When it comes to looking fit, Anita Yiu says it’s not about quick fixes, diet fads or starving yourself, but developing a lifestyle centred on eating healthily, exercising regularly, managing your stress levels and getting adequate sleep. “You have to find out what works best for you,” says the 34-year-old Hongkonger . “That is the most important thing, because what might work for one person might not work for another.” Yiu, a certified group fitness class trainer, personal trainer and fitness nutrition specialist at ATP Personal Training, also has a master’s degree in business administration. Before diving into the world of fitness as a profession a few years ago, Yiu spent seven years in the corporate world in strategic management. It was there she realised that short-changing her physical and mental well-being for a pay cheque was no longer satisfying. “I had to finally listen to myself and follow my gut.” That decision saw her trade her suit for a swimsuit. Last year Yiu competed in her first bodybuilding competition geared towards fitness, fashion and beauty, the WBFF (World Beauty Fitness and Fashion) Australian Amateur Diva Bikini Model contest. The contest was a culmination of a long journey that has seen Yiu transform from a stressed out executive to an athletic trainer who overcame her fear of swimming (she nearly drowned in the sea as a child), to compete in a half marathon and an overseas road cycling competition. I want to express myself – my attitude, drive and enthusiasm. There’s no better feeling than all your hard work paying off Anita Yiu Yiu especially enjoys the positive impact that training and nutrition has on her mood, saying it gives her much more control over her mental well-being. This gave her the confidence to strut out in front of a massive crowd wearing only a bikini. “It was nerve-racking, but one of the best moments of my life,” she says. “I was really proud of what I’d achieved in 16 weeks and the level of commitment I put in. I was in the best shape of my life.” By the time she stepped into the spotlight, she had shed 10kg and was down to 12 per cent body fat. The preparation taught Yiu a lot about what it takes to compete at such a high level. “It was a six-hour show. And it’s not so much about muscle development as it is about proportion, and how you present yourself.” Yui’s full-time training for the show included a strict workout regime and specifically tailored meal plan, the same sort of customised regime she now develops for her clients. Six-pack abs in 30 days: five exercises to get you there – forget the crunches and sit-ups To kick-start her training, Yiu put herself into a caloric deficit, eating fewer calories than she was burning, and gradually cutting calories further each week. She consumed 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day, from meals that included nut butters and rice, but no broccoli, as it makes her bloated. It’s key to find out what foods agree with you personally – “best done in the off-season”, she says, adding that portion control is crucial. In the week before the competition, she stopped eating carbohydrates and dropped water weight. Before taking the stage, she filled out with carbs “to get that pumped-up look and draw water into the muscles”. Apart from disciplined eating, her routine required her to work out six times a week, have 15 minutes each morning of breath work and meditation , and at least eight hours of sleep at night. She says the road to a six-pack and tight glutes is not through endlessly working out, but rather watching what you eat and finding the right balance of exercise and a healthy diet. “Sometimes it is a bit stressful eating the same meal every day,” she says. “That is why it is important to give yourself some leeway sometimes. Some days I will stick to my diet, and some days it will be more intuitive eating, which is also based on experience. Once you get a handle on what food your body likes, and doesn’t like, that helps a lot.” Yiu adds it’s important to remember that you are human and will make mistakes – and sometimes you just have to have fun. Of course it helps if you plan your eating and meals around say, a friend’s birthday dinner, or a night out during which you don’t want to strictly follow a diet. Six-pack abs? Bella Hadid and Michael Jackson’s ex-bodyguard shares his belly fat blasting tips “Then when you go out you won’t feel like you’re cheating, or get stressed and fall into that cycle where you think you overate and are like, ‘Oh my god’. And then the next day you end up starving yourself to compensate and get stressed out by the whole thing.” Strutting confidently on stage in a bikini is all an extension of who she is, and has become, as a person, she says. “In general, I want to express myself – my attitude, drive and enthusiasm. There’s no better feeling than all your hard work paying off.” Anita Yiu’s go-to post-workout smoothie 250ml almond milk 1.5 scoops whey protein powder 200g mixed frozen berries (frozen fruit is key to the smoothie’s creamy texture) 1 frozen banana 40g oats (can omit this on non-workout days) 1 tsp cocoa nibs (optional for texture) Blend all ingredients until smooth. Savour it. Like cooking? For Asian recipes to make at home for friends and family, visit SCMP Cooking.