June 21, 2009
THE EX-PAT FILES
A foodie's exercise woes
By Nilanjana Sengupta
I have a power rider at home and I use it every day - to hang my clothes.
The dumb-bells that the landlady left behind for me to use are indeed useful - as doorstops.
And the yoga mat? It is lying somewhere forgotten, gathering dust. I have to find a good use for it.
I have given up trying to lose weight, and I try not to envy the Singaporean women I meet, most of whom are model-thin and can carry off the latest fashion with aplomb.
The fact that I am 12kg overweight fails to scare or inspire me. I will never manage to get the chic sunken cheek look of Sarah Jessica Parker. Instead, 'round' is a word that aptly describes me, and I have begun to accept that as a hard fact.
But God knows I have tried. I have gone on punishing soup and juice diets, tried to ban carbs from my meals and introduced some kind of exercise to my tight schedule.
I've done it all. But with diminishing enthusiasm. Within a week or at the maximum, two, I've needed a 'break'. That spells the story of my exercise regime. It is a hyphenated word - non-existent.
The fact that I love to eat only adds to the plot.
Every time I return from a trip, to India especially, I come back with a few extra pounds. And it's not my luggage I am talking about.
It does not matter whether it is winter or summer, or whether I go to Mumbai or Delhi, my appetite seems to grow miraculously as soon as I touch base.
It is never too hot or too cold to eat and there is no dearth of options. The aim is to eat as much as possible of my mother's cooking and street food during the short stay.
My vacation last month was no different. On some days I devoured two breakfasts and two lunches. Relatives took care to ask me what I felt like eating when I visited them and they would cook just the thing.
With every bite, I would remind myself of the various opportunities to exercise that were waiting for me in Singapore.
Apart from the contraptions at home, there was the yoga class I could join in the office, or the option of going to inviting lush green parks where I could indulge in several rounds of brisk walking, or the swimming club a 10-minute walk from home.
Or I could join the Singaporeans who resolutely go jogging at any time of the day or night, all with a single-minded ambition to get some physical activity.
And once back here, I do go for a walk, but one that heads straight from the City Hall MRT to an Indian vegetarian restaurant at Suntec City so that I can gorge on its pratas.
While Singapore has no dearth of exercising options - even visiting a mall can sometimes give you a great workout - it's the local delicacies that I have grown to like more, such as hor fun, chicken pau and kaya toast with runny eggs.
I also cannot resist chicken satay with a bowlful of sinful peanut sauce, nasi kari ayam and chicken rendang with lots of rice.
Sympathetic friends tell me to start small and then once I start enjoying the benefits of exercising, to slowly expand on it.
But the trouble is I start small and then take a break, and then again I start small and then I again take a break. You get the picture.
Everyone from my parents to my financial adviser has been trying to energise me to try and burn my fat. But all their voices are drowned out in that one simple sentence a chubby friend spouted recently: 'I am happy being a telly tubby - is that so bad?' She was referring to her favourite pastime of sitting in front of the television and munching snacks.
I totally empathise with her. It shouldn't be so bad. What is wrong with doing something you like?
But with everyone around you telling you how important exercise is, you do tend to feel guilty for ignoring it.
I have not lost all hope yet. In my head there are still various plans that will keep me fit.
I could board a random bus, get off five stops later and walk back. It would also be another way of discovering this new country of mine. Or I could find the well-hidden stairway in the office and use it every day. Or I could join a Bollywood dance class since I like listening to the music.
I am buzzing with ideas.
All I have to do is start.
Nilanjana Sengupta is an assistant to the editor on the Straits Times Foreign Desk. An Indian national, she has been in Singapore for two years.