I became happier and healthier when I stopped listening to the experts and started listening to me

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Zi, Co-founder of HASIKO is on a mission to empower women to define health and success on their own terms.

I’ve lived most of my life weighing myself each morning. Somehow I had it in my head that being healthy meant looking a certain way and maintaining a weight of 50kg. I kept to my gruelling training schedule, and I would push myself to the hardest every workout. Oh, how my ego loved a good punishing workout! I was also eating clean, and refused to eat rice or noodles because every health expert on the Internet said refined carbohydrates are bad!

Mind you! I wasn’t fat at all! I was an average Asian sized woman wearing a size 6–8. Now looking back, I was deeply insecure about who I was. I was always comparing myself to others and trying to reach a standard of health and success that made me deeply unhappy.

The more I compared, the more I felt compelled to do more, and it spilled over to other aspects of my life. My motto, when I launched my first startup, was “Always be hustling.” I thought that if I put in more effort and worked harder, I would be more successful and happier.

I remember so clearly the night when I jumped out of bed at 3 am, drenched in cold sweat with my heart pounding out of my chest. That episode led me to ask, “Do I really feel healthy?” and “Is this really how I want to live my life?”

That was four years ago, and I’m glad those days are over. The truth is that our struggles with body image and success begin with the unrealistic expectations we have in our mind.

But where did we get these expectations of what health and success is?

Through social media, movies, and commercials, we are constantly told that we have to look a certain way, achieve certain things, and be a certain way. We see thousands of pictures everyday and these images and messages subconsciously set a certain `tone` of what we think we have to be from a very young age. It’s scary isn’t it!

As Brené Brown puts it, “These expectations tell us who we should be, what we should be, and how we should be. At their core, these ideals are products of very rigid social and community expectations. They present very narrow interpretations of who women are “supposed to be” based on demographics (i.e., their gender, race, class, sexual orientation, age, religious identity) and/or our roles (i.e., a mother, a wife, an employee, a partner, a group member).”

For women, society has made it such that these conflicting and unattainable expectations, if not met, are sources of shame.

A perfect example is the ridiculous pressure for women to get their pre-baby body back. As a Pilates and Movement teacher, it breaks my heart to see beautiful, intelligent women who work hard to excel in their career and take care of their family feel so much guilt for not achieving certain expectations. They constantly feel that they have to do more and look at a certain way, which leads them to over-extend themselves at the expense of their well-being.

It’s time to start playing by your values!

A great place to start is by asking yourself, “What are the things that would give me a greater sense of fulfillment in my life?”

Instead of defining health and success by how many calories you’ve burned, the size of your thighs, or how much money you make, it is a lot more meaningful to define health and success based on what truly matters to you in YOUR life.

For a working mom, what’s important to her maybe to be a contributing team member at work, and to be fully present with her children when she’s with them. Well, that’s what her goals should be then! And that’s what her wellness program should help achieve, instead of making her feel bad about not looking or being a certain way!

True health and happiness arrive when you start aligning your life with your values.

That means slowing down to check in with you and asking, “How am I feeling in my body? How are my energy levels? How is my current headspace? What emotions am I feeling? What do I need right now to nourish myself and feel well?”

Maybe you are feeling stressed over something at work, or you are feeling some pain in your knee from yesterday’s workout. Instead of going for your usual 5km run because you need to lose that extra 5kg (you don’t need to!), you could go for a 20-minute walk around the block and put on a relaxing meditation track.

When we act from a place of “should,” “must,” and “have to,” it overwhelms us because we are trying to live up to expectations that don’t align with our values.

However, when we take action that nourishes our mind, body, and spirit, it brings about health and well being to every aspect of our life. When you feel balanced and nourished, it’s easy to find joy, clarity, and vitality in everything that you do.

Making that shift begins with our willingness to challenge and reject expectations and beliefs that don’t empower us.

Once we are aware of how these limiting beliefs and expectations influence our daily action, we can start to question them and create new ones that not only enhance our well-being but empower us to live life to the fullest.

It’s been four years since I weighed myself. The only time I step on the scale is when I go to the doctor’s office, and the number doesn’t bother me at all.

I also started asking myself questions like, “What would be fun or feel good for my body today? What would help me wind down from the day and get a good night’s rest? What can I do to nourish my soul today? What would put me in a positive and confident mindset for my important meeting tomorrow?”

Sometimes it’s a HIIT class, and other times it’s a walk around the neighbourhood with my dogs. On other days, it’s spending time with my husband or journaling down my thoughts. I also like to put on a Yoga Nidra track on nights when my mind is active and distracted.

Doing so has transformed the way I feel about myself and has sent my self-confidence soaring. I now have a happier and healthier relationship with my body and myself — one that is nourishing, loving, and compassionate. I thoroughly enjoy my chocolate cake when I have one, and I no longer feel the need to burn it off the next day. I’ve also learned to be grateful for the little moments in life and accept things for what they are. As a result, my body is stronger, and my stress levels and anxiety are much lower and very manageable.

Ultimately, we have to take responsibility for ourselves. We have to do the work of questioning our world view, and checking whether the beliefs we hold truly benefit our health, happiness, and well-being.

It’s time to take back your life and start living on your terms!

Written by

At HASIKO, our goal is to empower women to discover what matters to them, build resilience, self-compassion, and a strong foundation of health and well-being.

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