Today's Valentine's Day, the 24th Valentine's Day that we are celebrating as Husband and Wife. And for the first time in the many years since we accidentally started our restaurant The Bento People in 2014, we are able to celebrate Valentine's Day today without having to spend the evening working at our restaurant serving dinners to lovey dovey couples, but that's only because Valentine's Day this year falls on a day where we are not open for dinner, so after working at the restaurant for the lunch service, we could take the rest of the day off to celebrate.
I first wrote this post in 2015 to publicly acknowledge and thank my long suffering wife Janice for her unwavering support in everything I do. How many times does a man need to thank his wife, the answer can only be - again and again and again .....Although this blog post was first written & shared in 2015, I have been updating this post regularly ever since and the last time I updated this post was after a particularly busy, stressful and tiring day.
That particular day started with us having to start our day very early in the morning at our medical clinic because we had a long list of patients scheduled for their lifestyle and dietary modifications consultations that morning. Whilst I busied myself being the doctor to my patients, my wife spent the morning being coordinator and coach to them, taking care of every details, from helping the them schedule their appointments to come back to see me, to arranging for blood and other laboratory or diagnostic tests for the patients to playing the role of a friend and coach to many of our patients in their journeys to change their lifestyle and dietary to control their diabetes, hypertension, cholesterol and weight problems and other chronic lifestyle-related conditions.
After that particularly busy morning in the clinic, we then rushed off together to work at our restaurant The Bento People during the busy lunch hour. So that day, like most other days, from 12 to 2pm, she played the role of the super efficient yet smiley host at the front counter serving the customers whilst I work in the hot kitchen cooking up the orders for the customers and that particular day last week was one of the busiest lunch service we ever had. After the last of the customers had left that day, I rushed off to the hospital to conduct some lifestyle and dietary modification programmes whilst my wife decided to stayed behind in the restaurant, because she had to work with the staff on many matters, including arranging their schedules, ordering supplies from our many ingredients suppliers as well as liaising with the customers who had sent in requests for bento deliveries for their company events and meetings.
By the time I finished my work at the hospital that day, it was already evening when I got back to the restaurant to meet up with her, When I got there, she was busy helping some customers, and as I waited to speak to her, I could see that she was looking a little tired but the first thing she told me when she saw me was to remind that she had arranged for me to speak to some of our patients who needed follow up, so I spent that evening busy with my patients whilst she continued to work at the front counter serving customers at our restaurant for the dinner service, And after the last of the customers had left, we both spent some time cleaning and packing up the place before finally leaving for home, but that was not before detouring to the supermarket to pick up some stuff that a supplier had failed to deliver that day but was urgently needed by the kitchen the next morning. By the time we reached home that evening, it was almost 10pm and we both immediately crashed onto our bean bags in the living room. I turned on the TV to watch some random programmes to chill, whilst she turned on her laptop to reply to emails from customers and patients because she didn't have enough time to deal with them till she reached home. Soon she fell asleep on the bean bag whilst working on her laptop,. As I looked at her asleep, obviously exhausted, I felt a mixed sense of awe and gratitude for all that she had done and was continuing to do to support all the different things, some crazier than others, that I had done and was doing.
Hence the frequent updates to this 3 year old blog post. I wanted to tell my friends, who after seeing how I was able to do so many different things at any single time, been calling me a 'superman', I wanted to tell these people, I am no Superman, I am merely a man with a Wonder Woman behind me.
All these years, as I embarked on one 'adventure' after another, there were two things that were the ever constants.
One - 万事起头难, taking on new challenges, especially in areas where I did not have the relevant training or any prior experience, was never easy. Each time that I embarked on a new adventure, taking on yet another new challenge, into untested, untried territories, it would be filled with uncertainties, fears, difficulties, unknowns and sufferings. especially at the beginning. It didn't get any easier with practice or experience, it just came with the territory.
Two - the second constant was that my wife, Janice, would always be there with me and for me.
When I first started practising as a medical doctor more than 20 years ago, working insane hours, from 8am - 10pm daily, with no lunch or dinner breaks, seven days a week, she was there for me, she even changed her meal timings so that we could have dinners together, we could only eat together at about 10 plus pm every night after I had finished seeing my last patients and shut the clinic.
When I decided to take the leap to join Economic Development Board (EDB) as an entry level executive, she was there for me. Even though at that time, our son was just a month old and we were not yet financially stable and the decision meant that I had to take a huge (more than 60%) pay cut from my then comfortable 5 figure monthly salary as a GP in the late 90s, she was there for me. She quietly supported me and never complained about the lifestyle adjustments that we had to make because of my pay cut.
When I was posted by EDB to London to be their Centre Director there, she stopped work and gave up her career to move to London with me and lived there for a few years, becoming a stay home mom looking after our young kids.
When I became the Assistant CEO of a statutory board and had to attend many public events as a VIP guest, she overcame her introverted and extremely private nature to attend the many public and industry events with me.
Just when life had finally become more stable and comfortable, after many years of hard work as a mid career change civil servant, I having been promoted to senior management positions overseeing a few hundred staff and spearheading many major national initiatives, I decided to take the biggest leap of all, I quit my comfortable stable position to become an entrepreneur.
Yet she was there for me. All the hardships of starting up a new business, all the fears of failures, all the financial hardships we had to go through. She was stoically there for me, never complaining.
When I started a new business, she made the effort to learn about the new business and supported me. When I became the CEO of a company developing, constructing and operating a hotel, she learned all about the administration and finance practices of the industry and supported me. When I 'accidentally' went into starting and operating a F&B business. I became the accidental chef and she became the accidental baker. She just took up the challenge because I was taking up the challenge. We went to baking school together, we worked the super long hours together, we hosted our guests together, we did the dish washing together, we woke early to go to the markets together. We even had the same oven burn marks on both our arms together. She was there for me every step of the way.
In the last four years, when I began to devote myself to the area of lifestyle medicine, preaching, teaching and coaching people in the area of lifestyle & health, she again became my partner and supporter. When I am practising as a lifestyle medicine doctor and seeing patients in my clinic, she became the counsellor, friend and coach to my patients, supporting and encouraging them in their journeys to change their eating habits.
We put both her microbiology degree and my medical degree to good use, putting all the knowledge of health & diseases from my training & practice as a medical doctor coupled with the deeper knowledge of food and the relationship of food and health that I acquired in the last few years as a healthy food chef and practitioner as well as our experience in conducting coaching programmes and workshops in helping our patients & coachees to change their lifestyle and eating habits to combat diabetes and other lifestyle related diseases.
I saw that there was an great unmet need especially amongst people with diabetes. I saw that many did not have the knowledge or the necessary support to have a serious go at using lifestyle modification to to optimise the management of their conditions and that I could play a part in helping them. I decided to throw myself fully into doing all that is necessary to to help people change their eating habits to prevent and combat diabetes and other lifestyle-related diseases.
So for the last 4 over years, that has been my personal calling, mission and work. and she was there for me again, as always. We spent a lot of time studying scientific materials and research studies together, on lifestyle and behavioural change, food and diseases, especially diabetes, ischaemic heart diseases and cancers and other conditions where food has a significant role. We would spend time discussing topics like insulin, glucose and metabolism during meal times and even do testing of our own blood glucose level together after eating certain specific foods so as to be able to fully appreciate what our diabetes patients who have to go through.
We began to exercise together, tracking our heart rate and activity level. We decided that we want to do our very best and do everything possible to encourage and help people change their lifestyle and dietary habits, which meant that beyond being just the doctor, tutor, trainer, coach, counsellor to my patients, I should endeavour to be their role model too. That beyond 'Preaching', 'Prescribing' and 'Teaching' lifestyle and dietary habits change to my patients, I should endeavour to walk the talk and practise fully what I preach, prescribe and teach in terms of healthy lifestyle & dietary habits. Again, she was there supporting and encouraging every step of the way.
It would have been a lot more straight forward, more comfortable in all sense of the word, especially financially, if I had decided to just practise medicine in the conventional way instead of focusing 100% on this new and challenging area of advocating, activating, educating and enabling people to change their lifestyle & dietary habits to prevent and combat lifestyle-related diseases. Because the harsh but sad reality is that most people would prefer and choose to pay for pills than to have to change their eating habits. But she never ever, not even once, questioned my decision or my 'sanity' in taking this challenging path which will require the family to continue to endure the sacrifice of financial security and other challenges that came with it.
And it has certainly not been easy, people are not familiar with the science, power and practice of lifestyle medicine, even to people who badly need it. The going so far has been very tough on us as a couple and on the family. But my wife has never wavered in her support for me and that kept me going in spite of the difficulties. We monitor our patients and coachees; progress together and we get encouraged together when we see the progress that our 'coachees' were making. There was this man with diabetes that we were coaching, we coached him together and we even brought his wife to the supermarket to educate her on what's good & what's bad for her husband and even helped her with cooking tips when she needed it, and all this while my wife was there assisting me in everything, all the way. And I remember how my wife was cheered and encouraged seeing the kilograms drop off from this man and seeing his blood sugar control improving over time. It is these 'little' things that is keeping me going in spite of the immense challenges. Seeing how my wife is supporting me all the way and being able to share the joy of seeing the progress of our 'coachees' with her have become the 'fuel' for me in my journey to activate, educate and enable people to unlock the power of their lifestyle and dietary choices to prevent and combat diabetes and lifestyle-related diseases.
I never had any fears for the hardships and uncertainties that will inevitably come with every new big challenge I embarked on, the only thing I always 'hated' every time that I went on these new adventures was the hardship and worries that I had to impose on my wife.
How I wished I can live in 2 parallel universes. One where I would go on adventures, take risks and suffering all the hardships ALONE, whilst in the other universe I would be a regular guy with a successful career built consistently over decades with a steady fat income. I would want my wife to live with me in the second universe but maybe not the first. Then I would not have had to impose on my poor long suffering wife all the hardships, worries, fears and uncertainties that invariably came with every new adventure I embarked on, which I had been on many in the last 20 plus years.
Thank you my dear wife, my long suffering wife
But until then, I just want to say to my long suffering wife, " Thank you dear, 我会加油的 and will do my darnest best in whatever we are doing and one day I hope, however belatedly, I can afford to give you a Tai Tai lifestyle which you much deserved! :-)"
When I wanted to start up a bakery,
we went to baking school together to learn to make breads and buns
We celebrated Valentine's Day of 2015, 2016, 2017., 2018 by working together and serving our customers celebrating Valentine's Day at our restaurant, The Bento People.
She bakes. I cook.
I speak on stage, she sits in audience cheering me on
When I speak at workshops, she 'blends' into the audience
to give me support and be my critic.
When I began to get my patients to conscientiously do more walking everyday and decided that I needed to be a good role model by literally also walking the talk, she joined me and made sure we made time and the effort and walked together with me around our estate everyday.
When bloggers want to feature 'both of us', she, despite her extreme introvertedness & her very private nature, agrees to their requests. The above pic is a post from ieatishootipost
When I created new dishes for the menu of my restaurant,
she was my food taster and fiercest critic :-)
- Waking people up to
The Power of Lifestyle to Heal & Destroy, helping them to maintain wellness & regain lost health through informed lifestyle & food choices
>> My Medical Practice where Lifestyle & Dietary modifications is the first go to medicine
>> My 'School' - Engines of Health - where I run workshops and programmes
>> My Restaurant - The Bento People - where I cook and try to entice people to eat healthy.
>> My Advocacy - The TV & print media where I have the priviledge to advocate the power of Lifestyle as Medicine
Why & What I Blog about
Blog's Top Posts
Lifestyle as Medicine - my journey, my passion, my pain
How & Why I became a Lifestyle Medicine Doctor, Trainer and Advocate
Doctor turned Accidental Chef turned Incidental Chef
Reflections of 'The Food Doctor'
How I lost weight 'accidentally'
Doctor turned Accidental Chef - How it all began
The birth of The Bento People
I made this Tom Yum Daikon-'noodles' because I was 'angry' with how the love for noodles was affecting one of my patients.
No wasted Journeys -
Why I Blog
Buay Chye, God & I. The day God sent me a cook.
Behind every adventurous man is a long-suffering wife
How I accidentally left a legacy as a 9 year old boy
The day blogger Leslie Tay (ieatishootipost) came to visit
The accidental marathoner
- how I accidentally ran the marathon when I was 12
They call me a Maverick.
I say I am an Explorer.
Why & How 'Advocating Healthy Eating' became my purpose, mission & passion.
Sharing about the power of food on Diabetes Lifestyle magazine