Over the past few years, Hong Kong’s fitness scene has seen new boutiques, training programs and apps launch left and right, but there are still lots of misconceptions surrounding body image and weight loss. Trish Yap, champion professional MMA fighter and athletic trainer, weighs in with advice on how to approach weight loss and nutrition sensibly and sustainably.
Originally from Australia, Yap’s fitness journey began when her sister was diagnosed with diabetes — a disease Yap is also predisposed to. Yap took the news as a sign that it was time to get serious about her health.
She started with group classes and later found her way into strength training and amateur MMA fighting. Yap joined Bikini Fit as a coach in 2012 and later became a business partner, though she recently left to work as a coach on a Now TV series called “G1 Fight Club” that will follow Hong Kong women on their quests to become amateur fighters.
1. Magazines still promote stick-thin body images
Still today, if you open up a local magazine and the first 50 pages are skin whitening, slim little girls and advertisements that promise you’ll ‘lose weight by getting into this machine….’ It makes my blood boil.
There are not as many role models in local media who are curvier or muscular. But that is changing slowly. More magazines have started doing more fit and fab articles — the models are small and little but it’s going in the right direction.
2. Getting in shape is about adjusting your priorities
When you change your mindset from ‘I want to be as skinny as possible’ to ‘I want to be as strong as possible,’ your nutrition approach changes. You start thinking about how to gain lean muscle, and feed muscle and, funnily enough, you lose fat in the process.
You go from a mindset where you’re constantly giving something up and sacrificing, to a mindset of thinking about optimal health: How can I be healthier? How can I be stronger?
3. Start with a longterm mindset
There are lots of highly motivated people who can give up their favorite foods all year round but I would say the good majority needs to be okay with going on a holiday and living life a little bit. I come from an Asian family so at Christmas time, family time, there’s no bloody way I can get away with skipping out on family dinners.
You need to find something that works for you every day, all the time, not just for short stretches. If you are eating out of the frozen food section of Wellcome and downing happy hour every other day… and you want to make a dramatic change? There may be one or two people who can go from all to nothing but I would then ask, how sustainable is it?
4. Ditch quick fixes in favor of real food
Everyone’s body works differently. You have to look at everything from a person’s motivation to their commitment, their lifestyle and their genetics, food intolerance and hormones, existing conditions like thyroid – and so on.
I’d just say think about it in terms of a ‘real food’ diet. How much of what you’re eating is unprocessed? If you can pull it from the ground, pluck it from a tree, kill it, if it runs, swims — then eat it.
5. Cardio isn’t going to cut it
I think a lot of women still believe that doing steady cardio will make them lose weight, but it comes back to an understanding of body composition — you want to build your lean muscle mass, which will in turn help you lose body fat. It’s not a weight on a scale. If you have never done any exercise in your life, then yes, running 5 kilometers a day for three months will get you some results.
There’s a time and a place for steady staid cardio, but at some stage you may hit a plateau and that’s where it’s good to mix in high-intensity cardio and strength training. Resistance training will assist with building lean muscle mass given adequate recovery and given the right nutrition.
What I hope is people focus less on what they look like and more on how they feel. For me, personally, choosing to be fit and healthy has brought me a lot of confidence and shown me a lot about my personality, and my character.
What I would like to see in the fitness industry is less bullshit. There is so much marketing around ‘Do this and you’ll lose 10 kilos in 10 days’ and so many quick fixes. As someone who is a fitness professional, everyone’s journey is going to be different.
I want to see more education and not just selling things so that when the client eventually moves on, they can make better choices. On the flip side of that, clients should be asking more questions. Don’t just follow trends blindly but learn the reasoning behind your decisions and how your body works.