainer. Basically, I led a comfortable life. But, I was just giving excuses to hide my insecurity. The reality was that inside, I was somebody who wanted to play under the sun, run in the field, enjoy nature by hiking or doing outdoor activity, go to the beach and more. Because of my size, I refused to join in these activities and sports. My weight discouraged me from being active and being overweight made me less energetic and lazy. I preferred to plan activities related to food and drinking, which I found emotional comfort in.”
Did you have any reservations about your body when you were young? “I was always overweight as a child till adulthood. My weight fluctuated from 60kg to 83kg but it never bothered me.”
What led you to fitness? “It happened naturally. In 2017, my sister Kyen and I backpacked to Europe and visited 16 out of the 28 countries. One day in the southwestern part of Iceland, we went to visit the crystal ice cave. To see the crystalised ice, we had to hike up the mountains. I refused to go because it was a heavy duty task to hike up, walking on heavy snow and battling strong winds, so I asked her to join other tour mates if she wanted to see the view. She was upset, but held my hand and told me, “It’s only meaningful if you and I hiked up the mountain together, and be mesmerised by the icy crystal. It’ll be worth it. We’ll go through this together.”I didn’t want to let her down. That was my first ever hiking experience and Kyen was right. When we reached the peak of the Alps, the most beautiful view greeted us. I felt so good even though the hike was hard. It made me understand that for every hardship we go through, there is a reward. This decision I made in Iceland also made me realise that when you change your mind, you can change your life. Around the same time, my grandma died of diabetes and the doctor advised all our family members, who were mostly overweight, to eat healthier and exercise.”
What are your your struggles? “Time management is my biggest challenge – cooking, coping with work, workout routine, food temptations and peers. At the beginning, I struggled with clean-eating and social outings. I turned down many dinner invitations. My previous lifestyle involved a lot of café-hopping, eating sweet desserts and drinking sugary beverages with my friends and husband. My life turned upside down the moment I started cooking a little in the kitchen and stopped eating outside. Now, I don’t have issues being demotivated as I’ve blended fitness into my life.”
How has fitness helped you? “My health and mental states have improved.
I used to suffer from hormonal imbalance and had a messed-up menstrual cycle. My gynaecologist had told me before that my weight could be the cause of my bad period pains. Once I started eating healthily and cut down on sugar, I noticed that my menstrual cycle improved and I felt energetic every day. I was no longer a victim of bad period pains, heavy blood loss and water retention. I didn’t realise that my bloated stomach and flatulence issues were because of emotional eating, which many women suffer from. I used to eat out of boredom or because of my friends, and not because of hunger.”
What is your workout routine like? “It depends on my schedule. Usually, I’ll decide when I go to the gym. If I worked on my upper body today, I will work on the lower body the next day. I do mostly resistance training as I’m not a cardio person. Cardio makes me hungry and I start craving for carbs! I travel a lot for work so if I can’t find a gym, that’s when I jog in the mornings near my hotel and use my luggage as weights. I work out daily, even though it may just be for 15 minutes.”
Do you have a preferred workout? “Dead lifts! I started with 10kg and am now up to 30kg. I use all my energy and effort to complete the routine – that’s how I increase my metabolic rate. This way, I spend a shorter time at the gym and the results are faster.” What keeps you motivated? “My health has dramatically improved, my hormone imbalance issues have been solved and my well-being is great. I’ve became very positive and independent. At 50kg, I can fit into smaller dresses and I’m looking better physically – all these things make me confident. I’m loving my life!”
What is your diet like and foods that you can’t resist? “I’ve cut out sugar and don’t add refined sugar to my food and coffee. I also eat more wholesome foods, nuts and seeds, fruits. I don’t eat junk and processed food. The food I cannot resist is probably rice. Being a typical Asian, rice is something I’ve eaten every day since young but now, I eat brown rice and oats.”
Who is your biggest supporter? “My best friend. He came into my life and taught me how to treat myself a little bit better and become wiser. He opened up my heart so I can put my thoughts into motion and be a stronger person. After I returned from Iceland, I decided to play golf with him. He guided me step-by-step, and told me I was doing it for myself and my future – that motivated me. He then introduced me to a golf trainer who said my weight was “pulling” me down and thus, I couldn’t swing well. The trainer asked me to go on a diet or exercise so I started jogging and doing planks on my own. My weight dropped 10-15kg in six months but my skin started to sag. That’s when I joined the gym. If he didn’t take the extra step to make me move faster, encourage me to hold the golf club and put faith in myself, I guess I would still be bar-hopping, downing beers and munching potato chips.”
What is your fitness goal? “To lower my body fat percentage, gain a healthier, toned body and to be able to coach more people who are struggling with weight matters.” What do you love about your shape? “I’m in love with all the new me, but my favourite would be my ab lines and collar bone. My husband is also happy that I now accompany him to the gym and he has a partner to work out with!
Berry and her sister Kyen (left) during their holiday in Iceland.