It finally caught up.

All the years of thoughtless eating and sedentary lifestyle had finally added up and rudely pushed my Body Mass Index into the overweight and moderate health risk category, according to the Asian BMI standard.

However according to the Western BMI measuring, I was just borderline overweight, meaning I had about a 0.5 marginal luxury of being ‘normal’, just barely enough to keep my nose out of the water. Or should I say, suffocating blobs of fat!

But what did it matter, Asian or Caucasian BMI, I was in my eyes – I hate to say it, fat! Although ‘fat’ is a politically incorrect term when referring to overweight people (would you prefer metabolically challenged?), I felt just that – chubbier than a baby whale (no offense to the whales). And if you say it’s all a matter of perception and declare that I’m overreacting, I would have retorted and hollered that my BMI number was enough to quash any inkling of self denial. Facts are facts, baby.

But really – sometimes in these situations, everybody else’s opinions didn’t matter, only yours did. After all, who knew you better than yourself?

Although the doctor at the hospital where I underwent my medical checkup informed me that my weight was normal, I felt anything but. I was bloated, my cheeks were so puffed out and my dress size well on its way to becoming a permanent double digit. What’s a girl to do? And how the hell did I get here?

I will admit it, when I was in my twenties, much of my health and fitness were taken for granted. I would mindlessly scarf my way through countless meals and desserts, whether they were home cooked, picked up from the side of a warung on the street, or prepared at my favorite sports bar diner. I possibly picked up the “freshman 15” too when I started college in Ohio back in ’97, which is the number of pounds (about 6.8kg) that many fresh-out-of-high-school students put on in their first year at university. To top it off, I had a hearty appetite so I really enjoyed my food and had a habit of cleaning out my plates. You know the old Malay adage, food “cries” if you don’t finish it. As a child, the imagination of cartoon grains of rice sobbing themselves into a gluey pulp was enough to guilt this obedient girl into always leaving the Corelles spotless.

After I graduated from university, my eating habits changed little and life became even more sedentary upon starting full time work as I was in the computer line and did nothing but face a monitor all day (I’ll have you know I enjoyed this very much). After all, who had time to go exercise when all I wanted to do was either go home and sleep or chat online with cyber pals or update my website, or hang out with real life friends to go out and eat some more (such is the bane of having disposable income). Plus I was extremely lazy about exercise, which to me now is a shameful understatement of epic proportions.

Isn’t it amazing how reckless and invincible you think you are when you’re in your 20s? Stupid and ignorant is more like it.

What I didn’t realize was that as I grew older, my resting metabolic rate, the efficiency at which humans digest food for energy use when they’re not doing anything, had started declining at an average of 2-3% every year after I turned 20. Prior to that, a person’s metabolism dips a hefty 25% between ages 6 and 18 (source: Women’s Running magazine, January-February 2011 U.S. edition). With a steadily declining metabolism, if you continued eating like you did when you were younger but don’t offset the calories consumed through some sort of frequent physical activity, the extra pounds are destined to be stored as  undesirable fat (or, if you prefer, “extra unused energy”) in your body. It’s not like when I was a kid, the appetite and metabolism were equally ferocious, and I was so nimble and active anyways (climbing trees, swimming, cycling), that there was no fat chance (haha) for me to gain any extra weight back then.

If I was told of these metabolism facts 12 years ago, I would’ve been very indifferent towards it (and sadly, I was). Me? Gain weight? Nonsense. I was unbeatable, nothing could make me fat, after all I had been eating with a force of fury all this while and I don’t seem to be carrying around extra weight? Plus I was in total control of my body, yeah!

Well OK in my defense, college years weren’t all that lifeless for me. I remember participating in a couple of tennis, badminton, rock climbing, hiking and rowing sessions at the gym and even out boat paddling on the lake. But the amount of time spent was certainly not enough to make  me fit, and if I remember correctly they served more as social outlets to meet up and mingle with other people rather than as a means to maintain my health.

It wasn’t until I went for a full medical checkup in January ’09 that I realized the numbers I saw on the body scale at the hospital were, elegantly put, unflattering and frankly, alarming. If I kept up the pace I was trudging through my life, being inactive and all, I knew I was destined for disaster and to reverse the effects would probably take a bit longer than if I was younger. I was beginning to get a taste of what midlife crisis might feel like (it’s a bit like blood, a little bit irony). It was a sensation that left me craving to be younger and weighing less!

As I looked back at the full length mirror while changing back into my street clothes on that sobering day at the chilly and sterile hospital in Bangsar, I finally noticed the double chin which I had been ignoring over the last 3 years. Heck, it was beginning to look double its current size and my already round cheeks resembled the puffiness of the Marshmallow Man from Ghostbusters. Crap. And man, is that rear end big enough for a Cessna to land on? What have I done to myself! And my tummy and waist? Geez, did that mirror just crack?! The nerve.

That was my wake up call. If there was ever a moment of human enlightenment, by golly – that was mine. A little bit later on when I mustered the courage to look back at photos of myself, I noticed that my face and body were getting fuller from age 25 onwards. Yikes.

So a week later as the doctor sits me down and yaps away about the results of my health test report (which according to him is normal, though something needed to be done about my LDL – bad cholesterol levels), I sort of tuned him out for a bit and my mind was racing madly about what I could do to improve my weight standing.

“Doc, you sure my weight is OK, ah?” I asked him anxiously with a look of utter concern.

“Your weight?” (Doctor licks his thumb and flips to the page where it was recorded – euw!). “Oh ya ya, it looks fine lah, not to worry (I stared at him in disbelief, did this man need new glasses?) He continued without so much as glancing at me, “But do something about that LDL OK, do more exercise and less seafood!”

How proverbial and enlightening, gee thanks Doc. Next time I’ll consider self prognosis.

But I knew he was right. I did have to get my act together and start working out. The fact that I was about to turn the big 3-0 in about two weeks fueled my determination to get rid of my excess weight even more so, once and for all. Losing weight without exercise gets a little bit harder as you grow older due to the inevitable declining metabolism rate, and simply because mother nature wants you to get off your rear end while you still have more agility than you know what to do with. The vivid thought of me overweight in my midlife years was enough to scare me into desperately wanting to cut the fat out, right there and then.

But I had been inactive for so long. The last sports discipline that I followed diligently was the Korean martial arts of Taekwondo between ages 10 and 15. I stopped doing that when I earned my brown belt and had to move to the States with my family in ’94. What could I possibly pick up now that would hold my attention and interest me long enough to burn more than just a handful of calories? That there was my million dollar question. The quest to find the perfect exercise activity was on!

Before I decided on any kind of fitness regime, I believed in being honest and true to myself, so I started ruling out things that I knew I wasn’t going to do. For example, I wasn’t willing to fork out dough just to join the gym, a trend that seemed to take a life of its own as the Gen Y-ers started entering the workforce. I had a close friend who did bind herself to a fitness center but only ended up hemorrhaging money because of the 1-year contractual obligation and non-attendance due to interest that eventually tapered off and died. I was also reluctant to join any group activity as I wanted to lose this weight on my own time and effort, and I certainly wasn’t going to publicly flaunt the fat to anyone.

So in a rather lukewarm but well-meaning attempt, I purchased some yoga DVDs and a nice blue plushier-than-average yoga mat from Tesco (an investment which I would later appreciate down the road) to start my own exercise center right at home. I chose yoga because I thought I could ease my body slowly into a routine that wasn’t so vigorous, after all these body parts were rusty and creakin’. For about a session or two,  I seemed to enjoy doing yoga. But it was written in the stars that I wasn’t going to continue this route for long. I got bored of it and felt that it wasn’t quite the workout that I liked doing. Sure, some of the poses were difficult to maintain (hey, when you’re overweight, the first thing that flies out the window is your sense of balance). But the half moon poses or the downward facing dogs (at least in those portrayed in the DVDs) didn’t quite cut it for me. Maybe the lulling background music just turned me off, I could hardly stay awake doing the moves!

I abandoned the yoga way long before I knew it. And for the next 10 months I was again back to square one – sedentary and pathetically unmotivated to exert myself physically. Yearning for a better body but yet lazy to execute, oh the dilemma was excruciatingly conflicting on my mind and body.

During this year also, I signed up for an account with a website called Calorie Count. I developed a deeper interest in food science and the art of counting calories from stuff that we consume. There’s an abundance of resources on this wonderful health site, my favorite being the many inspirational stories of people (mostly Americans) losing scary amounts of weight in a healthy manner and above all, a useful food caloric calculator and grading system that taught you how to evaluate which foods were good for you and vice versa. In addition to soaking up all this information, it was also during these web surfing sessions that I started using CC’s weight log utility to record my latest known weight. That figure was to collect dust and remain unchanged for almost a year.

Apart from that, nothing much was going on in my so-called getting fit department. That was until that fateful month of December, when I finally discovered an exciting work out that would not only spark a desire and cultivate motivation in me so strong that I managed to lose close to 10kg in 7 months, but also lead me to pursue the one physical activity which I personally loathed whilst growing up: running. Strangely but pleasantly enough, running is currently a routine that I undertake weekly.

On Christmas ’09, the cogwheel of my successful weight loss would finally be set in motion.