It’s hard to imagine former model Tay Ping Hui being the resident fat kid in school. But that’s exactly what the 46-year-old actor was. “I was overweight and clumsy (laughs),” he tells us over the phone. His childhood battle with the bulge is why Ping Hui is more than happy to support Food Revolution, a campaign aimed at combating child obesity. The movement was launched by British celeb chef Jamie Oliver almost a decade ago. Last Friday, Ping Hui, together with the Brit chef’s local restaurant Jamie’s Italian Singapore, showed up at Raffles Girls’ Primary School to take over the school’s canteen, where the star helped to whip up and serve healthy pasta to 1,800 students. We catch up with the actor after his very busy morning to ask him about his, in Ping Hui’s own words, “fat days”.
8 DAYS: What’s this we hear about you being overweight in primary school?
TAY PING HUI: I became fat when I was nine and it lasted till I was 12 or 13. I was probably about 159cm and weighed over 60kg. My waist was like 32 inches (laughs). I loved to eat tidbits, and I loved sugar. I still remember I used to order this sweet pineapple drink which cost only 10 cents from my school canteen. It’s pure fructose syrup but I didn’t know better. I simply ate what I wanted and I got fat. I want to share my experience of being an overweight child with everyone, and show that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Many overweight kids feel inferior and sensitive about their bodies but they don’t have to be. If I, an average Joe who’s particularly lazy, can do it, then so can anyone!
Were you bullied in school ’cos of your weight?
No, [my classmates] didn’t dare tease me ’cos I was bigger than them! Besides, I’m someone who doesn’t take teasing lying down.
So how did you eventually shed all the weight?
The realisation that I was fat came when I wanted to play basketball. Even though I was taller, I was very clumsy so I was always the last person to be picked when everyone was choosing teammates. That made me realise that I should improve myself. I started playing basketball daily on my own and I gradually lost the weight. I became more agile and was one of the first few to be chosen after that. In one year, I lost almost 10kg and my waist size shrank to 28 inches.
How do you keep in shape these days? It must be harder to keep your weight down now with age.
Yes, we definitely have to work harder as we age, and the key to losing or maintaining my weight is to keep my metabolism up. I try to go to the gym more regularly. I do calisthenics, push-ups, sit-ups and play basketball. If I don’t have time to exercise, I’d watch my diet more. I cut down on sugar as I think it’s the number one killer as opposed to fats. I still love cakes and ice-cream but I don’t eat it all the time now. If I do indulge in chocolate cake, I’ll only eat one slice. In the past, I’d probably go for two or three slices!
Is this why the Food Revolution Day campaign means a lot to you?
I believe in this cause and I think it’s a good initiative — getting schools and children to understand that healthy nutritious food doesn’t have to taste bad. It’s important for children to understand where the food they eat come from, and what they are eating. Hopefully with that knowledge, kids can bring the information home and educate their parents as well. Together, we can embark on this journey of healthy eating.
They say people who grow up fat will always see themselves as fat kids even if they’ve lost all the weight. Are you guilty of that?
Nope, I don’t look back (laughs).
So can we see a photo of you as a fat kid?
That’s unlikely... I probably burnt them all! (Guffaws)