Category Archives: health & fitness

HEALTH: Live My Sunshine!

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I have always been very close with my family and with the upcoming wedding and the move to Philippines on the cards, I want to share these milestones with them.

Valerie Lim Mom Eugine Soh

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HEALTH: Live My Sunshine HPV

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BEING A CONFIDENT WOMAN

LiveMySunshineHPV

I like being healthy. Who doesn’t? To me, a woman’s confidence comes from being healthy. When I am in tip top health, I am capable and competent. I have never liked being sick. Being sick hinders me from doing the things I enjoy the most – traveling, exercising, meeting people and eating my favourite foods. All women should be able to be independent, energetic and able-bodied.

In fact, everyone, both men and women, have that right to that. Growing up, we’ve come to see certain people as the sunshine of our lives. They are the ones we care about and who matter the most, be they our mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, or even our childhood best friend.

You might not know this, but the first time I ever lost one of my best friends was at the age of 16 to an unfortunate accident. It was sad, traumatizing and shocking at the same time. Not only did it teach me to treasure my friends more, I also realized at a young age that no one should have their sunshine taken away from them.

In recent months, more than one of person in my extended circle has contracted cancer. Yes, people in their mid-30s and early 40s are being stricken with various forms of cancer. Cancer is now more prevalent in people under the age of 50 and can hit when you least expect it. Whenever the news breaks, remarks such as “Oh we never thought he would get cancer,” “She always looked so healthy!” or “No way. I cannot believe it,” are common.

As age catches up with me (I am 30 this year!) and my family members, I want to ensure that we are all healthy. So I would like to take the opportunity today to talk candidly about a women-specific cancer caused by the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV. Most recently, when I spoke with my doctor, he mentioned that cervical cancer is one of the most common cancers that affect women in their prime. In our 30s, this is the time when our careers are flourishing and I know friends who are the same age and who already have 2 young kids. Cervical cancer is on the list of Top 10 cancers. But unlike the other cancers, he also mentioned that cervical cancer IS PREVENTABLE!

Regular Pap smear screenings is one of the best ways to prevent HPV and its resulting related diseases. Not only did those wise words come from my doctor, my mom concurs too. Just earlier this year, the doctors found a fairly large growth in her uterus during a routine Pap smear. Within the next two months, we scheduled a surgery to get it removed. If it wasn’t for the test, we would have never found the lump and it would still be in her.

This is why I have decided to be involved in the upcoming #livemysunshinehpv campaign and speak up on HPV. Named for the people we see as the sunshine of our lives, the campaign aims to drive awareness of HPV and its prevention.

I am so glad that with the advancement of technology these days, it presents us the opportunity to save more lives. As a first line of defence against cervical cancer and other strains of HPV-related diseases, there are vaccinations that people can go for. But, I say you can never be too cautious. I am proud to say that I am vaccinated against HPV yet still go for regular Pap smear screenings with my mom.

Incidentally, if you’ve not gone for a Pap smear screening before, listen up! As part of Women’s Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Campaign organised by the Singapore Cancer Society, there are a total of 155 GPs now offering FREE Pap smear screenings from now until July 31. Channel News Asia (CNA) has also reported this on their website:

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/free-cancer-screening-for/1828456.html

It’s my intention to help drive awareness and initiate these important questions with our friends, family and doctors. Everyone needs to take charge of their own health, but it’s even more important for us to be healthy so that we can be there for those we care about whenever they need us.

WHAT IS HPV?

Human Papillovirus

I first heard of HPV and its closely related cancer – cervical cancer – a couple of years ago through reading. In the medical world, the HPV is the HUMAN PAPILLOMAVIRUS.

Men, before you dismiss this post, the HPV, can affect both men AND women. Yes, it is true! true! It is estimated that 1 out of 2 sexually active women and men will have HPV infection at least once in their lifetime. There are many different sub-types of HPV (more than 100) – some types are high-risk (may cause cancer), while other types are low risk (non-cancer causing). About 30-40 of these sub-types can infect the genital area, and these can cause genital warts in both men and women, gynaecological cancers in women, and less commonly, anal or penile cancer in men. Other sub-types may infect the skin of the fingers, hands and face.

OUCH. None of these sound fun and neither does chemotherapy.

Before you start freaking out though, most HPV infections (90% cases) goes away on its own without any treatment. PHEW.

HOW IS HPV TRANSMITTED?

This common virus is transmitted from one person to the other via genital skin-on-skin sexual contact. Oral, vaginal, or anal sex with someone who has the virus will spread the virus.

THIS SNEAKY VIRUS SOME TIMES DOES NOT SHOW SYMPTOMS.

HPV can be passed even when an infected person has no signs or symptoms! Not to scare you, but when I asked the doctor what the presenting symptoms are, he said that most HPV infections occur without signs or symptoms. For instance, if you had the cold, your nose would be runny, and you may experience body aches. But when you get infected with the HPV, there may not be any outwardly presenting symptoms.

If the infection persists and doesn’t clear, that’s when you’ll run the risk of developing the genital cancers. And the worst part is that we can’t predict when our immune system is in good shape to help us clear these infections!

The scared emoji face is absolutely appropriate for this situation.

This is why it is so important to speak with your medical doctors, to be informed on the facts, and to seek out preventive measures.

HPV Campaign

But wait, you may be thinking, how is HPV related to cancer?

Remember the 100 plus sub-types of HPV strains? They persist in our bodies at any one time, and can cause infections. In about 90% of the infection cases, the virus clears by itself and the cells return to normal. In some cases, however, the infection can persist and cause the cells to grow in an abnormal way. Specifically, HPV strain 16 and 18 are aggressive and cause about 70% of cervical cancer cancers. They infect the cervix (the lower part of the womb) and cause the cells to change.

When this goes undetected by a Pap smear at an early stage, some of these abnormal cells may then develop into cervical cancer.

OKAY. SO YOU GOT MY ATTENTION.

HOW CAN I BEST PROTECT MYSELF THEN?

To clear my doubts about HPV and cervical cancer, I spoke with Dr Chris Chong from Gleneagles Hospital. If you have questions about your health, you should definitely speak with a certified doctor. During our conversation, I asked him if what I was doing to protect myself was adequate from cervical cancer, and he mentioned that I was already doing all the right things:

1) Regular Pap smear screenings: CHECK
Pap smears are also the gold standard to detect abnormal cell growth.

2) Early HPV vaccination: CHECK
If you have not been vaccinated yet, it is best to speak to your doctor to determine if you’re suitable to be vaccinated

3) STILL go for regular Pap smears even if you’ve got your HPV vaccination: CHECK

4) Use rubber protection or keep to one sexual partner

Currently in Singapore, two vaccines are approved for use by the Health Promotion Board (HPB). I have utmost faith in Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority as they do strict testing and regulation of all vaccines that can be administered to patients.
BUT WAIT…
You have to understand that even if you get the vaccine, IT IS NOT a 100% protection against cervical cancer. The vaccines lower your risk of infection from SOME types of HPV. But these vaccines do not protect against ALL cancer¬ causing HPV sub¬-types. The best would be to check with your doctor what the vaccine you are getting will do for you, just like how I checked with mine, and STILL go for regular Pap smears.

HPV Vaccination

WHY DO I HAVE TO GET VACCINATED THEN?

Cervical cancer is the 10th leading cause of cancer-related death in Singaporean females, with 1 woman diagnosed every 2 days.

Rather than let you or your loved ones be vulnerable to ANY type of HPV and its related diseases, prevention is the most certainly the best medicine.[CR1]

DID YOU KNOW?
In Singapore, the HPV vaccine can be administered to girls and guys as young as 9 years old.
And yes, GUYS too! Men in Singapore aged between 9 and 26 can now be vaccinated against HPV as protection against genital warts. (Reference: http://www.healthxchange.com.sg/News/Pages/Vaccine-against-HPV.aspx)

Men should also take care of their health by being vaccinated. This way they are less likely to spread HPV to their current and future partners.

WHY IS THE VACCINE RECOMMENDED AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE?

From the literature I read, they recommend vaccination starting from the age of 9.

According to Dr Chris Chong’s advice, the HPV vaccines should be given prior to exposure to those strains prevented by the vaccine, in order to harness their full potential. There is no reason to wait until a teen is having sex to offer HPV vaccination to them. Preteens should receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine series long before they begin any type of sexual activity and are exposed to HPV. Also HPV vaccine produces a higher immune response in preteens than it does in older teens and young women.
There are obviously many sources that have information about HPV but I pored through various credible and approved sites to distill these facts. You can read more about HPV from Health Promotion Board’s website , Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website , and World Health Organisation’s website .

I take my health very seriously. For example, I work out at least twice a week and take vitamins daily (Vitamin C, B3, B12, Calcium, Fish Oil, Evening Primrose Oil). So to me, the HPV vaccine was an easy way of protecting my health; just three doses, and I was set. Having been vaccinated years ago, I have not had to worry about another dose and had the privilege of being able to live carefree and happy. As such, I would like more teens to be aware of how they can protect themselves and live life to the fullest.

Bask in the sunshine of those closest to you and spread the word of prevention. I’ll have more updates to share on this topic and who the sunshine in my life is! #livemysunshinehpv

HEALTH: 5 Reasons Why Green Smoothies are Better

This green goop in the glass tastes better than it looks, I promise. Still, you must be wondering what is in there?! Well, here is the story of how my green smoothie came about.

Green Smoothie Health Receipe

I was hungry and foraging about my fridge looking for something to eat. I would have made an omelette but was out of eggs that day, so decided to throw the random bits of frozen spinach, almost overly ripe bananas into a blender with some organic almond milk and a handful of unsalted almonds, cashews and walnuts.

Now, keep in mind before this, I had no inkling of what actually went into a green smoothie. I have done juice cleanses before, but this was entirely different.

After ensuring everything was well blended together, I poured the mixture into a glass and had my first sip.

IT WAS DELICIOUS! I. Was. Sold.

Not only did this random smoothie curb my hunger, it was also filled with all sorts of nutritious foods. I did some Googling later only to find out that I was unknowingly made a green smoothie!

Simple Green Smoothie Recipe

According to Simple Green Smoothies, a green smoothie recipe traditionally uses
– 2 cups leafy green
– 2 cups liquid base
– 3 cups ripe fruit

To be honest, I never really measure my ingredients. I usually grab a handful of baby spinach, 2 almost-too-ripe bananas, pour in just enough organic almond milk to cover the fruit and veggies before adding in a handful of nuts – unsalted almonds, cashews, pecans, walnuts for extra flavour and a shot of protein and carbohydrate. The final step is to blend until smooth.

The above recipe usually makes enough for one. But when I am feeling generous, I do make an extra serving just for me. I never complain about having second servings of a green smoothie. Yum!

Green Smoothie Benefits

If the ease of making a green smoothie and great taste isn’t enough to convince you to regularly include a green smoothie into your diet, here are 5 other reasons why you should GO GREEN… Smoothie:

1. It retains more fiber and nutrients.
Unless you are drinking juice from a slow juicer (aka masticating juicer), it is highly likely that the juice has lost most of its fiber and nutrients. Centrifugal juicers push fruits and vegetables through the juicer using a high-speed blade. Not only does this high-speed create heat, which can destroy valuable nutrients in the fruits, a lot of the fiber is removed when you use a regular juicer.

2. It is more fun!
Yes, while making a smoothie you get to be as creative as you want. You can include cool fruits and veggies into your green smoothie that you could not otherwise juice. For example, you would need a whole lotta blueberries to get one glass of blueberry juice. But if you are including it in your smoothie, a handful will go a long way in giving you great taste.

3. It is cheap and convenient to make.
I promise 5 minutes is all you need to prepare a glass or two of this power smoothie.
Buy loads of veggies and fruits over the weekend and store them in your fridge. When you are ready to make your smoothie, simply grab all your ingredients and throw them into the blender. Turn the power on and voila, a nutritious meal in a cup.

The secret to keeping fresh fruit for long periods of time is this: wash and dry your fruits before putting them in re-sealable bags and storing them in the freezer. I do this for my blueberries and strawberries. You can even opt for frozen vegetables instead of worrying that your leafy greens will go bad.

Not only is a green smoothie easy to make, it is convenient to consume. Most people find it hard to eat their vegetables. When it comes to the leafy greens, the thought of eating them raw or stir-fried can be quite hard to swallow (literally!). I tried eating raw kale once and had to chew non-stop until the leaves were small enough to swallow. I felt like a cow.

Since these tough greens are blended and suspended in a liquid, you will gulp them down without even noticing. Need one more reason why green smoothies are awesome? Your green meal is easily digested because your food items have already been chopped into tiny pieces, and hence does not stress your digestive system.

Green Smoothie Benefits

4. A great balance of good sugar, vegetables and protein.
You get a lasting source of energy from the mix of fruits, veggie and protein in your green smoothie. Fruits are great for breakfast but because of their high sugar content, can spike your energy very quickly and then cause a crash afterwards. With the high content of veggies in a green smoothie, your sugar is balanced out with high fiber and protein from the milk.
I normally have my green smoothie in the morning so I kick-start my energy level and amp up my productivity afterwards.

5. Dark leafy greens are full of chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is obviously found in all vegetables (it is what gives vegetables their green coloring) but the highest concentrations are present in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale and broccoli. We all know that eating your veggies is good for you but did you know that chlorophyll has great anti-oxidant properties and can promote healthy iron levels in the blood. These are just two of many benefits of consuming chlorophyll!

Phillip Wain Fitness and Beauty

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Did you know that there is a luxurious haven up about 13,000 square feet in Mandarin Orchard? A place where you can gym comfortably, get personal training, take part in group exercises like yoga and pilates, go for a sauna AND even get facials and manicures?

Phillip Wain Health and Beauty Singapore

Yes, right in the heart of Singapore, I did not know that until I was headed to one of the restaurants at Mandarin Orchard and noticed the sign for Philip Wain Singapore. Located on level 7 of Mandarin Orchard is a spacious one-stop centre where women of all ages can indulge and seek respite from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness Centre

I have always found it hard to find a proper place to “get away from it all” in town. When I am in between meetings, and have no intent of having my fifth cup of coffee, I can now simply pop into Phillip Wain to have a power workout, shower and a little me-time in the sauna. Aside from that, there is the in-house Phillip Wain health bar where I can grab a healthy smoothie as a meal replacement.

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness Health Centre

With everything under one roof, Phillip Wain is dedicated to taking care of a woman’s physical and emotional well-being.

Experience

I was invited to try out the gym and workout with one of Phillip Wain’s personal trainers. Going to Philip Wain was certainly an unforgettable experience. When the lift doors opened at level 7, and I entered slick doors to my very own private club! I was first greeted by the reception area which then opened into a vast lounge area. Behind that, the shower and locker rooms are the first places you will want to head to keep your personal belongings before your experience at Phillip Wain.

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness Gym Centre

To start my personal training session, I sat down with one of the trainers who went a thorough full body assessment. She took my height, weight, and also measured my body fat, water weight and muscle mass. I always enjoy looking at the statistics of my body because this is when I fully get an insight into my body composition.

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness Gym

Just by looking at my muscle composition, my trainer could identify which was my stronger side, where my muscles were tight and then, specifically the muscles that I needed to strengthen. Because I run regularly, my legs are stronger than my arms and it was recommended that I need to work on them. Aside from identifying problem areas and re-balancing your body, working with a personal trainer will help you reach your fitness and health goals. I always find it helpful to have an expert pair of eyes monitor my progress.

Conveying my goal of toning and firming up my muscles, the trainer took that in mind when she started my workout session.

Working out with the FlexiBar

I was introduced to the Flexi-Bar during the 1-hour personal training session. Phillip Wain is the FIRST fitness centre in Singapore to launch Flexi-Bar.

Phillip Wain Singapore Personal Trainer Fitness

The Flexi-Bar is a LOONNNNG workout device that is used to encourage core stability. To be honest, I have never seen anything like it! It is even taller than me. Haha. If I had to describe it, it is a long, thin bar with two weights at the end, made of natural rubber, and a rubber grip in the middle.

But instead of feeling intimidated by the device, the trainer explained to me that using the Flexi-Bar (vibrating and shaking it) helps to warm up and lengthen the muscles. It reinforces flexibility and strength. The Flexi-Bar is quite unique because it can be incorporated into ALL exercises – both warm up and strengthening.

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness FlexiBar

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness Workout

We first worked on my upper body and then made progress to working on my legs. Maintaining a lunge position and then having to shake the Flexi-Bar was no easy feat! Not only did it help to create instability in my body and work my muscles better; introducing instability really encouraged me to focus and tighten my core. The trainer explained that this was called a Tonic Stretch Reflex – where muscles are pushed out of equilibrium, thereby introducing new movement and encouraging small muscle groups to be activated. We tend to use our muscles the same way, so it is good to “jolt” them out of their “sleeping phase” to encourage growth. I had no idea how effective using the Flexi-Bar was!

Phillip Wain Fitness Singapore

Aside from the rigorous exercises, what I found helpful throughout the workout, was having the trainer encourage me as I struggled through my last sets and the fact that she would pay attention and watch my form throughout the entire workout. She would point out little things like if my hip moved or if I should correct my footing during the training. She was really sharp and could tell just by watching my movements that I needed to work on loosening my right hip flexor – a problem I have had for years now. Thumbs up for being able to detect that in just under an hour! At the end, she also walked me through the cool down and stretches to prevent any injury.

Phillip Wain Facilities

Philip Wain Singapore Food

Post work-out, I enjoyed a home-cooked soupy meal at the Phillip Wain health bar.

The entire area is and you can comfortably enjoy your meal. Then there are the showers… Oh yes, the showers. There is nothing like having a hot rain shower to relax those muscles after a workout. I thoroughly enjoyed the rain shower walked out of the shower and sauna room feeling like I was floating on a fluffy cloud. To fully decompress, you can head for a massage after your workout, and that is exactly what I did. Ahhhh…. I promptly fell asleep during the massage.

Soul starter package at $168

Membership fees at Phillip Wain are highly reasonable, especially for a one-stop health and beauty centre. Be a member and get access to the gym, massage, facial and manicure services.

For S$168, it includes the following:
– 1 Month unlimited fitness membership (you have access to all the group classes and unlimited access to the gym and sauna)
– Plus one of the following STAR treatments at Phillip Wain:
Face: SP 3D Platinum Revital Face Therapy (90min, worth $580) OR
Spa: Spa Retreat (choice of chocolate/red wine/ ginseng) (90min, worth $385)
– Complimentary body composition analysis

You also get 1 health juice bar health juice and a fee waiver on admin fee upon signing of 1 year membership. You can call 62500100 and quote “Valerie lim-PW168” for the above promotion.

Phillip Wain Singapore Fitness Gym Spa

This is the perfect treat for you or the girlfriend who wants to be pampered! Thank you Phillip Wain for taking care of all my beauty and health needs.

Phillip Wain location address
Mandarin Orchard,
Level 7 (access via lifts 6 and 7)
333 Orchard Road
Singapore 238867

Bulletproof Coffee Recipe

I read about Bulletproof coffee on the Bulletproof Exec website some time ago. Some of my health-subscribing friends swear by the recipe and the article was circulating hard and fast between us coffee addicts. The idea is to feed your body with the right kind of fat so it ACTUALLY BURNS fat all day.

I decided to try it because research has found that it has a massive impact on cognitive function…. AND IT IS TRUE. I tried this recipe myself and found that I was more alert, could function better and was certainly less hungry in the morning. The best testimonial of how it was affecting me was to stop the additional high performing foods (the coconut oil and/or butter) and see what simply drinking coffee would do for me.

It was clear: simply drinking coffee just was not good enough any more.

According to the Bulletproof Exec website, this high energy, good fat recipe is part of the routine of many world athletes and recording artists before they go on stage.

In the recipe on the Bulletproof Exec, you have to use
– low toxin, highest performance grade coffee
– unsalted, grass-fed butter
– organic coconut oil

Unsalted, grass-fed butter seemed like a difficult thing to find here in Singapore, add to that the fact I am completely lazy about having to blend all of those ingredients together, I thus only add a tablespoon of coconut oil into my morning coffee.

Nespresso Coffee Bulletproof Coffee

Modified Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
1 shot of Nespresso coffee (Lungo 110ml)
1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil
Optional: half a teaspoon of Manuka honey

And that’s it. Put everything into your coffee cup or tumbler and make sure you stir/shake the entire emulsion.

It must be noted that before I read about this Bulletproof coffee recipe, I usually drink my coffee with milk and no sugar. Now, I only have my coffee black with coconut oil… and from home.

Rationale behind adding coconut oil
Feeding your body the right kind of fat can actually help it lose weight. And coconut oil does just that. After years of being demonised for having high levels of saturated fats, research has now clarified that the medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) in coconut oil can actually increase energy expenditure compared to the same amount of calories from longer chain fats. Having medium-chain triglycerides means that this oil is easily digested by the body.

I did some digging online and read that the human body converts lauric acid into monolaurin which research has supported as an effective way to deal with viruses and bacteria. Coconut oil does not just help you lose weight, it boosts your immunity. No wonder it has been hailed as the superfood of the 21st century.

If you are trying out this recipe for the first time and need a little sweetness in your coffee, I recommend using organic honey. I used organic Manuka Honey. In comparison to refined and processed sugars, honey is obviously a better alternative because it is natural. You just have to be sure that you buy one from a certified organic grocer.

Valerie Lim

Outfit of the Day – SFMS 2014

Normally I spend Sundays by the pool or simply hanging out with the family. Today, however, was special.

Outfit of the Day UCC Singapore Fitness Model Search 2014
Black fringe top and black shiny skinny jeans both from Dream Factory by Ines Ligron.

It has been a while since I was last back at the NUS University Cultural Centre. And this afternoon I made the long commute all the way out West for the Singapore Fitness Model Search 2014.

NUS UCC Singapore Fitness Model 2014

Walking into the front lobby brought back so many good memories. I remember spending countless nights there with my NUS Dance Blast! crew rehearsing for various performances. The bursting excitement, adrenalin rush and thrill we felt just before a performance was just the cherry on top of the all the crazy antics we used to do backstage.

IMG_9605.JPG

Ahhh.. yes. When the judges were brought backstage for the briefing, I walked through the all too familiar backstage doors to the back of the stage and the changing rooms. Those changing rooms held special meaning to us dancers. They were the rooms that we created the most mischief; they were the rooms we spent the most time dressing and putting on makeup; they were the rooms we dashed in and out of for our quick changes in between performances; they were the rooms where we laughed, cried and shared priceless moments.

IMG_9610.JPG

Being in the judging panel at front of the stage, in those familiar surroundings was a little bit odd and refreshing at the same time. It seemed to mark my graduation from stage to “off-stage” where I do most of my work now with coaching and consultation.

Throughout the judging, I remember clearly how nerve-wrecking it was to have so many pairs of eyes on you. I could emphatize with each and every contestant. But overall, I was very impressed at how most of the contestants did well. Obviously some did better than the others and emerged tops.

IMG_9613.JPG
The top 3 winners of each category.
Clockwise from top left: Women’s Bikini (under 30s), Men’s Physique (30+), Men’s Physique (under 30s) and Women’s Bikini (30+).

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Here’s a shout out to all the winners. These are the 4 champions from their individual categories. From left to right: winner of Men’s Physique (under 30s), winner of Women’s Bikini (under 30s), winner of Women’s Bikini (30+) and winner of Men’s Physique (30+).

Congratulations winners, you are an inspiration! I can only imagine how much effort you have put into achieving those amazing taut muscles! Now if you will excuse me, I probably have to go pump some iron before I go to bed.

See more photos of the Singapore Fitness Model Search 2014 on my Facebook page.