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HFMD – Hand Foot and Mouth Disease

HFMD is a viral infection common in young children in Singapore that results in a blistered rash, commonly on the hands, feet and mouth, but also in the nappy area. It could also stand for How to Freak-out Mums and Dads.

After five years with under-fives in Singapore, I thought we had scraped through unscathed. Without infection we had survived four kindy outbreaks, three condo outbreaks and seven birthday parties with an after-party message that another guest had been diagnosed. After infection kids are contagious for about a week before the tell-tale rash is visible, therefore coming into contact with contagious kids is unavoidable.

Last week our lucky streak came to an end when we noticed a nasty rash that couldn’t be anything else. A week previous she had a few hours of fever that only required one dose of paracetemol and during the week she had complained of a sore throat a couple of times, but nothing that stopped her from eating or playing as usual. Five days after the fever I noticed one small blister under her lip which I now wish I had paid more attention to, then two days later we noticed the rash on her bottom.

From there it was a trip to the GP to confirm, then the embarrassing task of notifying the kindy and all the parents of kids we had played with in the past week. Having received these messages plenty of times myself I know how unwelcome they are, but they were received with grace and wishes for a speedy recovery.

Fortunately my daughter has contracted a very mild case, some kids we know have been much more unwell and uncomfortable, with a more prolonged fever and painful mouth and throat ulcers. After the worry that we might have infected other kids, the most unpleasant part for us is home quarantine. Playdough anyone?

Once the rash has healed we will return to the GP for a certificate stating that she is well and able to return to school.

HFMD is legally notifiable in Singapore which means that medical practitioners and schools must notify the ministry of health of HFMD outbreaks. Child care centres, kindergartens and schools should be aware of HFMD, since they can be shut down if they exceed a certain number of cases. Most conduct temperature checks and visual inspections on arrival as a precaution against HFMD.

HFMD Symptoms:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • ulcers in the throat, mouth and tongue
  • headache
  • rash with vesicles (small blisters 3-7 mm) on hands, feet and diaper area. The vesicles are typically on the palm side of the hands the sole side of the feet and very characteristic in appearance. The rash may also be present on the buttocks, arms and legs.
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting and/or diarrhoea

Potential Complications:

  • Dehydration due to painful ulcers preventing drinking or vomiting/diarrhoea

Complications such as brain, lung or heart infections may occur occasionally, usually due to the EV 71 virus and can be serious. Some signs and symptoms of complications include:

  • severe headache, giddiness and neck stiffness
  • disorientation, drowsiness and/or irritability
  • fits
  • breathlessness or turning blue

Source: Singapore Health Promotion Board

Dressing your Kids in Singapore

Cool, comfortable and stylish – these are my prerequisites for dressing my kids, however, in Singapore, this is a challenge. With dramatic disparities in sizing and style, we can find ourselves tearing our hair out just trying to find quality cotton undies for our monkeys, let alone complete outfits. So where to go? What do do?

It is really hard to find good quality, natural fibers and unembellished clothes for kids here in Singapore. We usually find ourselves buying up two sizes, and even then, the fit is never quite right. It is especially hard for the tween market – many find themselves having to shop in the adult department, which is sometimes not so age appropriate. And then of course, they grow, so we find ourselves with this challenge every few months.

So a challenge? Yes. Impossible? No. Here are my top picks for online and in-store shopping to keep your kids cool and chic!

In-store:

Choosing Aussie and American brands that have stores here are a great option. The brands I really love are Gap Kids, Esprit Kids and Zara Kids.

For shoes there is a great boutique in Tanglin Mall called Boutique Nicole. She has a great range of quality leather kids’ shoes from baby sizes right up to school shoes. Brands include Mod, Bibi and, my favorite, Aster.

Mother care is a great store for the new expat Mum. When I first arrived in Singapore it was so nice to be able to go to an Aussie store with familiar brands like Walnut shoes, Tommy Tippee bottles and Zoggs swimwear.

Online:

Great online options from Australia are Peter Alexander for PJ’s and Country Road – one of my all-time favourite brands for my kids. They both ship to Singapore and the best thing is you can do a shop for the whole family, all in one go. Hey, it’s economical to take advantage of the flat delivery charge right?

Online, some of the best brands you can register with are Foxy Sales and Wanted Labels.

The girls work with European brands and have pop-up boutiques every day, so you get a great mix of brands that have very limited quantities coming into Singapore and are all exclusive to Foxy Sales here in Singapore. Beautiful fabrics, great styles, unique and best of all, great deals, some sales are up to 80 per cent off – but you have to be quick, the flash sales last for only five to seven days. The good news keeps getting better: They don’t just do kids clothes, but loads of other kids accessories and, you guessed it, something for Mum. I love their Nat and Nin Leather bags from Paris and, for something special in accessories, check out Sur Les Toits De Paris – which means to dance of the rooftops of Paris. It’s like shopping on Champs-Elysees without having to leave the house. Best of all, its free to become a member.

You don’t want to be that mum whose kids look back at the clothes you put them in and say “mum, what were you thinking!” Opt for more quality, less quantity and your kids will stand out from the crowd for all the right reasons.

This article was originally published in Jan 2013.

INFO:

Aster – Level 2, shop 24/25 at Tanglin Mall.

Mothercare – Stores across Singapore www.mothercare.com.sg

Foxy Sales – www.foxysales.com (checked on 8 June 2018 and no longer answers)

Peter Alexander – www.peteralexander.com.au

Country Road – www.countryroad.com.au

Dealing with Nut Allergies in Singapore

Steven Baxter writes about living in Singapore with a child with a nut allergy.

My family had made the compulsory trip to Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar with the latest round of visitors for the obligatory Singapore Sling.

As anyone who has been there knows, the place is scattered with peanuts and peanut shells. Most wouldn’t bat an eyelid at the innocuous legumes strewn everywhere, but for my seven-year-old daughter Alexandra, a place like this is a potential killer.

She has a severe allergy to peanuts, which means any contact with them can cause her throat to close up and she can’t breathe.

So to remove the danger, I quickly moved the peanuts away from our table and sat down for a drink. But as we waited for our order, I noticed Alexandra getting droopier and droopier, rubbing her eyes, sniffling, itching her skin as it got blotchier and blotchier. It suddenly dawned on me that the cushions on the chairs must have been infested with peanut dust.

We left our guests to their Singapore Slings and escaped to the freshness of the outside terrace. A quick wash in the bathroom, a smothering for everyone with hand sanitiser and a quick trip to the chemist in Raffles City for some medicine and we were okay.

It was big kick up the bum for us, and a reminder that in Singapore we need to do more than stay away from Satay Street.

Our family moved to Singapore four years ago, and living in the Lion City carries some unique challenges for the allergy sufferers among us.

As well all know, many things in Singapore are expensive – and those with allergies can add EpiPens to the list. An EpiPen (also known as an epinephrine autoinjector) is a medical device used to deliver a measured dose of adrenaline to treat acute allergic reactions.

In Australia, EpiPens cost roughly $35 each. Here they cost upwards of $100 each. On the plus side, the Australian government restricts the number of EpiPens you can have at any one time to two, here, Alexandra’s school has two EpiPens on site at all time, plus of course we need one too.

Choosing a school, too, was a challenge.

When choosing a school for Alexandra here in Singapore (her first school), their allergy plan was a big influence. Two of the schools we visited were quite impressive, until we heard “no, we don’t have any kids with allergies so we don’t have a policy. But if your daughter comes here we will get everyone trained and implement one”.

Ah, no thanks. The culture of a “nut free school” makes all the difference – and so we joined the Australian International School.

Another uniquely Singaporean challenge is having a helper who understands the risks. I drilled into our helper that we don’t have any nuts in our house, and she couldn’t either – and she was great. Until one day at the playground, another helper from our condo gave Alexandra some biscuits. I happened to wander down to the playground as Alexandra was still eating the biscuit. Straight away I jumped on my helper – “where did that come from?” “Did you check the packet?” “Does it have nuts?” “Do you know what happens if Lexi eats nuts? Her throat closes up and she can’t breathe”. Fortunately it didn’t have any nuts – but my helper was always much more careful after seeing my usually mild mannered wife’s reaction.

Finally, living in Singapore gives us all the wonderful opportunity to travel, and the great experiences travel brings. But, for us, this also brings new challenges to manage Alexandra’s allergy. Malaysia and Thailand have been the trickiest so far: In Thailand, we (perhaps naively) attempted to get Pad Thai with no peanuts. No problem, there were no peanuts on top. But when we tried the taste test, the sauce was still laced with peanuts.  It can be tough to manage a nut allergy, but with a little care, life can continue as normal.

This article was originally published in July 2013.

High Tea – Top 5


The Rose Veranda, Shangri-La Hotel, 22 Orange Grove Rd, Tel 6213 4486

The influences of British colonialism can still be felt throughout Singapore – whether it’s architecture, street names or through English as the dominant language. But probably the most English of all lingering influences is the quaint notion of high tea. Quaffing Earl Gray while munching on cucumber sandwiches or jam scones has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years – and Singapore’s plethora of high-end hotels have made the most of offering tiers of cakes and other treats to those who want to get dressed up for an afternoon of feeling fabulous.One such place is The Rose Veranda, in the Shangri-La Hotel. It has been an institution for afternoon tea since its inception in 1991. The refurbished lounge offers a refreshing, contemporary look and enhanced dining options, cementing its status as the preferred venue for leisurely afternoons.Look forward to a high tea spread that features international and local delights or a three-tier English afternoon tea set. The Rose Veranda presents a choice of 164 premium tea blends for your pleasure.Afternoon high tea is served in two seatings on weekends and public holidays.

The Landing Point, Fullerton Bay Hotel, 80 Collyer Quay, Tel 6597 5277

Great views over the water, and they do both sweet and savoury well.

Brassiere Les Saveurs, St Regis Hotel, 29 Tanglin Rd, Tel 6506 6866

Interior fit for a king or queen, with an impressive menu to match.

Tea Lounge, The Regent Hotel, 1 Cuscaden Rd, Tel 6733 8888

Dependable, with plush armchairs to sink into after three-tiered indulgence.

Tiffin Room, Raffles Hotel, Raffles Hotel Lobby, 1 Beach Road, Tel 6412 1816

If you live here, you may look further afield, but for entertaining visitors, can it get any more “Singapore Colonial” than high tea in Raffles’ famous tea room?

This article was originally published in July 2013.

Netball – From Strength to Strength


 

In the past seven years, the amount of girls playing has increased from 60 to 350 (see Note below). All that growth is fantastic for the league, but is a big jump in the workload for new ANZA Netball boss Christine Elliot.

“We needed to change the way things were being run. Two amazing ladies steeped down from running netball for the last five years at the end of our last season.

“We needed to share the load, increase participation in decision making, bring in varying opinions and expertise in the aim to strengthen committee and overall improve the governance of ANZA Netball”.

And the aim? “With these building blocks in place, we think we could grow to overtake Soccer as the most popular ANZA sport in Singapore”.

To do that we would need many more courts but small problems like this are nothing for this talented team of over achievers!

But what is the benefit that you will see on a Saturday morning? The real aim is to see improvement in the way netball coaching is delivered to these budding Silver Ferns or Aussie Diamonds. They have established new roles such as coaching coordinator who will help develop the coaching programme, arrange courses and seminars for coaches and generally standardise the way the coaching is performed across the ANZA group. With the transient nature of Singapore we want our young netballers to develop skills so that they could walk onto any court around the world and do ANZA Netball proud.

They are also developing the position of age group coordinator. This person will be in charge of their age group, picking the teams, arranging the coaches, allocating courts and generally dealing with all queries and problems within their groups. Again sharing the load this person will be in charge of 30 to 70 girls (and their parents) and will be able to support the development of coaches in their age-group, arrange mini-tournaments and perhaps even outside matches when available.

Finally, there is a plan to provide a full representative programme for girls 10 and over so those girls who want to go further with their netball can participate in more games, a higher level of training and hopefully strive to be leaders in ANZA and other school teams that they may be involved in. There has been a pilot programme for rep teams in the past year and the feedback in general has been very positive. Now all that is needed is more volunteers to take it to the next stage and open it up across all the older age groups.

But we have to remember, all this does not happen without a huge amount of time given by many volunteers, and we still need more help. Specifically we are still looking for a treasurer, equipment coordinator, first aid coordinator and secretary. So if you have a couple of hours spare a week and you want to see ANZA Netball continue to grow and improve then we are waiting for your call!

This article was originally published in August 2013. Note: Since the time of publishing the number of girls playing Netball has increased to 442 as at January 2014.

Hot To Trot

Don’t have a mare? There are plenty of equestrian options for horse lovers in Singapore.

Aussies and Kiwis are renowned for their horse-riding prowess. So the good news for equestrians moving to small, tropical Singapore is that you don’t have to put your riding skills out to pasture.

Several centres offer all things horsey, and your steed may well originally be from Down Under, and your instructor as well.

At least five places here offer anything from courses for child beginners, to coaching for experienced riders to even being able to stable your own horse. They are Bukit Timah Equestrian Centre, the Singapore Polo Club, the National Equestrian Centre, Horsecity and Singapore Turf Club Riding Centre. A short drive away in Malaysia there is also Riders’ Lodge at Sedenak, and the Bale Equestrian and Country Club.

The polo club requires you to pay a membership fee but at the others there are courses for the general public.

I have to confess having soft spot (actually, a small hardened scar on my elbow) for Bukit Timah Saddle Club. I was a term member for several years.

The scar came courtesy of a refined bay mare called Scruples whose buck during a dressage lesson shot me out of the saddle. I landed elbow-first on the end of my whip. It was Scruples’ unscrupulous way of telling me that the whip was unnecessary, thank-you.

The club’s location is eye-popping, being a drive along verdant fields and a post-and-rail-lined grass track once used by racehorses, to the quaint clubhouse and stables, hardly a high-rise can be seen.

Coaching includes blocks of four 45-minute lessons costing $426.60 all up. Parents of pony-mad children will like its “own a pony” programme where you get a dedicated steed for several days during the school holidays.

Nearby in the Turf City area is Horsecity, which has over 150 horses and ponies, many of whom are antipodeans.

If retro rustic is not your thing, the Singapore Polo Club offers a more glamorous side to the horsey scene. While their children have their lessons, mums can adjourn to the paddock-side bar for a gin and tonic, and admire dashing men galloping around on the polo field.

Another notable thing about the club is that it has a covered arena for its lessons so you can trot about in all weather.

Equestrians can also hoof it to the National Equestrian Centre. Its key mission is to groom Singapore riders to be international competitors, but it is open to the general public. It has 51 horses, including some from Australia and which were used in the Youth Olympic Games. Well-known experts from Down Under visit to hold riding clinics, including Brook Dobbin, Clive Reed and Paula Hamood.

Then there’s the Singapore Turf Club Centre, next to the racecourse at Kranji. While known for its co-curricular activities for Singapore children, expats can trot along, too. There are group lessons at $90 each for 45 minutes, beginners’ trail rides at $50 for a 20-minute session, and individual dressage and show jumping tuition.

One resident of the club is Comet, a stocky, dun-coloured pony with heart-melting, dark eyes. He hails from Gisborne, in New Zealand, and looks like a Gisborne-bred mare I once owned in New Zealand, who was what horsey people call a “good doer”, earning the name “Guts”.

Guts has long gone to glory, but with all these riding options now here, I am tempted to dust off the riding helmet and get back in the saddle again…

This article was originally published in August 2013.

SINGAPORE

  • Bukit Timah Riding Club: 51 Fairways Drive. Riding school: ph. 6466-2782; email: ridingschool@btsc.org.sg
  • The Singapore Polo Club: 80 Mt Pleasant Road ; ph the Riding Department, 6854-3980; email: riding@singaporepoloclub.org (Note: there is a long wait-list)
  • Singapore Turf Club Centre: 1 Equestrian Walk (Off Woodlands Avenue 3); ph. 6879 3600; email: ridingschool@btsc.org.sg
  • The National Equestrian Centre: 100 Jalan Mashhor ( off Andrew Road); ph. 9753-8739; email: info@equestrian.sg

ACRES Wildlife Rescue – Guardians of Nature

A three-metre albino python, seven large iguanas and several rare star tortoises are just some of the animals housed at an enclosure in north-western Singapore. But this is no zoo – these animals are all victims of the illegal wildlife trade in Singapore.

These exotic creatures live at ACRES, an association which rescues wild animals which have been smuggled to Singapore from Asia and beyond.

ACRES was created in 2001 by a group of Singaporeans to help animals from ill-treatment and the black market. Its mission is to create a world where animals are treated as sentient beings. Their goal is to have a collaborative and sustainable animal protection movement in Asia.

The team there also rescue wild animals such as snakes from residential areas and educate the wider community about animal welfare.

Education is a very important part of what ACRES does, says Louis Ng, ACRES founder and chief executive. There has been a major change in the attitudes of the younger generations of Singaporeans, who are more and more conscious and concerned about their flora and fauna, says Luis.

As Louis says, “we are their guardians and it is our moral responsibility”.

It’s happening at a government level, too. In July, the minister for law and foreign affairs, Mr K Shanmugam will take feedback from any people in Singapore who are concerned about wildlife welfare to see how they can progress together.

If some people are making efforts, unfortunately smuggling is a reality in Singapore. Even the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, which ensures trade does not threaten wildlife species which are in extinction, Singapore is one of the biggest hubs of illegal wildlife trade in Asia.

To spread the word, ACRES relies heavily on social media, mainly Facebook. But they also use face-to-face interaction to make people realise the danger for animals. ACRES doesn’t have a lot of volunteers to help them, and are calling for people in the community to help out.

Anyone can help ACRES by being a volunteer, building enclosures for the animals on weekends, cleaning cages and looking after the animals. People can also help the association by making donations, coming to their events or just talk to people about ACRES and what their jobs consist of.

ACRES’ workers also try to expand the association where it can have a bigger impact. They already work in Laos, Thailand, and Malaysia, and are trying to get established in Indonesia. Nevertheless, their first target is Singapore because other countries in Southeast Asia take Singapore’s lead.

This article was originally published in August 2013.

INFO

ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre (AWRC) 91 Jalan Lekar Singapore 698917

info@acres.org.sg

Selecting A School

It is a truth, not always acknowledged, that all schools, for-profit or otherwise, are in the business of selling. And the language of the sales pitch is almost identical: on offer is a holistic experience that moulds the whole child with an emphasis on 21st Century Learning, where the focus is not simply on academics (although of course these are important) but on service, outdoor education and a values-based education. Whole paragraphs of one school’s promotional material can be lifted verbatim from one website into another and no one would know the difference. The first task, therefore, of any parent choosing a school is to look through the glossy image that the school projects and see the actuality. How, then?

The most important consideration is whether the school fits your child’s academic and social needs. The school admissions staff may know the school, but you know your child, and what’s right for one family may not be right for the next. Don’t be too persuaded by what ‘everyone else’ is doing.

Having said that, word of mouth is one of the most important indicators. What are the parents and the students, saying? How enthusiastic are they about the programme on offer and, crucially, the teachers who are delivering it? Are they happy that the ‘promise of the pitch’ is reflected in the reality of the experience? The answers to these questions will begin to crystallize your impressions of the school.

Visiting a school is essential but be aware that those giving the tour are people who believe in the product. Try to visit the school during break time. The informal chatter of students will reveal their engagement in the day-today process of learning. See beyond the facilities. Students do not remember state of the art buildings and shiny technologies. They remember their teachers, they remember their lessons. So ask hard questions, particularly about staff. For example, ask about staff turnover, ask about how regularly they are appraised and what the school policy is on professional development.

Insist on evidence that the school does what it says it does. Ask about the things that are important to you and your child. Such evidence is not simply a matter of results or what universities students get into. Look for the value-added experience. Find out how many activities take place each week, how many representative sports teams there are, how many students take instrumental music classes. And don’t stop there. Find out how many opportunities there are to connect with the local community, if there are student-led empowerment projects, how many student hours are spent oversees. These, above all, are the crucial and meaningful indicators of the holistic education that every parent wants for their child.

By ensuring you examine what’s important to your family before you start the process, you will be in a position to make the best-informed decision you can about which school is the best for your child.

Jonathan Carter

Director of Admissions

UWCSEA

Photo courtesy of UWCSEA

In Pursuit of the Outdoors

In the past decades there has been a growing movement toward Outdoor Education for both schools and businesses as we seek to develop character in our young people and cohesion within our teams. Adventure programmes have become popular with schools and are now a regular feature for most students at some point within their school year.

An aim of modern education is to develop the whole child and many schools opt for a “holistic” approach to fulfill this goal. For most schools, our motives for developing outdoor education programmes are not to instill camping, climbing, biking or kayaking skills, as interesting as they may be. The reality is that the vast majority of our young people are unlikely to need these specific abilities and competencies later in life. What we are aiming it is a much more loftily goal. By creating experiences in the outdoors we are striving toward developing a set of personal skills and qualities that are highly sought after in schools, universities, and the modern workplace. Resilience, self-management, and collaboration have become the hallmarks of adventure programmes around the world and are in demand now more than ever.

Outdoor experiences can ignite a passion within young people to challenge themselves, they can increase their resilience through trials that demand they maintain, recover, or improve their physical or emotional state and support resilient states of others around them. These can be times of self-discovery, self-expression, and satisfaction that are accelerating their personal and social development.

The educationalist, Kurt Hahn, thought that “expeditions can greatly contribute towards building strength of character. Joseph Conrad in Lord Jim tells us that it is necessary for a youth to experience events which ‘reveal the inner worth of the man; the edge of his temper; the fibre of his stuff; the quality of his resistance; the secret truth of his pretenses, not only to himself but others.’”

It is within these challenges that we develop our character and personal qualities. The wilderness has been dominated through centuries of struggle, danger and discomfort. Arguably, it has now been conquered and the struggles of the past no longer exist. We seem now to miss the opportunities for growth that these struggles provided. We recognize the skills and qualities that individuals and teams developed through those trials and that are now no longer available in our confortable everyday lives.

We do not have the opportunity in our modern age to struggle within our environment. Our modern conveniences have made every attempt to mitigate the unpredictable and sometimes uncomfortable natural elements. We struggle when our ever-narrowing comfort zones are threatened with being too hot, too cold, too humid, or too dry. We see qualities emerge in students when they are in a different environments and faced with different stresses, well outside our typical everyday routines.

There is a special sense that one gets when remote and isolated in the outdoors. It is a sense of scale that provides a contrasting perspective from our daily confinement, surrounded by walls and tight spaces, and connected electronically to everything at all times. The experience in the outdoors is one of space and connectedness to nature. It is unfortunately an experience that is disappearing for most of our young people and is now usually accessed through programmes in Outdoor Education.

About the author

James Dalziel is the Head of UWCSEA’s East Campus. Prior to moving to UWCSEA, James was the Deputy Head at the Canadian International School in Singapore and a special programmes coordinator with the Durham Board of Education in Ontario, Canada.

James has taught in a variety of educational settings including special needs classrooms and outdoor education programmes with Outward Bound. He has Masters and Doctoral degrees in Education from the University of Western Australia with a focus on the leadership and management of change within international schools.

Photo courtesy of UWCSEA

Back on the Health Wagon

Michele Fernyhough has found a fast way to lose weight and feel great.

In early 2013, she decided to do a seven-day fast – a regime which bans all solid foods, which is one of the most effective forms of detoxifying the body. The 46-year-old, who is originally from Adelaide, wanted to do a fast to make a positive impact on her general health and well-being. “I had some general health issues and couldn’t get to the bottom of them. A fast would be a great idea to give it a re-boot.”

So she and some other like-minded people did a seven-day, liquid-only fast, which gives the digestive system a break from its daily routine from processing solids. The women would meet at Balanced Living every morning for a medical check-up, yoga, fruit and vegetable juices and more. “It was pretty much the same thing every day. Meet in the morning for a medical check-up and to have blood pressure taken, and to check for any health issues.” Then they’d drink some fresh vegetable juices ten they’d do a yoga session. Sometimes they’d meditate.

As time goes on, the body changes. According to Balanced Living, after thirty-six hours without food intake, the body automatically switches over from the digestive mode to the detoxification mode, a condition that most people have never experienced in their entire lives.

Digestion “takes a lot of work for the body,” says Michele. The liver is the main beneficiary. “The liver and kidneys get to work better when they’re not having to process all the food. The liver gets a chance to be cleansed.”

She could drink bulky shakes, to pick up toxins on the way through, drink vegetable broths and juices, drink coconut water and take supplements. The most important ingredient, though, was water. “That’s the most essential part of the whole thing. The more you drink, the fewer headaches you get.” Even though she could drink juices, didn’t the hunger become all-encompassing? “It’s really weird. I felt hungry in my mind but I’m not sure I felt it in my body.”

Michele realises how much her routine used to depend on meals. “Normally, my day is programmed around meals – preparing, eating and cleaning up. When I’m not in that cycle, it’s not getting filled up and emptied, when you’re the fast you’ve got lots of fluid going in but no bulk, in a way.”

It’s changed her in more ways than one. First, her dermatitis cleared up completely. “In seven days, my skin has completely cleared.”

She lost five kilograms in three weeks, first in the two-week preparation diet, cutting out all the stimulants like coffee, alcohol, processed foods, and then the week of the fast.

Her outlook on eating has also changed. “Coming off of it I’ve not got into eating again. I’ve got out of the habit of having a big meal. I’m full quicker. As well, “I found I’m enjoying simpler food now – salads I really like them on their own now, before it was something on side.”

It’s encouraged her to look after herself more. “I feel more focused now on taking care of my body and being kind to my body.”

While fasting can be an effective detox and a way to lose weight, well, fast, it may not be for everyone. Expat Kitchen managing director Annette Lang has some tips on eating for those who can’t give up solids. “Singapore offers a wonderful opportunity to feast on a wide range of authentic Asian cuisine at a very reasonable price. But alas our trusty food court and hawker centre food are filled with fat and sugar traps.” She finds an upswing in the number of people wanting to get fit and healthy in the New Year.

“There is always a huge prompt (especially in the months of January to March) to improve your food intake, fitness level and health after the festive season. Its natural we all feel guilty and want to shake off the excess plum pudding we put on. It’s hard to stay on a good food path and be motivated during this period.”

For those who start out with good intentions but slip back to old habits, Annette says, don’t be too hard on yourself. “It’s okay to fall off the fitness regime or have binge occasionally. Just pick yourself up and start again like it’s the New Year again. What usually motivates me is reminding myself about how great I feel after I do a workout.”

To keep a healthy evening diet, Annette can’t stress enough how important it is to do a weekly menu plan. “Always set out what evenings are going be your ‘out nights’ and what evenings are going to be ‘eat in, healthy nights’. Just be sure that the ‘stay home nights’ outweigh way the ‘going out nights’ and you should be okay.”

Eating’s only part of it, though. A good diet should be accompanied by an exercise plan, but people can fall of that wagon, too.

Julianne Walker, founder of Ready!Set!Go!, helps her clients get fitter and healthier through the company’s fitness programmes. She says people have to have realistic expectations of what they can achieve to avoid being disheartened or injured. “Some people are so enthusiastic and wanting to get fit that they do not prepare appropriately. They set unrealistic goals which are not sustainable and possibly start out with too much too soon.”

Those who used to be fit then take time off from fitness must understand they can’t resume their fitness regime where they left off, especially if the climate they trained in previously was very different to Singapore’s. “It’s best for them to take smaller steps to get back to where they left off, rather than one huge leap, Julianne says.

This article was originally published in March 2013.

INFO