Poon Chian Hui
The Straits Times
1 December 2015
Bodybuilding champion Doreen Yeo tells Poon Chian Hui how she overcame her frail physique after a car accident.
Q Have you always been fit?
A I was never a fit or active person growing up. I stayed away from all kinds of sports and adventurous co-curricular activities, especially outdoor ones. Instead, I signed up to be a librarian.
But disaster struck when I was involved in a car accident at 14. I endured several operations for my torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee and slipped discs in the spine.
It was the saddest part of my life as I had to postpone my O-level examinations by a year.
Q What led you to bodybuilding?
A At the National University of Singapore, I enrolled in rock climbing.
A year later, I was overwhelmed by the school workload and stopped training. I ate little and lost so much weight that I looked anorexic.
My injuries also started bothering me again. The doctor advised me to train at the gym to gain muscle mass and put on some weight.
When I made my first trip to the gym at school, it was love at first sight.
Q How challenging was it to go from skinny to muscular?
A It was extremely difficult for me to achieve my current physique.
My injuries prevent me from doing important exercises like heavy squats and deadlifts. On the bright side, I was forced to lift weights with the right techniques so I don't aggravate them.
Q Do you face other challenges being a female bodybuilder?
A I got a lot of rude stares, especially when I started putting on bulk in my shoulders and arms.
I used to get lots of discouraging comments from friends and colleagues as it is not "normal" for a girl to look muscular.
After I won two gold medals in bodybuilding competitions, people became more supportive.
Q What is your diet like?
A I adopt the paleolithic diet, which involves the consumption of natural food. I avoid food items that are processed or genetically modified.
My typical breakfast is four to six egg whites with spinach and avocado. Lunch could be a meat-based dish with vegetables and seeds. An example is salmon with lettuce and pumpkin seeds.
Dinner is similar.
In between meals, I usually take a drink with branch-chained amino acids or a protein shake.
Q What are your indulgences?
A Every weekend, I indulge in Indian food, such as fish tikka, tandoori chicken and naan bread.
Q What do you do to relax?
A My husband and I are both freelance personal trainers. So, when we have free time, we go to the movies. I'm a big fan of Indian movies as they are full of adventure, songs, dances and colours.
Q What are the three most important things in your life?
A My faith, my family and my health.
Q And what are the least important things?
A Negative remarks, gossip and negative people - those who zap the energy out of you.
Q What's your favourite part of your body?
A Definitely my legs. It surprised a lot of gym-goers and bodybuilders when I tell them that I don't do squats due to my slipped discs.
Q What is the most extreme thing you have done in the name of fitness?
A During my preparation for the South-east Asian bodybuilding championships last June, I ate only plain chicken breast meat and broccoli every day for six months, with almost zero carbohydrates.
It was tough because I had to train at a very high intensity while in a calorie-deficit state.
Q What do your family and friends say about your fitness regimen?
A My mother was very receptive about me going to the gym because I was thin and frail. She was happy to see me putting on healthy weight.
My friends and colleagues were very discouraging. But my mother gave me all the support I needed.
Q How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphernalia at home?
A I am a shoe freak. Given that I love training my legs so much, I have different shoes for different workout purposes. I have a few running shoes and cross trainers, and other shoes for weight lifting and power lifting. Recently, I've been buying bodybuilding shoes from overseas.
Q Do you think you are sexy?
A Yes. Strangely, I've been "hit on" by both men and women before.
See more photos of Doreen Yeo in the gallery below.
This article was first published on Dec 1, 2015.
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