This article was first seen on the Huffington Post. For this installment, we are joined by Karen Pang.
Let’s start off with a general introduction. How would you describe yourself, what are you all about and how did you get involved in health and fitness?
Most people will know me from when I competed in Fitness Universe and was also the CBBF Canadian National Bikini Champion for three years. I was also a sponsored athlete for an international nutrition company while doing fitness modeling and working as a trainer in Vancouver, Canada.
When I was a kid growing up, my brother was into bodybuilding and I would flip through his FLEX and Muscle & Fitness magazines thinking it was the coolest thing ever! In high school, I was obsessed with supermodels like Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Cindy Crawford, but maxing out at 5’2” I pretty much knew I would never walk the runway at Chanel! But I always strived to be thin like them, so I’d hit the community centre gym at that time as a teen.
I’m not sure at what point I decided I really wanted a six pack and that I wanted to be more fit than the average girl. But I joined a gym when I was 19 and fitness has been a part of my life every since!
I read in an interview that at some point your “working out” became “training”, can you explain the difference between the two?
Yes, just before I started competing I worked out to burn off the food I was eating and to not gain weight. Basically, I was just maintaining my shape, but not moving forward with the progression of my physique.
It wasn’t until I worked with a personal trainer and learned about intensity and pushing until almost failure, that I would bring it up to the next level. The word “training” to me also means having an end goal whether it’s for weight loss or muscle gain. Gym time combined with proper diet completes the entire of concept that I refer to as “training”. Once I began preparing for my first competition, it was training from then on.
Many young women who want to lose weight believe that not eating is the way to do it, without realising the consequences of that kind of behavior.
Why do you think this is and what’s your perspective on educating society on healthy nutrition habits?
I’ve also been guilty of this and only ate one meal a day at one point! I think society has improved their way of thinking in the last few years with the popularity of social media. As superficial and often unrealistic as it is on a physical level, people learn by seeing posts by their favorite fitness personalities that one really does need to eat on a regular basis.
Many people post healthy recipes or clean meals that they’re eating. But on the same note, you have people posting very unhealthy food and junk food saying they’re “bulking” or that it “fits their macros”.
I think that completely sends the wrong message and the outcome is that you have people having unrealistic goals. Eat Pop Tarts everyday and be super fit? Not for the average person, no way! It’s not rocket science to eat healthy: everything in moderation, include lean protein in your diet and always eat lots of vegetables!
You stated that aspiring physique competitors shouldn’t go 100% based on what they find on the internet. Do you feel there is a lot of misinformation out there on the forums and social networks? How can people know what info they can trust?
Although there is some very good and informative literature out there on the Internet, it may be inappropriately applied to yourself. For example, if you develop a skin rash and you do an Internet search where you find a plethora of results.
The next thing you know, you’ve self diagnosed yourself with gangrene when all you have is a case of eczema! In addition, how many ways are there to cure eczema? This goes the same with training. There are many methods to take you to your goal, but which one works the best for you? Keep an open mind with what you find, and my best advice is to research a qualified and experienced trainer to assess your lifestyle and body type.
I see that you’ve recently moved to Los Angeles. What made you relocate and what are you doing there now?
Yes! I made my long term move to Los Angeles in spring of this year to pursue my makeup artistry career further. Despite the fact Vancouver is my hometown, I felt stagnant and unfulfilled to the point I was getting depressed. I loved my training clients and fitness will always be my true love, but I’m an artist at heart and wanted to follow my passions.
I’m still deeply rooted in the fitness industry, but more behind the scenes these days. I’m the editorial director for Fitness Gurls Magazine overseeing all content that goes into the magazine and writing some of the articles (of course being the main hair and makeup artist for the magazine).
On occasion, I still model from time to time and hopefully I’ll fit more of that into my schedule. But for the time being, I enjoy using my knowledge and experience rather than being in front of the camera. The opportunities I’ve had since moving wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t take a chance and relocate!
You’re obviously into a lot of things and are keeping busy, how do you deal with bad days, what do you do to keep yourself motivated?
To be honest, I don’t haven’t had many bad days lately, but I sure know what bad days feel like because I’ve suffered from depression in the past. Until now, only a handful of my friends knew that. For me currently, my dream was to always live and work in LA.
If I have a bad day, I’ll remind myself that I am in Los Angeles with a roof over my head, lots of wonderful friends and doing what I love while making a living. I made a promise to myself to never take any opportunities for granted, and even though some makeup jobs don’t offer much pay, to take the opportunity anyway because as an artist, you don’t know when your next pay cheque will be or what one small opportunity may lead to.
Now going to the gym on the other hand…lol. Trust me, I know how hard it is to motivate yourself to go to the gym sometimes. I’ve done enough cardio to last a lifetime, eaten an ocean full of tilapia and I can drink 5 pre workouts and STILL not want to go!
But when you think about it, who really said they regretted going to the gym…ever? Nobody. So we all have to suck it up and just go!
I’m a big believer that no matter how tough times get, there’s always something to be thankful for.
You once shared a quote from Buddha on thankfulness. How big of a role does gratitude play in your life?
Yes, the quote was: “Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”
Sometimes we can get pessimistic and that can turn into a slippery slope which leads to complaining about things that aren’t worth a thought. We have to look at the bigger picture and reflect on whether our tribulations are worth the worry and time to ruminate over.
Yes, things could be better, but things can be a lot worse too. Would you rather have first world problems or third world problems? I rest my case.
What are your biggest life goals for the year?
Well, I don’t think I can achieve my biggest life goals in a year! But some of them include volunteering at a seniors’ home which I’ve always wanted to do. Continue this momentum I have going with my career, do more photoshoots while I am still able to, travel more and keep progressing in all areas of my life!
One day, I would like to have my own product of some sort. Whether it’s fitness and health or cosmetic related, I have yet to narrow down my ideas.
Where can people go to learn more about you online?