The Book of Healthy Love
In the wake of COVID-19's impact on the way we live, more people have become a little more conscious about their health and their lifestyles. Enter Talent Coach and Multi-Disciplinary Learning Designer Louise YT Phua, whose second publication Myrita2, a collection of sixteen delicious recipes designed to boost one's immune system, is one that is timely and brimming with positivity and light. This book also equips readers with tips, tricks and toolkits on food hygiene, food journal, hydration, physical activity and more.
We speak to Ms Phua and ask her to talk a little more about why she has decided to write this book, whether Singaporeans have a better understanding of what it means to self-care, and what readers can learn from her book.
Tell us a little about why you’ve decided to write this book.
First, the wake-up calls from several coaching clients and friends whom I encountered. They are high-flying corporate citizens with one thing in common. That is, their stellar careers came to a standstill due to their poor health. Their poor health were the outcomes of neglect and oversight. During their younger days, they took their health for granted and were lulled into the false assumption of being invincible. Until bad news struck.
Poor health arises from poor immunity. Immunity is protection from diseases. For those of us who live busy urban lifestyles, we now have easy access to a wide variety of instant gratification, including fast food, carbonated drinks, frozen meals, and microwavable items. Knowingly or unknowingly, the instant gratification may potentially harm our health in the long term. Twelve factors suppress our immunity - high-fat diet, alcohol, insufficient fruits and vegetables, lack of essential vitamins and minerals, no sex, smoking, too little time outdoors, grief, anxiety, certain medications, lack of sleep, and lack of exercise.
I, too, was not spared. For several years, I was plagued by constant outbreak of eczema and skin rashes. My hands, inside elbows, back of knees, and neck would be covered with large patches of itchy little bumps. Several visits to the dermatologists did not resolve my skin problem. The embarrassment and frustration adversely affected my emotional and mental well-being.
I researched medical news on eczema. I observed and studied my own diet and lifestyle. I read widely about food and nutrition, gut health, and life changes. Advocates of clean eating and slow food movement are vocal about the overuse of chemical substances in industrial farming methods and factory-processed food. Subsequently, I cut down most ultraprocessed foods from my diet. Additionally, I watched my stress level and eliminated fragrance from cosmetics and toilets. Gradually, my skin recovered.
Second, the significance of Teochew eating habits and how that has kept my family healthy. I am blessed to be born into a Teochew family. Before World War II, my grandparents migrated from Guangdong Province in south China in search of a better life for the family in Singapore.
With no exposure to other cultures, my paternal grandmother only knew how to cook Teochew dishes. Southeast Asian ingredients such as sambal belacan (chilli sauce), pandan (screw pine leaves), aloe vera, and nutmeg were unknown to her. Often, our family meals were painstakingly prepared from scratch. Ultraprocessed foods were not in my grandmother’s grocery shopping baskets. Her daughters, daughters-in-law, and subsequently granddaughters and great-granddaughters follow many of her culinary practices. Likewise, the male members of our family embrace clean eating. Our health has certainly benefitted from the Teochew eating habits.
Most of our family members live on diets with low sugar, low salt, and little oil. We favour the natural taste of fresh produce. Traditionally, Teochew cuisine embraces lighter cooking techniques, such as steaming, poaching, and quick stir-fries. Seasonings are used sparingly, primarily to enhance the natural freshness of ingredients during food preparation. Thus, Teochew dishes are usually prepared with light and clean soup bases instead of robust and complex flavours. Teochew cuisine is considered one of the healthiest Chinese cuisines due to its cooking philosophies and eating habits. This style of cooking emphasises clean eating for many centuries, long before it became trendy.
Third, the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of writing, the coronavirus was sweeping across the world, so Myrita2 is particularly handy. The human race is confronted by an unparalleled wave of uncertainty and gloom. In the absence of scientifically proven therapeutics and vaccines available at the time of writing, leading health experts recommend frequent washing hands with soap and wearing face masks when in public so as to combat COVID-19. Additionally, we are advised to maintain regular exercise and boost our immunity system by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, Myrita2 was born. It is a space to pause and ponder about how to improve one’s health and consequently prosper from the lifestyle changes. Myrita2 is a collection of sixteen recipes, using mostly fruits and vegetables, that I use at home to nourish my family and loved ones. These fruits and vegetables are natural remedies that are commonly available at most of our grocery stores. I am inspired by the rainbow diet and clean eating.
As the sage Plato once extolled, “Knowledge is the food of the soul.” This booklet is a handy guide with tips and toolkits on food hygiene, physical activity and hydration. These are carefully curated to help the self-directed earthling become a slightly healthier version of her or himself.
I dedicate Myrita2 to every earthling who has survived the COVID-19 pandemic. Hopefully, we have learnt important lessons to better care and appreciate ourselves, our communities, and Mother Earth. I believe when we grasp collectively with panic as a human race, there is hope for an exhale into a brighter future.
How different is Myrita2 in comparison to the previous installation?
Myrita was conceived as a space to pause, ponder and prosper. In our busy urban lives, how often do urbanites take a few steps back to mull over our thinking, feelings and what we are doing? Myrita is designed to cater to a variety of life projects or new priorities. Whether it is a new job, a new relationship or a new chapter in life, we encourage you to reach out to Myrita to construct your future self.
Myrita2 is a space to pause, ponder about health matters. “Health is Wealth” and staying healthy is foundation of achieving the big hairy ambitious goals you have set for yourself.
Both Myrita and Myrita2 can be used concurrently to achieve optimal results.
What are some interesting facts you’ve learnt over the course of researching and writing this book [Myrita2] ?
Health comprises of exercise, sports, diet, nutrition, lifestyle, environment, hygiene, healthcare, friends / family, stress management, and sleep. Given our busy urban lifestyle, it is not easy to keep a good balance of each contributing dimension. Perhaps, we may have to reconcile to do what we can, with whatever we have at each stage of our lives.
For me to write about each factor, it could have taken more months / years to come up with Myrita2. I recognise the limitations at the time of writing. Furthermore, it could also be overwhelming for non-health nuts to follow each dimension diligently.I remain open to further collaboration with health specialists for future editions.
Are Singaporeans better at understanding the concept of self-care after the pandemic, in your opinion?
50% may be more aware of health matters more seriously. It is challenging to achieve work-life balance, yet this group aspires to do so.
50% may remain ambivalent and continue with poor health habits. These may include a regular diet of carbonated soft drinks, instant noodles, fast foods, lack of exercise and physical activity, poor sleep, etc.
How different is this recipe book compared to other books in the market?
While writing Myrita2, I weaved in elements of mindfulness. I intentionally prompt the readers to observe the colours, sizes, shapes and smell of the food they are eating. This is intended to raise consciousness of observing our own diet and nutrition.
For most recipes, I included suggestions for replacement items. This is to cater to readers who may have different preferences, and availability of fresh ingredients in different locations could vary.
Additionally, I included health tips on hydration, physical activity, food hygiene, family games, food journal. Myrita2 encourages our readers to examine, explore, experiment and enhance our lifestyles and eating habits, so that we may become a healthier version of ourselves.
What do you hope people get out of this experience reading this book?
Better level of self-awareness and self-management. We learn when / how to press the pause buttons, and/or accelerate whenever necessary. Your health is in your own hands. With appropriate lifestyle habits, everyone can take charge of her / his own health outcomes.
As a result of the heightened self-awareness and self-management, we are more enriched with a healthy foundation, to take on new and bigger challenges in life.