Celebrity fitness secrets: Jojo Struys
Well-known columnist and media darling, Jojo Struys explores her deep passion for holistic, healthy lifestyle in the latest MPH Masterclass Series, 'Jojo Struys's Guide to Wellness'. She muses about fitness myths and the Five Colour diet. By Cheng Sim
Which is the toughest chapter to write for the book?
There were so many different topics and all tough in different ways. Fear was very personal. I wrote about how I almost drowned. Exercise was difficult because everyone knows the benefit of exercise. So, instead of talking about the benefits, I flipped it and spoke about the dangers of being still. A lot of studies now say that if you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, it is a precursor to a lot of problems. I shared health exercises that you can do at your work desk because it's important to move your body and keep your circulations going. Relationships are personal and what was difficult...depression? I couldn’t actually take out a single one because they all have challenges of their own.
How can we make health and wellness a lot more sexy and appealing?
I feel to make health sexy isn’t really that hard. I think it is very attractive to be secure from within. When the person is emotionally secure and comfortable in their own skin, they glow. They're attractive without needing make up. One of the topics that I wrote about (in Jojo Struys's Guide to Wellness) is self confidence. You can’t buy it from someone. If you’re confident, it shows. That’s why its body, mind and soul. If you’re very positive but your lifestyle is not that great, at least by being confident and happy, you’ll push things through.
What’s the best way to stay in shape without splurging on gyms?
I would say the best way is to listen to your body and not to kill yourself over yo-yo dieting. Go for smaller meals throughout the day so you don’t approach your meal like you’re starving. The moment you’ve skipped your meal, which is terrible, the chance of overeating is there because you’re so hungry. Also, never skip breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it breaks the fast your body has been going through the whole night and it’s the first fuel your body needs to start the day.
What are some of the fitness myths that you’ve debunked along the way?
I’m not sure about fitness myths because I would say exercise really is good for you. If anything, I would say that people underestimate the power of breathing. Breathing can anchor and relax you when you’re stress and anxious. That is why a lot of the chapters at the back of my book are on breathing techniques that can help you move past anger. A lot of things link to the mind and breath. For those who are aware like people who do qi gong and tai chi know that just doing this can completely relax us. So, I wanted to inject breathing techniques throughout the book wherever relevant.
What are your thoughts on ‘You can eat whatever you want, as long as you exercise’?
I don’t think you can eat whatever you want because exercise may not be enough to combat a completely unhealthy diet. I think the food that you’re eating actually weighs more than the exercise you could be doing because there’s only so much you can exercise to work off the certain number of calories. My advise, if you want to do your cakes and all those sinful desserts, just have it in moderation. You don’t need to deprive yourself from having a treat once in awhile and don’t binge. I speak about the dangers of binge eating disorder in the book too.
What are your guilty pleasures?
I love chocolates. I like frozen yogurt but that’s not so fattening. What I think is good is that I learnt to take things in moderation and I don’t go crazy. I don’t say 'Oh, I can’t have that'. When I feel like having pasta, I have pasta and I’ll finish it. So, I’m not going to deprive myself and at the same time, I’m not going to binge and over do it either. I found that moderation and smaller meals throughout the day are tremendous ways to balance your weight and maintain it.
You also highlighted something interesting like the Five Colour diet...
Yes, in my weight management chapter. If you’re not aware of the greens you’re eating, keep track by looking at your plate and see if you have five colours. Do you have the red? The yellow and greens? That way, you’ll know you’re getting a mix of antioxidants and nutrients.
Are there any quick tips to combat stress at work?
One of the things that you can do is to focus on positive image. Or something that actually would put a smile on your face. It could be a photo of your baby at home. It could be your pet. Something that amuses you. If you keep focusing on the problem, it grows and your heart rate goes up. But if you focus on the solution, it'll at least take your mind off things. Another thing that you can do is to also do breathing technique. Just imagine a stop sign and say the word 'stop'. Then, breathe in for seven counts and breathe out for eleven counts. It drains away all the excess stress and tension and that really helps.
What are your favourite ways to keep fit in between your busy schedule?
I do light weights. Also, a little bit of yoga in my bedroom. I love hiking because it's one of the things that can effortlessly destress you. I would walk through FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) and it slows me down. That's what nature does. There’s less noise and it’s natural, just talk a walk. Be in nature and be natural.
Are there any other exercises or sports you’re involved in?
I play tennis and it’s very social. If you’re making an appointment with someone, you’re less likely to cancel. Sometimes when people exercise on their own, you get lazy and find excuses not to show up. However, when you make an arrangement to play doubles, you tend to keep the appointment. So, I do play tennis. I also tap dance and jam with drummers and percussion. Tap is very physical and burns a lot of calories.