Life goes beyond the digits on the scale and your body is capable of so much more! Yahoo’s #Fitspo of the Week series is dedicated to inspirational men and women in Singapore leading healthy and active lifestyles. Have someone to recommend? Hit Cheryl up on Instagram or Facebook!
Name: Benita Lim (@bentosayshello)
Occupation: Pilates and Barre Instructor
Food: Everything in moderation. I start my day with warm lemon water, coffee and a protein shake. As I teach every day, I usually try to bring food from home as it is more cost and time efficient for me to eat between classes, and it’s easier for me to include healthier carbs and vegetables. My diet always include eggs, some fruit and dark chocolate.
Exercise: I do a mixture of Pilates, Barre and some strength and HIIT (high-intensity interval training) classes throughout the week. I find that this combination has been really great for my posture, core strength, body awareness and in keeping me injury-free. I’ve recently been into swimming again as well because it helps to clear my mind and soak in the sun.
Q: When you were younger, were you active in sports?
A: I did rhythmic gymnastics, ballet, dance and swimming when I was younger. When I went to university in the UK, I was a lot more adventurous and did jiu jitsu - really challenging for me especially when I was training with guys who were much bigger than I was - and pole dance (not easy! huge respect for pole dancers).
You started ballet at a young age. What impact did ballet have on your life?
I believe it taught me to love movement and to move with grace and technique since I was young. Back then, it was just one of the many things my parents wanted me to learn, but today I’m truly so grateful that they took me to those classes. I continued adult ballet in university and though I’m no professional, those 1-2 hours in class allowed me to express myself through dance and it brought a lot of joy.
How did you get into Barre and Pilates?
I started Pilates 10 years ago with Blogilates on YouTube while I was finding different exercises to try. I progressed from there to studio classes for mat and reformer, and it’s one thing that has stuck with me throughout the years.
My sister was actually the one who introduced Barre to me - she figured it was a marriage of ballet and Pilates, both of which I loved, so I went to take a class and fell in love with it. I think I couldn’t walk for two days after my first class and remember huffing and puffing so much!
After I took a week of classes at WeBarre, somehow I knew I wanted to work there one day, although at that point I didn’t think to be an instructor. But, life happens in ways we least expect it; fast forward to today, I’ll be celebrating my third anniversary with WeBarre soon.
You left your corporate job to become a Pilates instructor.
When I started Pilates at 17, it was at a point in my life where I was experiencing eating disorder and had a very poor relationship with my body, to the point that I could not get my period for almost a year. I did Pilates initially as a way to lose weight, get toned etc. However, I realised that I was actually learning a lot about my body during my classes as a big aspect of Pilates is about body awareness and why we need to build strength in for example, our core, that isn’t for aesthetic reasons.
It was through being educated about my body and my own reading about nutrition, along with a very supportive family that I was able to recover. I am aware that there are many girls who were in similar shoes as I was, but I did not know how to help.
So I thought if I could share my knowledge and educate others about the importance of exercise aside from aesthetics like how the body works, and how being able to have a healthy and strong body is so valuable to the quality of our lives, then maybe fewer girls will experience what I did. And that was and is still the intention of why I left my full time corporate job to become a full time instructor.
At your peak, you can teach about 30 classes in a week. How do you take care of your well-being?
Good question - I am still trying to find the best way to sustain myself too. The priorities for me are to get at least about 7 hours of sleep a day, stay hydrated, have time for family and always have something new to learn.
There was a point when I was almost burnt out, and I realised it was because I didn’t make time for my own workouts consistently and time to learn new things. I started prioritising myself a little bit more - first by scheduling my workouts in so that I’ll stick to them, as well as time to watch Pilates or Barre videos, read, or listen to podcasts.
I teach a mixture of group and private classes and sometimes it’s more mental fatigue than physical. Having a solid class programme planned for them excites me to show up because I think (and hope) it will help them feel stronger or better, especially when they see me because of injuries or pain. Without being equipped with the knowledge or fresh ideas, it affects the quality of my classes and the ability to deliver my best.
When did you feel the least confident about yourself?
It was when I was a teenager and a boy I liked at that time called me fat. I was very self-conscious, afraid to eat and it severely affected my mental well-being and social life too. What helped was a graduation trip I took with my boyfriend and because travelling was already so expensive, I ate bread all the time to save money and realised food is fuel and not an enemy.
I also started to learn about exercise and nutrition and that helped me a lot as I got stronger and my focus changed. That said, the journey to recovery was long and it took a lot of patience and understanding from my family to accept my food choices during that period. A support system is really important.
Are you satisfied with your body now?
Yes of course, I work very hard to keep my body strong. Though sometimes I catch myself comparing my physique with other fitness instructors, but truth is I feel strong, more confident than before and my body doesn’t give me problems even though I’m standing and bending to assist my clients all day.
Honestly, I’m just thankful that I have a fully functioning body with a pair of arms and legs and I can walk, run and move around easily. That’s not something to be taken for granted. Also, it’s been a long hard road of finally being confident about my body and not being afraid to eat, so I’m really thankful for the people who have supported me to help me be in a good place.
Have you ever received any comments about your body?
When I was younger some friends will say I’m too thin and no boy will like that, some say I’m too fat and shouldn’t eat so much. It’s hard to please everyone so now I say, from one of my favourite quotes, “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind."
It’s really easy to compare yourself and that’s normal and ok, but ultimately it’s the heart that matters, not just how you look. As for my case, those comments might have contributed to where I am today so not too bad after all.