When was the last time you actually took some “timeout” for yourself? That’s exactly what Jessie Lee asked herself when she was starting her own business. “I realised that there was not one minute that I invested into caring for my body and mind, and that’s when I realised something was wrong,” she added.
After spending 6 years working without weekends, the entrepreneur then decided to take some time for herself and downloaded a meditation app. On her journey to self-care , Jessie discovered that a truly sustainable and healthy lifestyle can be accomplished when you learn how to care for the mind and body.
Her fitness advice? Taking small steps, and being realistic about your goals. For example, when it comes to her diet, Jessie realised that adding more vegetables and finding healthier alternatives of your favourite foods into the mix will help lessen cravings. Read on below for the full interview and learn more about Jessie’s fitness journey:
FF: At which juncture in your life did you decide to embark on your fitness journey?
FF: What goals did you set for yourself, and what did you do to achieve it?
Jessie: It is my goal to try to live with my own ‘best version’ for the limited time given to my life. In order to achieve my goal, I treat my body in the same way I cultivate my favourite plants carefully. Giving good quality nourishment, maintaining a beautiful and correct posture, and keeping my muscles from remaining stagnant. And most importantly, I am my biggest supporter. I try to find my own charm rather than comparing myself with others, and I want to emphasise positive feedback and encouragement rather than blame or self-deprecation.
FF: What are the main challenges you faced, and how did you overcome it?
Jessie: Since becoming one of the co-founders and CEO of my own business, I faced working in front of a monitor for 12 hours a day without a weekend for 6 years. I was constantly working on my phone and even thought about work when I was taking breaks to eat. Each night before falling asleep, all I thought about was what I had to do the next day. When I woke up each morning, my day was filled with ‘to-do’ lists that I made the night before.
I spent six years in a tense and rigid state, and had a meltdown (or some might say a burn out) two years ago. I did not know how to rest and I had to learn how to adjust my pace. At this time, meditation began. I would close my eyes for more than 30 minutes even in open spaces where it wasn’t necessarily quiet, and took deep breaths for one minute while looking at a distant place. I spent a short time away from my work and with the goal of focusing on myself and getting back to basics (for example, like understanding what made me happy and triggers to avoid). When I learned how to care for the mind as well as the body, I realised that a truly sustainable and healthy lifestyle can be accomplished.
FF: Based on your experience, what advise would you give beginners who are thinking of starting their own fitness journey?
Jessie: I recommend setting small and achievable goals and repeating this process rather than setting great big goals from the beginning. For people who do not exercise at all, one hour of exercise a day is likely to fail. But what if the goal is to squat for one minute a day? It may be a silly goal, but it is much better trying than never doing so. After achieving this goal, it will be easier to increase from 1 minute to 5 minutes then 10 minutes. When I heard that meditation was good, I placed a meditation app on my phone and downloaded a 30 minute course that I wanted to do each morning. This only lasted a few days and I was unable to complete the full week challenge I set my mind to. So rather than trying to commit to things that are not simple enough to do within your daily routine, I practiced breathing deeply while watching the window once a day which was easier and achievable. Repetition of small habits often help in forming life-long habits.
FF: What are some of your favourite ways to workout?
Jessie: For me, if I do the same workout routine for a long time or repeat the work out, I get bored easily. So, I prefer workouts that are body weight circuits in short sprints. They last within 30 minutes and I change up the configuration every day. I don’t get bored or require equipment or a gym to work out as this can be done at home, so I want to recommend this to everyone. I also like to try new, trendy exercises or things that I’ve never tried before. Last year was swimming and this year I want to learn tennis!
FF: How do you maintain a balanced diet? Any tips to share?
Jessie: I’ve realised especially in Korea and countries within Asia, foods that are easily accessible are mainly carbohydrates. In order to achieve a well-balanced diet, my first tip is to increase your vegetables and protein sources and reduce carbohydrates. It’s super tough because I LOVE bread, rice and noodles so much, however if I completely cut all carbs, it usually leads to binge eating afterwards.
Second tip, when you organise your diet, try mixing your healthy food with your favourite food. Out of the 3 meals in a day, lunch will always be “free choice” meaning I choose what I want to eat. This way, even if you reduce or skip on carbs for breakfast or dinner, you aren’t left with cravings or feeling dissatisfied.
Finally, find foods that you love but the healthier alternative. Whether it’s whole wheat bread that has lots of fibre, or noodles made with soy. I’ve recently been hooked on chicken breast dumplings made with tapioca instead of flour. It’s the best feeling when eating foods that are healthy and delicious.
FF: What has been the best part about getting fit?
Jessie: Firstly, I’d like to talk about the definition of fit. Fit is not the shape of a particular body, but rather the physical and mental health of a body which is balanced with the proper amount of fat and muscle needed for it.
What I’ve loved about being fit is:
– When you open your eyes in the morning, you can start with fresh and pleasant energy rather than feeling fatigued
– Whatever challenge you put yourself up to, you can dive in with vitality and confidence, and finish with perseverance
– Finally, it is easier to recover from physical and mental difficulties when you are fit
FF: What is your go-to cheat meal?
Jessie: I love all Asian foods so when I’m having lunch which is my cheat meal, I usually go eat South East Asian food! Especially Singapore’s bakuteh – it’s my soul food (smile)
FF: What is your go-to healthy meal?
Jessie: My favourite is an open sandwich on wholewheat bread with avocados or brown rice granola with greek yoghurt and fresh berries.
FF: Ways to eat healthier when dining out?
Jessie: When I am out dining with friends or colleagues, I try to enjoy food as much as possible. I try not to place too many restrictions. Instead, eat whatever you like with vegetables so there is balance. When drinking alcohol, my tip is to drink double the amount of water to make sure I stay hydrated at the same time. Above all, rather than focusing too much on food itself, I find that focusing on conversations with people and actively participating controls my food and meal intake.
FF: Give us your fitness motto in a tweet!
Jessie: “Only actions give life strength; only moderation gives it charm.” by Jean Pau
Catch up with Jessie Lee LIVE at the Transformation Panel at FitnessFest 2019!