A diligent practioner gets a good cardio-respiratory workout from forms practice. Qigong practice also helps him or her loosen the tendons and clears the energy channels to enhance health and fitness. Still, bad diet choices can be his or her unravelling. There is simply no way a practitioner can train enough to burn away the calories and inflammation-causing toxins that fried chicken and 2 bowls of rice per meal provides. We’re talking about 4000 to 6000 kilocalories a day.
The definition of an effective diet is one which provides energy on par levels to the person’s energy expenditure with enough nutrients and as little components as possible that can cause harm to health – too oily, too sugary, too salty, too starchy or artificial components.
Singapore may be a converging point of many cultures, but not all that food culture from foreign shores are suitable for our climate. Sichuan spicy steamboat, borsch and fish and chips for instance were certainly 'invented' to help people beat a dry cold winter. Not a diet we need on a regular basis.
Sorry folks, but for us tropic dwellers, the bulk of our diet should in fact be veggies and fruits. Fibrous plant foods have a cleansing cooling effect on our gut. As they say, cool as a cucumber. This cool purifying effect spreads to the bloodstream as well as the respiratory tract.
We need to balance different types of vegetables for the most balanced effect. Cucumbers and bittergourd carry the cold quality so we should just have a mild amount of it. Too much of cold can also upset the balance of the passive and initiative mind, the yin and yang qualities. Leafy vegetables such as spinach, lettuce and purple cabbage should make up a fair portion. Also, vegetables such as tomato, carrot and pumpkin have mild qualities and thus are good additions to the platter. Fruits on the other hand provides a wide range of vitamins and minerals. Personally, I like to balance out the crunchy or leafy vegetables in a salad with fruits that are smooth and soft to chew. Examples of these fruits are mango, soursop, avocado and bananas. These fruits are also pack high nutritional content.
If you already have bitter vegetables on your plate, you can balance off the pH value with sour fruits such as lemon, oranges or kiwi fruit. What I also like to add are grapes, the blueberries, pomegranate and the cherries.
Next up is the protein. For those who do not actually exert their muscles, it is recommended to keep the protein intake low. There is no need to eat like a power lifter if all you do is sitting in front of the computer all day long. The excess protein can accumulate and cause you some problems. The common misconception is that eating a lot meat will cause constipation. This really depends on individuals. The truth is, eating processed meat will cause constipation because the gut has more trouble digesting it. You will be fine if you are eating lean meat fresh from organic farms.
Generally, people who do exercise will need a certain amount of protein to repair and grow their muscle tissues. For martial artists however, we still would not require the level of proteins a power lifter does as we do not use maximal strength and very concentrated muscle activation. Bag striking and steady state cardio needs replenishment of carbohydrates more than protein. It’s very easy to gauge, if the activity you do doesn’t give you muscle soreness, then that doesn’t warrant you higher protein intakes.
A very important point I have to bring out is to refrain from taking refined carbohydrates such as yellow noodles, pasta and white rice. Corn starch and tapioca flour in gravy counts too. If you have to take, try not to exceed half a bowl, because that excess energy from inside your body is going to combine with the heat from your environment to cause you lots of problems. People from Northeastern China for instance eat lots of rice and flour products because their inner heat scatters easily into the surroundings. They spend half the year in temperatures under 10 degrees, totally unlike Singapore.
However you will still need a fair amount of carbohydrates for your daily activities. It is better to choose nutritious carbohydrate food sources. Good options are wholemeal bread, whole grain and buckwheat noodles. It is even better if you can get your carbohydrates through vegetables like yam and sweet potatoes.
On rest days we should stick strictly to a clean diet with mostly fruits and vegetables. A good tip for good nutrition is to listen to your stomach for hunger. There is no point eating when you don’t feel hungry. In fact the problem with urban lifestyle is that people do not feel hunger but they are so used to eating at fixed meal times. Furthermore, many people eat a lot of food to curb a little bit of hunger. Food should be proportionate to hunger!
That’s why it is best to snack in between light meals. For the average Singaporean, it is a little bit harder because the food vendors will give you a fixed amount. It is still possible, with options such as brown rice with 2 dishes at the mixed vegetable rice store, or wanton soup. Wanton soup or dumplings are great because they usually comes with veggies and have both carbs and protein, in just the right portions. It is not in Singaporean culture to carry lunch boxes, but why not? You are the boss of your own diet. Your friends and colleges should admire you for your healthy meals rather than find it weird. Lunch boxes take some time to prepare but it gives you control over what you have. Most importantly, it makes you feel happy and proud about having a quality diet.
It is still possible to get some healthy food choices in the hawker centre, below are some pictures of good examples. Some are healthier than others though. The habit and discipline will take some time to develop.