• Lydia Chu

My experiences with exercise

Updated: May 11, 2019

When I was growing up, I was not athletic at all. I was one of those kids who never got picked for a team sport in high school.

Snowboarding trip with my girls in 2017 at Northstar Ski Resort

I remember dreading PE because I had to go through the humiliation of being a leftover kid that nobody wanted, but it felt even worse when my teammates would complain and whine about having me in their team. So, I had zero confidence when it came to playing sports and shied away from all sports, and always thought of myself as being uncoordinated and nonathletic.

When I was growing up, my traditional parents believed that exercise and sports were only for boys so they didn't encourage me or my sister to take part in any sports. I played a little bit of tennis when I was in high school but never took lessons or went further than just playing for fun with my siblings. So, I knew nothing about exercise and its importance in maintaining a healthy body.

After I went to college, I became a little more active. I learned how to play racquetball and really enjoyed it. I also joined a gym solely for the purpose of trying to lose weight. Just like most people at that age, I knew very little about staying healthy . Since I had no clue about nutrition and how it can profoundly affect our health, I never even considered focusing on a proper diet. I thought exercise was the only way to lose weight and stay in shape, and my definition of exercise back then was going to the gym and doing aerobics. Most of the time, it felt like a chore and I ended up hating it. So I started eating less and sometimes would starve myself (not a good idea). I was trying to focus on quantity of the food instead of the quality. That's one of the reasons whey I ended up with an ulcer. When I look back now, I know I was doing more harm than good.

I was always thin growing up until I went to college. Since I was a picky eater and never

In my teen years

enjoyed feasting on meat like the rest of my family did, I never had a problem with my weight. I always thought I was not capable of gaining weight (boy, was I wrong!). So, when I went to college, I felt this freedom to do whatever I wanted to do and eat whatever I wanted to eat. I started going out to eat a lot and eating at all hours. I remember, one of my favorite places to go with my friends was Denny's often at very late hours like 1 or 2 am. We would typically order things life popcorn shrimp and banana split. Domino's was another one of my favorite places. I remember ordering a large pizza and finishing it all in one seating.

In my college years

Well, needless to say, I gained about 25 pounds in my first year in college going from 100 lbs to about 125 lbs. When I went home that summer, my parents were shocked to see me so "plumped". That's how my parents described it, and they were pleased that I had finally gained some weight like the rest of the family. Well, I wasn't too thrilled and couldn't believe what had happened to me. This is when I started watching my diet and began my obsession with my weight.

After that, I joined a gym and started working out. If you're my age, I'm sure you remember those aerobic classes in the 90's like those Jane Fonda aerobic videos. I used to do that (who didn't?). By this time, all I cared about was losing weight solely for the purpose of being thin. Back then, I had no idea about the health implications of carrying excess weight so that was not even a motivating factor. Since I just focused on exercise (never doing it effectively) without combining with a healthy diet, I constantly struggled with my weight and was on a yo yo diet for a long time. I would often starve myself to lose weight only to eventually gain it all back (sounds familiar?). Like most of us, it was a constant struggle for many many years until I unknowingly changed my lifestyle.

Back in 2008, after becoming a single parent, I moved to Davis with my two young daughters. I didn't have much money back then and was still a struggling business owner. So in order to save money, I started riding my bike around instead of driving and since my shop was only few miles away from where I lived, it was real easy to commute to work on my bike. At first, it was purely for a financial reason, but then I started really enjoying it. That's when it became a permanent part of my life and I came to known as "the bike lady".

Living in a small college town made it real easy for me to get into an active lifestyle so in addition to riding my bike around, I also got into a routine of running up to about 26 miles a week and ran a marathon in 2011, Avenue of the Giants (it was the only marathon I ran). By staying active and having a job (I used to own 3 dry cleaners) that required a lot of physical activities like lifting heavy loads of clothes on a daily basis, I've

My cleaning days

been able to stay in shape without having to go to the gym or forcing myself to do things I don't particularly enjoy doing. Like most of us, I was a dedicated gym member for many years but when I became a business owner and a mom, it became difficult to find the time to go spend hours at the gym. So, I started jogging at very early hours before I had to go to work. Early workouts always worked better for me. It always felt good to get it out of the way first thing in the morning. Besides, it never worked for me when I tried to workout in the evenings especially after working long 10 - 12 hour shifts.

So for many years, I was able to maintain a healthy weight by staying very active, but it started to become more difficult when I sold my cleaning business in 2015. I was no longer in the line of work that demanded a high level of physical activity so I had to readjust my lifestyle and discover new ways to stay fit and healthy.

Since I was no longer physically active at work, I tried to compensate by incorporating more of the other intense workouts like biking, hiking, walking and jumping ropes. Despite my efforts, it was becoming a struggle until I discovered plant-based diet. This was the missing key I was looking for to a healthier life.

Before switching to a new diet, I was eating pretty much everything I wanted to eat (I used to eat Captain Crunch for breakfast). When I first met my current husband almost 10 years ago, he was shocked at how much I ate. My husband is 6' 5", and I was eating more than him at the time and I was half his size. Since I was eating so much, I always had to stay very active pretty much round the clock and exercise my butt off to maintain my idea weight.

Mountain biking in Rockville

Even though I'm no longer biking 20 - 30 miles a day or running 20 - 26 miles a week, I still try to get on my bike as much as I can. I still use my bike to commute to work (my shop is only 2 1/2 miles away so it's super convenient) and also when I have to run errands or go to yoga. I try to avoid driving as much as possible unless I have to go somewhere far or have to do a big grocery shopping.

Since regular exercise is important part of maintaining a good health, I still try to exercise as often as I can, but thanks to my new diet, I no longer have to almost kill myself with exercise to stay fit and healthy. Now, most of my workouts are pretty moderate and enjoyable. I try to walk every chance I get by going for an easy walk after dinner instead of sitting around, and on the weekends, I try to include other activities such as yoga, hiking, mountain biking, and in the winter, snowboarding (one of my favorite sports).

By combining a healthy diet, at least eight hours of sleep (for me) and a moderate amount of exercise, I have finally found a healthy lifestyle that works for me, and I have been able to stay at my idea weight of 102 pounds for the last two years and stay healthy. The things I do are fun for me now and doesn't seem like a chore. It's definitely a liberating feeling. Life just seems that much sweeter when you're feeling healthy. :)



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