These Wellness Gurus Will Get Peter Cheung In The Best Shape Of His Life
I recently saw Will Smith’s viral YouTube series, "The Best Shape of My Life", and it hit me like a truck. Despite being an action film star, Smith grew to his all-time heaviest during the pandemic, and vowed to lose the weight while writing his memoir. I am the same age and in the same situation and really cannot blame Covid-19 any more, as deep down, I know I have let my health and fitness slide for years. How did I get this dad bod? I’m not even a dad!
I have enlisted an A-team of professionals to help me look and feel good inside and out. My goal is to lose 25lbs (11kg) in 25 weeks, so expect an update in June. In the meantime, meet my international team of experts who will help me make this comeback. Here we go!
I have to credit my tennis coach of the past 18 months for encouraging me to kick-start this health push. As you know, I was a competitive tennis player and coach in my youth, but hadn’t played in over 20 years. Tennis became my pandemic hobby, and I met Stefan Yates of Mike Walker Tennis. He encouraged me not only to play, but also improve my game and fitness. I played in a club tournament in November—my first in nearly 30 years. To my surprise and joy, I won the men’s singles club tournament, a victory that boosted me a lot. Our next goal is for me to get an ITF ranking.
Last June, I enlisted the help of executive coach Steve Chua. Based in Los Angeles, he is highly in-demand internationally among CEOs of large corporations. He helped turn around my way of thinking and working, and I have broken through some “holding patterns” that have held me back. As an independent consultant and entrepreneur, I sometimes feel quite lonely, but Chua has helped me with life plans and goals. He is personable, funny and gifted in helping resolve conflicts of the past to bring clarity and vision to present circumstances.
Roy Bennett has been my trainer on and off (more off than on) for nearly 15 years. He is a martial artist, certified pain therapist and correctional movement coach who I met after I suffered a slipped disc. It was difficult to train again, but he was so reassuring and made me feel safe to exercise. He focuses on pain-free movement and training the body for strength and health. Bennett is sought-after, and I always appreciate that he takes me back on after my lapses and encourages me to get out of my own way.
In conversation, I recently used the expression, “Let me meditate on that for a while”, and my friend almost burst out laughing and said, “Peter meditating? That I would like to see!” In all seriousness, I have long wanted to learn to quieten my mind. Through my friend Divia Harilela, I met yoga instructor Hersha Chellaram, who will give me a beginners’ course in meditation. I am intrigued by her approach, which includes teachings from classical texts adapted for busy modern lifestyles.
Through referrals from several friends, I found pilates teacher Jun Mabaquiao. He is a former senior soloist with the Hong Kong Ballet and Ballet Philippines, but changed careers to become a body conditioning coach and choreographer for corporate events, big shows and openings, including Cirque du Soleil. He was the body conditioning coach for the artists in the House of Dancing Water in Macau.
I used to think I was a good dancer (busting moves on LKF dancefloors nightly) but I’ve never been trained. I asked my friend Annie Lee if she would take me on as a student to help me in my transformation. She helped make K-pop what it is today by working in that industry as a choreographer for top artists; as a member of Tashannie, Korea’s first female R&B and hip-hop group; and opening the first performing arts academy in Gangnam in 2002. I am honoured she is willing to take me on, as she doesn’t usually teach or work with non-professional artists. Her positivity is infectious: she says, “Peter, we are going to crush this.”
Gabrielle Tuscher and I have been friends since we were teenagers. She has been a Hong Kong-based certified eating disorder specialist, psychologist, psychotherapist and registered dietitian for more than 21 years. She will help me take a serious look at my diet and relationship with food and drink. She knows me so well that I know I cannot lie to her about my dietary habits.
Suffering a slipped disc 15 years ago was one of the most frightening and painful experiences of my life. One morning I could not move; I was paralysed with a sharp pain in my lower back and leg. I could not walk, sit or lie down. Doug Tahirali literally got me back on my feet with physiotherapy. He has helped relieve not only the pain but the fear, and has enabled me to be active again. Since starting tennis again, I see him once a week and he has kept me injury-free, flexible and strong.
All work and no play make Peter a dull boy, and I am not embarking on this transformation without some pleasure in life. I will have a cheat day once a week but will still try to be as healthy as I can. I am lucky to be able to call on Smita Grosse, executive pastry chef at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. With two days’ notice, Grosse creates cakes that are gluten-free with half the sugar, or that use honey instead of cane sugar. They are so delicious that you would never be able to tell the difference.
Dry January and Digital Detox
Last year I tried to embark on a dry January, and I think I made it to January 4. This time, I am determined to see it through. I started cutting down my champagne in December and limited my drinking over Christmas. Additionally, I am also taking a month-long break from social media. It dawned on me that I have become one of those phone zombies, scrolling through social media unconsciously. What a waste of time. Don’t be upset if I don’t “like” your posts for a while: I do like you and would rather tell you in person.