What College Really Taught Me

Following the same topic of Burpees to Bubbly, a blog I stumbled on perusing some free fitness classes down in Boston’s Seaport, I thought I’d put my spin on it.

Earlier this month, I had my 10 year reunion whereby someone asked me if there was anything I regretted at Wellesley. My answer? I spent my first year fulfilling all my distribution and PE (physical education) requirements so that I wouldn’t be restricted to pursue what I wanted going forward. While I can appreciate the breadth of exposure to subjects early on, I could’ve taken such classes later to complement (or supplement) topics I wanted to dive more into. I ended up with a degree in two interdisciplinary majors. While this means being able to step back, look at the big picture, and connect the dots, I’m ready to hunker down and focus.

What’s Your ONE Thing?

After one of my fellow coworkers listened to a podcast on her looooong road trip, she was inspired to buy the accompanying book – The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan – for all of us on the team.  Admittedly, it’s been sitting on my table for the past month, but I’ve been meaning to read it. For accountability, this will need to turn into a mini-series… to be seen.

Before I read this book, I’m going to hazard a guess about what my one thing is: intentionally spend 3 hours of alone time daily.

Why? The latest audiobook I’m listening to is Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. In it, she described in one study the difference between world-class musicians and musicians extraordinary in their own way, but not the cream of the crop. Surprisingly, what separated them was not the number of hours they practiced, and instead the way in which they practiced. That is, world-class musicians spent significantly more time practicing on their own as opposed to in a social setting.

My hope is that my renewed desire to focus will stick and that I’ll be able to leverage technology to do good, do better. There’ll be more to come later on this — one step at a time.

On the Bright Side

Because I tend to try everything of interest, it’s led me to the unexpected: from spending a month in India to learn about Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, to conducting a science experiment in Lake Baikal in Russia, to proving with numbers how education affects the way in which people vote.

To be clear, there’s no harm in dabbling here and being a generalist. Any experience can turn out to be a defining moment, a turning point, an aha moment. And more experienced people (aka my mentors) will tell you that, at their age, even they don’t know what they want to do — contrary to the current culture of knowing exactly what you want. If you subscribe to the philosophy of having a life plan (similar to having a business plan when starting a business) like I do now, you’ll likely focus on and prioritize something above all others.

And now it’s a matter of defining what you want — even if it’s to go with the flow and take in all that life gives you.

The person who chases two rabbits, catches neither.
— Chinese Proverb (often attributed to Confucius)

Bucket List, Celebrate Wins, Reflections

What’s On Your Bucket List?

I celebrated the end of Biggest Loser at work with a (deconstructed?) burger.


I even had a mini-burger the day the day before the final weigh in. So what? Who cares? I put in the effort. I’ve seen results. I’ve already won.

Besides, anything beef is truly a treat because I rarely buy it — and it was on sale.

It turns out I won, shedding at least 12-13 lbs in 3 months. Technically, I lost 17 lbs by the numbers, but I had started off with a suit jacket back in February and at the very end they told me to take off items I usually have on like my shoes. To be honest, it could’ve been close. Easter weekend was the one week where everyone (except me) gained weight, up to 3% worth. The way I see it:

He who fails to plan is planning to fail.
— Winston Churchill

In any case, I imagine Biggest Loser at any workplace is fairly easy to win, depending on whether a (semi-)focused competitor like me joins. The prize was a gift card to TGIF’s. I suppose it’s more fitting than the Ben and Jerry’s gift certificate the YMCA gave out for its Lose It to Win It session.

The end of a chapter: weight loss

Simply because, I am enough.

It’s unfortunate how obsessed our culture is with being thin versus being fit. I went through a trial week at a new gym whereby on the first page, I was asked to fill out:

The weight I was happiest at ___________________________

To which I wrote, “As I am.”

Why would a gym want to know this anyway? In all fairness, it was a smaller, more intimate gym that holds their members accountable for showing up. That is, if members missed two or so sessions, which is a week’s worth of classes, they’d call to check in. Presumably they’d check in with their members’ goals, one of which could be to lose weight. Maybe it has shock value because I imagine someone would’ve asked in person, not on paper.

Reflecting on this more, I’m finding this to be an increasingly thought-provoking line. To answer it, I was happiest when I was about 60 pounds, back when I was in fifth grade. It was a time of exploration and challenge, when I enjoyed the gift of delayed gratification, and a milestone year fraught with transitions. I also did not know my weight back then.

What’s the next quest?

Thanks to Biggest Loser for allowing me have a focus — a commitment to uphold — I’ve started acting on goals in my “when I can get around to it” bucket list. They include:

  • Building a garden in the backyard — starting out with rows of cherry tomatoes for what I hope will be a bountiful harvest
  • Improv class in June — to think on my feet more, tap into some dormant creativity, and not take myself too seriously
  • Sewing class from end of June to August — to hone what I hope to be a lifelong skill and finally take out the sewing machine I bought years ago

The idea for a bucket list was inspired by a fellow friend who’s creating a documentary on how he’s fulfilling his mother’s bucket list after she was laid off from her workplace of 12 years (50+ in the industry). This is truly the ultimate mother’s day gift. Check it out!


Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.
― Jim Ryun


It’s Never Too Late to Start Over

After going through the ups and downs of Biggest Loser at work and reading The Seven Spiritual Laws of Superheroes by Deepak Chopra with Gotham Chopra, I’ve rethought the content and organization of this blog.  As Chopra wrote, “superheroes are anchored in total clarity… They integrate good habits of physical and mental health.” The books is framed under the four levels of existence that superheroes can integrate :

  • being – finding “unshakeable stillness in ourselves amid the turbulence and chaos of the world around us”
  • feeling – “being absolutely precise in our actions and not getting distracted by toxic impulses that disempower us”
  • thinking – realizing that there all problems can be solved by creativity, “in alignment with our highest ideals and values like truth, goodness, harmony, and spiritual evolution”
  • doing – “emerging from those more reflective stages and being action oriented… responsive to feedback, decisive and wiling to take calculated risks”

With this in mind, I want the definition of fitness to be more holistic.

Redefining Fitness

Going forward, I’m going to pursue quests in three different areas:

  1. Mental – through reflection and constant learning
  2. Values – through ways to understand the why of what I do
  3. Physical – through regular exercise and healthy eating

To be continued… on how an everyday woman powers up.

There is no other solution to man’s progress but the day’s honest work, the day’s honest decisions, the day’s generous utterances and the day’s good deed.
— Clare Boothe Luce

Physical, Reflections

We’re Not Kids Anymore

Remember the times waiting for someone to tell you what to do as a kid — when you didn’t have to think about much and when you needed permission for, well, everything? Time to go to class/practice. Recess is in an hour. You can have X so long as you do Y.

That’s what the poster at the gym reminded me of. It reads: “Lose 15 pounds in time for summer.” In response I thought, It’s a bit late to start now. What a marketing gimmick. Spring and summer is when gyms around here see significant drops in attendance, so it’s common to see classes be dropped until the fall. It’s probably why they offer discounts for joining around this time of the year, second to the push to join on new year’s day (resolutions anyone?).

Summer starts on June 21, which technically means that people will need to lose about 7-8 pounds per month for the next 2 months. In comparison, I’ve been working at Biggest Loser for the past three months (since February), and I’m down 14.5 lbs as of last week — granted midway I realized that eating more to train more and run a half marathon garnered me a net weight of 0 for several weeks. I suppose it’s doable if you’re focused enough, as it’s definitely not for the meek.

So what do we do now? Take charge.

If you don’t like how goals conveniently based on someone else’s calendar pops up,  take the wheel. Look at the big picture, jot down any particular milestones (e.g. attending college reunion), and begin with the end in mind and work your way back. Personally, if I wanted to be fit for the summer, I’d set a calendar reminder to start in February with a goal like walk 10 miles every week as a primer.

Importantly, just because you might be late, it doesn’t mean you can’t start right now. There is indeed wisdom in this Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

I’m over it.

I’m psyched that I’ll be done with Biggest Loser at work this week. When my team went out to lunch at Red Robin last week, I was mindful about the weigh-in at the end of the day so I ordered a $5 dollar house salad. And it was sad…

sad but true
approximately 5-in plate of salad

With tip, I paid $6 for maybe a quarter of a bag (or even less?) of a ready-made salad you can find at the supermarket. The salad looks big on the plate because the plate itself was so small. This is why the design of Biggest Loser is lamentable.

Nevertheless, I made it to the end, in some respects due to sheer luck that my team pulled through when I was at the bottom of the pack. And it so happens that my team was able to pull through and eliminate everyone on the other team. Go team? For a team that goes mum between weigh-in’s unless there’s a challenge encouraging us to chat, it felt more like an individual challenge. That is, even though it’s us against the other team, it’s also me against my own team. Maybe the lesson here is to not analyze Biggest Loser too much.

The end… or is it?

As Biggest Loser wraps up, I stumbled upon another 30 day fitness challenge through Fit With Nina and it starts on May 1. The goal is to stay active and eat healthy based on the point system:

1pt = 5000 steps
2pt = 10000 steps
3pt = 15000 steps
3pt = workout
2pt = recipe share
5pt = post workout video

I hope this helps me stay accountable and maintain my weight.

Yum, yum, yum

If there’s anything I got out of this experience with Biggest Loser, it’s all about my newfound love of foods:

  • feta in salads
  • kale after being massaged
  • walnuts
  • kimchi fried rice
  • european cucumbers and hummus
  • raw carrots
  • congee
  • homemade burgers (lettuce, tomatoes, mushroom, swiss cheese)
  • sweet potato fries
  • roasted beets
  • seaweed
  • boiled eggs
  • brussels sprouts
  • raw cauliflower with dressing
  • sauteed red and green cabbage

The list goes on. Now onward to the next challenge!

A year from now you’ll wish you had started today.
— Karen Lamb




Someday I’ll Go Far

Not only in races, but also in life. I invariably need to focus and re-focus to achieve great things. Let the Boston Marathon be that reminder for me every year.


Hurrah to the 20,000 pounds of clothing collected this year! I saw sneakers and earbuds and jackets and fleeces be donated to the Big Brother Big Sister Foundation. Not a record, but not bad for one day’s worth either. Happy early earth day!

What’s Your Story?

If there’s one question I’d ask the runners there, that’d be it. While what you say is telling, even how you organize your thoughts and what details you choose to leave in or out is important.

Everyone has a story. So what’s yours?

Only those who risk going too far can find out how far one can go.
— T.S. Eliot


I Am Flawsome

Flawsome (adj). Something that is totally awesome, but not without it’s flaws.

When it comes to fitness, you’ll need the prep both physically and mentally. Focusing on one side and not the other will lead to an imbalance, causing one side to compensate for the other. I’m going down the path, taking one step at a time, but I’m limping at the last leg of the journey so to speak.

Light at the End of the Tunnel

Thank goodness I only have one more month to go for the Biggest Loser. It’s not about the time I’ve put in to exercise, research the topic, and discover tips and recipes. It’s about thinking about my weight more than I need to, feeling guilty snacking on jumbo pretzel sticks, and blocking out the times when I’ve depleted my willpower (I’m eating coconut rice as we speak).

Simply put, Biggest Loser made me vain. 

So I did something about that.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Wall

What are the first words that come to mind when it comes to the body? Your body?

Flexible, hurt, and sometimes angry are mine. My body is capable of a lot still, and performing traditional Chinese dance (when no one’s around) reminds me of how graceful and elongated my body can be. At the same time, I’m struggling to do a proper lunge. I may need to hire a personal trainer to do some corrective exercises… or I might figure it out myself, being the aspiring physical therapist that I’ve dreamed of. And angry because my stomach tends to yell at me when I mindlessly what I eat. Like the coconut rice I had earlier? It’ll be the first and last time I make it. (Cue G.I. Joe’s theme)

As if some higher power read my mind, I received an invitation to watch a documentary called Embrace, part of the Body Image Movement. One major point is that many women have issues with their body, even the women competing in body building (one might argue that others envy what they have), and society fuels this sentiment. Think about it: What message do we really want to send? To ourselves? To our next generation?

Choose to embrace your body.

The biggest takeaway from the Q & A afterwards was to practice loving your body by complimenting and motivating yourself. For example:

  • You crushed it at the gym tonight. I can tell you’re a bit tired, so rest and relax tonight. Think about all the toxins you sweated out — you’ll be chipper tomorrow, that’s for sure.
  • Thank you for always pulling through. It’s hard to know what you’re capable of. If we work together, we’ll find an answer. Afterwards, let’s continue to refine it.
  • Do you see what I see? A gorgeous body, that’s what. I love you so much.

My body is my friend, and I plan to keep it this way.

You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.
— Amy Bloom

Celebrate Wins

Go Shed Your Deadweight

When something bogs me down over time, I inevitably reach a breakpoint — not to be confused with a breaking point. I don’t give way. Instead, I pivot and change.

I won’t go into the psychology behind this, but vacuuming all my carpets has given me an extra hop in my steps. The house looks brighter, the air feels cleaner, and my mind seems less cluttered. This is the kind of placebo effect I can get used to. Once I’ve vacuumed the floor, I start organizing items to continue the cleaning streak. One week’s worth of trash? Out the door. Piles of books on the coffee table? I’ll organize them by topic and place the easy reads closer to me so that I can return them sooner. Refrigerator filling up? Make a tub-full of no-cooking-required salad.

Lists are definitely the way to go when it comes to stopping procrastination in its tracks by reflecting on what I’d like done. Wash dishes? Check. Do laundry? Check. Workout for an hour? Check.

More Than Chores, Exercise the Mind

Can is a powerful word, and so is can’t. Ever heard of this quote:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t— you’re right.”
— Henry Ford

Taming my inner voice, that’s what I want. I’m currently having trouble keeping in check is my self-talk and other thoughts. I stepped on a scale today and silently thought, “Really? Whoops.” One distinct moment that helped trigger these types of thoughts was when the fitness instructor spoke about burning inches off the waist and how it’s bikini season. I don’t get self-conscious with those comments so much as I grow heightened awareness that I didn’t appreciate these types of unintentionally, body-shaming comments. Yet I internalize them.

Mind over matter, right?

Now I’m listening to Reset by BTS Tiger JK — I wanna reset.  Queue more music — Try by Colbie Caillat.

And… now back to meditation. And later, planning for the Biggest Loser challenge.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
— Arthur Ashe