If you have been following me on instagram, you would have read how I whinged and whined the whole way through several weeks back about my house undergoing renovations and how I had no kitchen to cook in or do anything whatsoever.
Ending 2013 with my house renovated and undergoing the renovation has got to be, singlehandedly, the most gratitude inducing activity of the year for me. I never realised how privileged I was to have a place to call home that was neat and clean and liveable.
My beautiful home was suddenly transformed into a jungle of plastic wrapping and newspapers strewn everywhere. The workers came to hack away an entire roomful of built in shelving (my precious books!) whilst I stayed hidden in the only room that wasn’t scheduled to be renovated.
But the renovation isn’t the point of this post- the point of this post is to share what happened during the long weeks that the common areas of the house were under renovation. Because I had no access to the kitchen, I had no choice but to sustain myself on non- homecooked food. And to be honest, I was REALLY GLEEFUL- No need to cook! No need to wash up! I love Singaporean food! Hokkien Mee, Char Kway Teow, come to momma! 😀
So for a week, I ate out. It started innocently enough.. I think for my first meal I had kaya toast and milo (standard kopitiam breakfast food, aye?), lunch.. yong tau foo and dinner perhaps a soup or caifan. And so it went on the next day, and the next and the next for a week.
At the end of the week I was feeling the worst I had felt in a long long time. I was constantly thirsty and lethargic. My skin was dry and unsupple and the usual glow and redness (My boyfriend likes to call me the hale and hearty farmer’s wife -.-) I had in my cheeks had faded. My stomach felt funny and I was constantly craving for something sweet or salty or stronger tasting food. By the end of the week, the yong tau foo no longer satisfied me and I had turned to choosing dishes that were heavily seasoned or fried to satisfy my tastebuds.
** I really have to emphasize how addictive salt and sugar and processed foods are. I’m generally a very clean eater with not much of a sweet tooth- save for an occasional bite here and there- and I pack most of my food or cook meals at home using a variety of spices rather than salt and sugar so my tastebuds tend to favour blander tastes. But one day into eating hawker food and I was constantly craving for heavier tastes. I think I started the day eating my usual yong tau foo (mostly veg and beancurd) but by nightfall, I was sloshing my veg in a ton of chilli sauce and eyeing the duck rice for lunch the next day.
But what really shocked me on my one week hawker centre diet was the way my stomach looked and felt. Please note that I never thought I would ever be the kind of person to show a picture of my tummy flab to the whole wide world but the sight shocked me so much that I felt that I just had to share it.
THIS- the flab bulging over my waistline, was the result of a paltry 7 days of eating hawker centre food for every meal. And I didn’t even eat chicken rice or anything like that in the 7 days. In fact, I probably ate yong tau foo quite a number of times! I don’t think it is really a sudden explosion of fat cells in my belly but it certainly is A LOT OF stomach bloating and water retention and whatnot from all the salt and oil found in hawker centre food. I was horrified because I didn’t think that eating outside food would be so detrimental for me (or you). Truth be told, I don’t actually eat out very often as eversince embarking on a healthier eating regime, I mostly pack my own lunchbox to work but I never imagined that just one week on such food would have such damaging effects both psychologically and physiologically. A large expanding waistline indicates a higher propensity for heart disease and other preventable illnesses and I certainly had a rapidly expanding waistline after just one week of hawker centre food!
How is everyone surviving?! I am sure that there are hundreds and thousands of people who eat out everyday in Singapore and who possibly eat out all 3 meals as well. AM I the lone Singaporean who hasn’t adapted to the highly salted and oily food in Singapore?!
You know how as men and women age their limbs are still quite slim but their tummy rounds out? The ahpeh at the hawker centre might rub his belly meaningfully and say rather endearingly that that is his fortune ball with a wide grin on his face but there is nothing prosperous about that. I am almost certain that more than half of the Singaporean population are carrying around with them little salt babies.
Are you one of them?
Do you eat at a hawker centre for lunch and feel really sleepy and lethargic after? Do you need a sweet ‘pick me up’ and coffee in the morning or in the late afternoon? Are you generally quite slim with an acceptable BMI but you have a flabby belly that no amount of exercise seems to shift?
It’s not the exercise you should be worried about, it’s the stuff you are eating for lunch at the hawker centre.
I am telling you, point blank, that there is NOTHING HEALTHY to be found in a Singapore Hawker Centre. It is virtually impossible to eat clean in there. EVERYTHING is super high in salt and/or oil and seriously, other than the yong tau foo stall and the caifan stall, where are the vegetables (that are not dripping in oil?!)? I guess it’s okay if you eat at the hawker centre once a day but if you are eating almost all your meals out, I really implore you to start modifying your hawker food choices or bringing your own lunch to work.
The people I’m most concerned about aren’t the people who will be reading this. I am most concerned about my (and your!) parents first of all, and all their peers. Especially with their kids growing up and no one returning home for dinner, many middle aged parents would rather save the time and effort and eat at the hawker centre for dinner instead. Take my dad for example, he has lunch, teabreak and dinner all outside. Naturally, he wouldn’t be eating at KFC or Macdonalds or anything like that but that wouldn’t matter because somehow, I am guessing that some food at the hawker centre can rival fast food offerings in terms of salt and calorie count. We think that hypertension and high cholesterol are part and parcel of growing up but it isn’t! It’s even worse now that many parents have no time to cook for their young children and more young children are being diagnosed with high blood pressure and high cholesterol!
If you need more convincing, here is an infograph on hawker food in general:
Check out the salt and fat content in ‘healthier’ hawker food!
It was only during this week that I realised the best way to eat Yong Tau Foo and to make it TRULY the healthiest thing you can eat at a hawker centre is to pick the veg options and the egg and mushrooms and everything as unprocessed as possible, and ask the store owner to cook your food in plain boiling water. Ask for your yong tau foo dry with NO SOUP and eat your yong tau foo as a ‘salad’. You would find that even by doing so, the salt used to marinate the yong tau foo items would leech out by the end of the meal and still make whatever plain water you had in your bowl super salty.
(However, eating like this everyday is super sad. So I highly recommend just bringing your own super nutritious, dangerous- visceral- fat- busting lunch to work instead)
I was so down with the blahs after all the hawker food that I resolved to get right back on track. I just went back to eating like I usually do- no diets or detoxes! Healthy for LIFE, not for 1 week! You simply can’t live life to the fullest without a healthy body. Kitchen or no kitchen, I was determined to make (most of) my meals at home even if I had to wash my quinoa with water sprouting out of a spout in the wall because I had no tap. Good news though! The body is highly adaptable and 4 days is enough to have you feeling much better again!
Just cutting out sugar, reducing the hawker meals to special outings with family and friends and MAKING YOUR OWN FOOD will help you get rid of the lethargy and have your skin glowing like it should once again!
Here is me just 4 days off 100% hawker food. I still had chocolate and hawker meals with my family but I also packed most of my lunches or when I couldn’t, I invested in my health and chose to pay more to eat at cedele or any other healthier eating place I could find. It really is expensive though so I really encourage you to cook at home instead.
/EDIT: I’ve had some comments asking me if it’s true that this photo was taken just 4 days after the first one. Yes it was! But I have to emphasize that I looked roughly the same as the ‘after’ photo BEFORE the one week on hawker food. The bloated photo above was to show just how much bloating can occur FOR ME due to the high salt and oil diet I’m totally not used to. If youa re used to such levels in your diet, you probably would not be so affected. And if you have not really paid much attention to what you’ve been eating generally, then 4 days certainly would not be enough time for you to get rid of true BELLY FAT. However, 4 days certainly is enough time to get rid of any water retention or bloating caused by high sodium intake! 🙂 I am also not asking you to restrict yourself from hawker food ever again but to champion homecooking instead. Eat out if you must of course, but there is much to benefit from simple homecooking! 🙂 Hope this clears up any doubts! Comment or email me if anything else occurs to you! 🙂
*(I’m sorry I totally sold myself out and put a before and after picture here to get your attention. While I do want you to know how great a real food, low salt, low oil diet can be for you, I want you to choose healthier options for health’s sake and not to just obsessively focus on trimming the body. I do promise however, that this will be the last before and after photo you’ll ever find on this website because I want this to be a place you can focus on what’s really important rather than only on what can be seen)
I think this one week has really cemented what I want to do for 2014. I
really really want to encourage the people around me to start bringing
their own lunch to work or choosing healthier options. If it’s possible,
I would really like to campaign for hawker centres to cut down on all
the salt and oil that they use as well but everything would be for
naught of course, if the general population isn’t keen on healthier
living. If I can’t, then at least I can encourage those around me to be a little more mindful about their health! I also want to build up this place as a resource for quick and easy lunchbox ideas. There are other things I would like to do as well but I guess I’ll think about them and share them with you guys at the end of the year maybe? 🙂 What would you guys like to do or see here in the coming new year? 🙂
Anyhow, since 2014 is just 2 days away, why don’t you make the decision to better nourish and cherish the body you have? Join the giveaway I’m hosting ($50 world of sports vouchers to motivate you to lead a healthier lifestyle!) or just resolve to make 2014 a year you love yourself and those around you a little more! 🙂
With much love,