The winner of Shape Fit Girl 2018 coolly conquers whatever life throws at her, be it financial woes, a failed business partnership, and gaining 10kg over eight months from stress plus emotional eating.
<b>FIT FASHION</b> Ivy Park cotton hooded top, $89.90 and matching shorts, $59.90, both from Topshop. Classics Traditionnels Sneakers, $129, from New Balance (Paragon).
<b>FIT FASHION</b> Rye bikini set, US$180 and P.E Nation quilted jacket, US$259, both from www.netaporter.com
In many ways, Roxanne Gan is a star. On Instagram (@roxanne_yoga), she has an impressive 118K followers and growing, most of who follow her for yoga tips and tutorials, as well as her fitness and body transformation journey. (More on that later.)
Besides offering workout tips on social media, she’s also a full-time yoga instructor at Virgin Active, where she teaches classes and does yoga programme planning. This new position comes after her yoga and fitness teaching stints at Hom Yoga, now defunct Affinity Yoga, True Fitness, True Yoga, Pure Yoga and private clubs over the last seven years.
Her fitness credentials are amazing and life smooth-sailing, but the road to success was not easy. In her early twenties, Roxanne struggled with almost every aspect of her life: studies, finances, relationships, fitness, diet and body image.
“It went downhill after I exited a relationship in 2009,” she shares. To refrain from dwelling on it, she threw herself into exercise, doing a mix of running, yoga and body combat for two hours a day, six times a week.
All those workouts did not stop her from piling on weight, as she neglected her diet, often binging on junk food and fast food due to stress. As an undergrad majoring in economics and finance at the Singapore Institute of Management, she dreaded studying, and had to take on various part-time jobs – such as giving tuition and teaching spinning classes – to finance her private school fees.
“I was doing what my parents expected of me, to get a degree before finding a stable job. But I’ve never been strong academically, so those three years of university were painful,” she recalls.
In eight months, her weight ballooned from 48kg to 58kg – the heaviest she’s ever been. “My self-esteem was at an all-time low. I just wanted to hide at home every day. If I had to go out, I would put on the baggiest clothes.”
Despite exercising more, the extra kilos did not budge. That weight loss crisis lasted four years, until Roxanne made some life-changing decisions.
Fast forward to today, she’s a figure of inspiration, from her toned physique to clear-headedness to disciplined lifestyle. “My friends used to tell me that life would get harder and I would gain even more weight after turning 25, but it’s the opposite for me. Things picked up at 25 – I’ve never been fitter, healthier and happier than now,” says Roxanne, who turns 29 in December. (Did we mention, she’s also a glowing bride-to-be?)
After a day of hanging out with her for this cover shoot, and having a heart-to-heart talk over Toast Box toast and iced milo (she loves her food as much as we do!), we gleaned the following wisdom from this Shape Fit Girl.
1. MANAGE YOUR STRESS LEVEL
Stress is a trigger for many things, including weight gain and diseases. And Roxanne is a walking testimony. “Whenever I go through a stressful or unhappy period, my weight goes up,” she says, referring to those four years when she struggled to lose weight despite exercising excessively.
2. DO MORE OF WHAT YOU LOVE…
and less of what you don’t. For Roxanne, it meant veering away from an office job after graduating. “After taking up yoga in 2009, I had dreams of teaching and eventually setting up my own studio. I didn’t want a corporate life.” That’s what made Roxanne pack her bags for India to do yoga teacher training in 2011.
3. NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE IF YOU TRY
When Roxanne started doing yoga to get over a failed relationship, little did she expect to fall in love with it. A year later, she was inspired to practise challenging poses like headstand at home, after watching others do it in class. The going was tough – she fell and landed badly once, with battle scars on her right leg to prove it – but she mastered the tricky inversion after 1.5 years of training. “Yoga has shown me that it’s possible to overcome my fears, as long as I believe in myself.”
WHENEVER I GO THROUGH A STRESSFUL OR UNHAPPY PERIOD, MY WEIGHT GOES UP.
<b>FIT FASHION</b> Polyester Elastane Med Impact Evolve Crop top, $69, Nylon Elastane Determination Crop Tights, $89, Polyester Accel 2.5 Shorts, $39, and Running Course Shoes, $149, all from New Balance (Paragon).
4. BUT YOU SHOULD ALSO LEARN TO LET GO
In 2014, Roxanne founded a yoga studio with two friends. Running a studio was her dream, but she soon learnt that it wasn’t meant to be. She didn’t see eye to eye with her business partners, which led to frequent arguments that left her drained and depressed. “After hanging on for six months, I decided to leave the business and go back to teaching yoga full-time. I told myself not to let other people (and what they thought) affect me. That was my turning point, and one of the best decisions I’ve made. Within months, I felt happier and people commented that I looked better.”
5. NEVER SETTLE IN YOUR COMFORT ZONE
This is one mantra Roxanne swears to live by, after discovering crossfit recently. “My close friend Miryam Acosta (a yoga and fitness instructor) convinced me to give crossfit a shot, for its strength- and endurance-building benefits. After one session, I was hooked. Now, I wake up early to do crossfit every weekday morning. I love the motivating vibes, and how the workout varies every day to target different muscles. It’s changed my perception of fitness.”
6. LESS IS MORE
In the past, Roxanne spent two hours working out every day. But after she started doing crossfit, her workout duration has been condensed to one hour a day – and with better results. “By doing a wide range of strength and strength-based cardio exercises in a short period, I’ve become a lot leaner. In six weeks, my muscles became stronger and more defined,” she says. Her crossfit session comprises 10 minutes of warm-up, 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity moves, 10 to 15 minutes of partner work, plus plenty of explanation and coaching in between.
7. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY
While Roxanne can pretzel herself into you-name-it yoga pose, you will not catch her in the extended puppy pose, or any move that requires putting pressure on the back of her neck. “I injured my neck after falling from a chin stand. Since then, I’ve avoided exercises like tumbling and somersaulting that put my neck at risk,” she says. Diet-wise, Roxanne is all about eating intuitively. While she usually sticks to coffee, eggs and toast with peanut or almond butter for breakfast, and brown rice with chicken or salmon with eggs and veggies for lunch, she eats whatever she craves for when it comes to dinner. “It could be my favourite fried rice with eggs, Thai fried tang hoon with eggs, quesadillas, tacos, or order-in pizza. I’ll not let myself feel deprived. Life is all about balance and sustainability.”
8. BE YOURSELF, EVEN ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Roxanne attributes her Instagram success to the following: “I’m real and relatable. I’m me 100 per cent of the time, mostly without makeup. Instead of advocating perfection, I show others my true self on social media, flaws and all. I want to encourage my followers to be who they are, and help them find hope through seeing my fitness and body transformation journey.”
9. LIFT WEIGHTS
Take it from Roxanne, who has seen her biceps and triceps shape up since she started weight training. “Girls should really lift more weights. It makes a difference to your upper body strength and overall proportions – you won’t regret it. And no, you won’t become bulky!”
<b>FIT FASHION</b> Tory Sport printed TOP, US$95, P.E Nation jogger pants, US$128, Tory Sport jacket, $US215, all from www.netaporter.com. Classics Traditionnels Sneakers, $129, from New Balance (Paragon).
10. THINK LIKE A WINNER
Even before Roxanne learnt about her Shape Fit Girl win, she was already a champion. “Being able to advance from the shortlisted 20 to 10, and eventually ﬁve ﬁnalists, I know in my heart that I’m already there, doing what a Shape Fit Girl should be. Even if I didn’t win, I wouldn’t sweat over it,” she shares. “Of course, this win gives me more validation and motivation to keep going. I’m very happy about it!”
I WANT TO ENCOURAGE MY FOLLOWERS TO BE WHO THEY ARE, AND HELP THEM FIND HOPE THROUGH SEEING MY FITNESS AND BODY TRANSFORMATION JOURNEY.
PHOTOS VEE CHIN ASSISTED BY PHYLLICIA WONG
STYLING DOLPHIN YEO
ART DIRECTION RAY TICSAY
MAKEUP GINGER LYNETTE, USING SHU UEMURA
HAIR EILEEN KOH, USING KEVIN MURPHY/HAIR PHILOSOPHY
PHOTO (LEFT) ANGELA GUO
HAIR JENNY LEE AND NORMAN CHAN FROM MONSOON USING SCHWARZKOPF PROFESSIONAL