Ask SoheeFit: Edition #2

Hi Sohee, 

I came upon your blog by chance and I'm now a fan! I'm someone who is dedicated to eating healthy and exercising. I am 5 ft and weigh around 88 pounds. My BMI is underweight but  I like the way I am right now. My parents feel that the way I'm living now is not healthy and I am obsessed with my weight. They think I have an eating disorder and that I overexercise. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, meat and fat yet they say my diet is not complete as I don't consume rice! They said that I need carbs for energy and it must be carbs in the form of wheat, rice etc. I exercise at high intensity (Insanity bodyweight workouts) about 45 minutes 4 times a week. My goal would ultimately to get visible abs but right now I am just thin with only slightly visible abs (which only can be seen after a workout and is gone after a meal). I don't mind gaining some weight, but I want to gain muscle mass and not fat. My parents won't me consume any form of supplements eg. protein powders. I really need your advice on thinking and doing the right thing and to clear the misunderstanding between my  family. Hope to hear from you soon.

Hi! I would say that first off, you're probably undereating and you actually want to get in a good amount of carbs. I don't know what your physique looks like, but I'd venture to say that your body could really use a lot of white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and jasmine rice. So eat up.

At 88lbs, you can't have all that much muscle on you. As long as you're training hard and eating enough, you'll put on some quality muscle mass. I'd recommend that you stop the Insanity workouts and switch to heavy lifting 4x/week - that will give you much better gains. Right now the high intensity cardio you're doing is not doing much to sculpt your body.

Unfortunately you're going to have to come to a compromise with your parents. I myself struggled with my family to have them understand what I was doing, but they've now come around. Don't be afraid to eat with them at dinner. A heaping service of white rice, some kind of meat, and a side of veggies. That'll do.

Is there a difference between jasmine rice and white rice? In a typical Asian diet we normally only consume white rice.How would you define being too thin? because I read that to have visible abs you need to have a low body fat percentage. According to my weighing machine at home, my body fat is around 17%( which can't be truly accurate).I am petite and have a small frame so If I put on some weight will I look fat? How heavy should I lift, the reps and duration? So I should just stop cardio completely and switch to weight lifting instead? But if I eat a lot of rice or basically just eat alot and stop cardio won't I get fat? Should I resort to supplements and protein powders? I am actually very scared to gain weight(since I was quite chubby before) but I did not resort into purging or went to the extend of serious anorexia ( I do have mild symptoms though,but I think its quite normal for anyone who wants to live healthy?) though now I am trying to eat some "forbidden food" although I still feel that tinge of guilt. 

While Jasmine rice is typically the easiest to digest, other forms of white rice (Basmati or what have you) are perfectly fine as well.

"Too thin" is obviously relative and, particularly given that I have no pictures of your physique for reference, is difficult to say. So unfortunately I can't really give you the answer that you're probably looking for here, but I would venture to say that 5'2" 88lbs is incredibly small. As to the question of whether or not you'll look fat if you put on some weight, let me say this again: you're 88lbs. I'm going to be blunt here and say that you could probably stand to pack on at least 20lbs to your frame.

The Insanity workouts you've been doing haven't been helping; I'd recommend you ditch that completely. You'll be much better off nixing the cardio and focusing your time and energies on lifting heavy for a good number of months. Stick to compound movements and think 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps for most exercises. You should be training 3-4 times a week ideally with either a full body split or an upper/lower split, and no workout needs to last over an hour. Get in, get out.

Instead of piling on the carbs and quitting the cardio cold turkey, you need to go through a transition period unless you want to pile on a gob of fat instead of lean muscle tissue. I would add 150-200 calories to your current diet every week and slowly lower your cardio. Opt for some outdoor walking at least 3 days a week, preferably on your days off from training. There's nothing magic about protein powders and should definitely not be the bane of your diet. In fact, I think many people would be better off laying off protein powder entirely and relying on whole food sources instead.

[Tweet "Repeat after me: there is no forbidden food. There is no forbidden food."] While it's obviously the better decision to stick mostly to whole, unprocessed foods, the occasional ice cream cone isn't going to kill you. It's not. And it's not realistic to expect to be able to maintain a semblance of a social life without indulging in some burgers every once in a while. I think it's neither healthy (as much of a paradox as that may seem like) nor sustainable to go 24/7, 365 days a year eating strictly "clean" food. Don't do it and don't bother trying. Instead, allow yourself to relax maybe once a week. I recommend that you go out of the house and enjoy this meal with friends or family. As long as you don't binge, you won't have undone any progress. You'll also find that you'll be much happier like this.

This process will not take place overnight, and you'll find that the mental aspect of this will be much more difficult than the physical. You'll be fine. Your body probably will thrive on carbs, so embrace it. Don't be afraid to eat and definitely don't be afraid to hit it hard and heavy in the weight room.

Keep me posted on your journey. I'd love to see how you do!