From fab to flab to fab again: Panda Xiong's battle with the bulge

15 June 2013 / 3 years 4 months ago

At the peak of his career in the late 90s, Taiwanese singer-songwriter Panda Xiong was the star of the Mandopop scene. Weighing a 66kg then, he won girls over with his clean-cut image, his penchant for preppy college get-ups and his pristine, tenor vocals.He was dubbed a Snag (sensitive new age guy) by both fans and media. So when pictures of him looking obese and sporting a - gasp! - double chin surfaced in 2005, many were shocked, reports The New Paper.Reports said he had put on about 30kg in less than five years. How did Xiong balloon so much? The 43-year-old, who has been keeping a low profile, told The New Paper in a recent phone interview from Taipei: "At my heaviest in 2005, I was 98kg."What happened was that in 2002, I took on a role in a Taiwanese wuxia drama, Young Shi Yan-wen, which I was very stressed over. "It was my debut acting effort and I wasn't a professional (actor) like the rest of the cast."To make things worse, I had injured my leg around the same time. That added to the stress and I was constantly worried that I wouldn't perform well. I had trouble sleeping at night," he said.In a bid to cure his insomnia, he started to pop pills that were branded as sleep aids. "As it turned out, that medication had really bad side effects. My metabolism slowed down and I, soon realised that for the same amount of food intake, my weight was doubling."Xiong, who is married to Chinese singer Yang Yang, did not disclose the name of the sleep aid, but added that those pills "have since been taken off the shelves" in Taiwan. The musician, who is best known for his sentimental ballads such as River Of The Blues, A Heaven Of Matches, and Fisherman's Wharf, will be in town this Saturday for Songs That Keep Us Together 2.The ensemble concert also includes performances from singer-host-comedian Chang Ke-Fan, veteran crooners Chiu Hai-Cheng and Fang Wen-Lin among others. Local fans will be glad to know that he now weighs 73kg ."I lost my excess weight gradually, by going for acupuncture, researching (low-fat) recipes, and avoiding stuff like chocolates, buns, bread and dumplings," he said. He said that at his heaviest, negative comments made by the public about his weight affected him."I knew that was the harsh reality of showbiz. Unless you have super, overwhelming talent, looks still matter to a certain extent." When quizzed if he foresees himself losing more weight, he said with a laugh: "I'm still, first and foremost, a songwriter, and it's my originals that will ensure my livelihood."I don't think I need to go crazy with the dieting. Recently, I've had, a career resurgence of sorts in China, when one of my compositions, Night Night Night Night, was featured in two popular reality singing TV shows, I Am A Singer and The Voice Of China."Xiong, who divides his time between China and Taiwan, said it's unlikely that any of his future works will surpass his iconic, chart-topping 90s hits. "Every singer-songwriter has just one or two mega hits throughout his or her career."I can't say for sure if I'd be able to come up with new songs that would top my previous material, but that's not going to stop me from penning songs," he said.The gallery below shows Panda Xiong and other celebrities whose appearances have drastically changed over the years.

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