Members of Public Signing Petition for 4 Days of School

(Image: Change.org Screenshot)

Looks like someone has decided that it is time for Singapore to implement a 4-day school week.

A petition has been circulating around the internet over the past few days in a bid to request the Ministry of Education to implement a 4-day school week.

Gabriel Ee, who started the petition on 24 July (Monday), provided the reason that a reduced school week ‘may remedy the sleep problem than most students have’ and he believed that ‘the extra day off may benefit the learning economy of Singapore’.

His ideas resonate with many of the members of the public. One of the signatories, Jeremy Sng, agreed that a 4-day school week will help the students to become less tired. He left his reason on the comment column, stating, “All of those days of school could give student homework which we aren’t able to complete in one day so I think there should be one day less of school.”

Improved Results

The call to reduce the number of school days is not new. Schools in the U.S. states of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming have already cut back on the school days since 2015. However, here’s the catch: In the school that pushed out shorter school week, there also implement longer school hours on the each school days as well.

A study conducted in 2015 has concluded that a four-day school week is linked to better academic performance. It was initially thought that longer days on a shorter school week would hurt the academic performances of the students due to shorter attention spans and a longer weekend would mean an increased chance of them forgetting whatever that had been taught.

However, after looking at a number of students in each school that scored “proficient or advanced” on state-wide maths and reading test, before and after the school changed to a four-day week, they observed improvements in their results. It was observed that there is an increase from 55.5% of a school’s students on average achieving the top scores before the change to 63.1% after the change.

At the time of publication, the petition has already received 25,213 signatures, close to three-quarter of the total amount of people required for activation.

Amazon Prime Now Launches in Singapore

Amazon officially launches its two-hour delivery service Prime Now in Singapore on Thursday. Singaporeans will be offered thousands of products and are able to receive their goods via express delivery. Goods will be dispatched from its new fulfilment centre at the western part of the island.

The fulfilment centre covered a total of 100,000 sq ft at the Mapletree Logistic Hub in Toh Guan Road East and is now the largest in the world.

It hasn’t been a surprise to some, who have been following Amazon’s movements actively. There were reports last year claiming that the e-commerce giant will make its entry into the South-East Asian market. A source close to the company had even expected Amazon to launch selected services in Singapore by the first quarter of 2017, after its failed acquisition of RedMart last year.

It is better late than never.

In the recent days leading up to the official launch, there was a series of high-profile Instagrammers making sponsored posts with regards to the service. This further the speculations that Amazon will land here soon.

What is Amazon Prime Now?

According to its website, Amazon Prime Now is a benefit of Amazon Prime where members can place orders fast with same-day delivery in selected zip codes.

What’s in stall for Singaporeans?

Although Amazon Prime Now is extended to only Amazon Prime members, yet the company is still in the process of launching the membership here in Singapore. Therefore, the Prime Now service will be available without the membership element for the current being.

Orders over S$40 placed via the smartphone app will be delivered straight to your doorsteps within two hours without any delivery charges. Customers can also pay an additional $9.99 to get their goods within 1 hour.

And apparently, they are really selling almost everything.

From vegetables…

To health supplements.

And also monitors and TV…

And of course, they didn’t forget how everyone gets rather awkward buying condoms over the counter…

As part of the introduction of the Prime Now service, Amazon will also be offering a S$10 discount for your first order (‘10PRIMENOW‘) upon checking out. Visa card users will be entitled to a S$20 discount with your first order through the code ‘VISA20‘.

Deliveries will be conducted between 10AM to 10PM daily.

10 Reasons Why We Should Walk More

Walking is one of the simplest exercises that most people tend to neglect. It is the most basic aerobic exercise, yet the most underrated one. We walk to the kitchen, to the bedroom, to the food court, to the bus stop. The Japanese even came up with Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing, as a preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

However, with the advancement of technology, the convenience of transportation and the sedentary nature of jobs here in Singapore, fewer people are spending enough time walking. Studies have shown that a minimum of 10,000 steps should be attained each day in order to achieve the best health benefits.

If you are lazy to walk, maybe you want to read the following 10 reasons why you should start accumulating the mileage.

1. It Helps To Prevent Diabetes (and lose weight too!)

(Image: American Diabetes Association)

Walking has the ability of shrink your abdominal fats, which makes it THE EXERCISE for diabetes prevention. In the latest study published in the International Journal of Obesity mentioned at the start of this article, researchers did a research among 111 postal-service workers of both genders. None had a personal history of cardiovascular disease. Each worker wore a sophisticated activity tracker for a week. At the end of the week, the researchers determined how many hours these workers had spent in sedentary and active position.

The results were not surprising at all. Workers who spent most of the day sitting down tend to have larger waist circumference, higher BMI and worse blood sugar control and cholesterol profiles as compared to those who were more active.

A 2014 report by UK’s Public Health England (PHE) showed that men whose waist line exceeded 102cm are five times more likely to develop diabetes as compared to those with smaller waist line. Women whose waist line exceeded 88cm have three times the risk.

The hypotheses behind could be that 1) abdominal obesity may cause fat cells to release inflammatory chemicals that disrupt the body’s response to insulin and that 2) obesity may trigger changes to the body’s metabolism that cause fat tissues to release substances involved in the development of insulin resistance.

Hence, by reducing abdominal fats, you could well reduce the risk of diabetes as well.

2. It Helps To Control Your Cholesterol Level

(Image: Healthworks)

A 2005 study published in the Official Journal of the American Society for Preventive Cardiology suggested a relation between an increase in walking time and a reduced non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (non-HDL-C) level. Non-HDL-C (otherwise known as Low DL-C) are the bad cholesterol (as opposed to HLD-C) which will eventually lead to atherosclerosis – a common underlying cause of cardiovascular diseases.

3. It Helps To Strengthen Your Heart

(Image: The Heart Foundation, Australia)

Lower LDL-C will, in turn, make your heart stronger. According to the researchers at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, while the lowest and highest levels of physical activity stood the greatest risk of heart failure at 47% and 51% respectively, walking or cycling for 20 minutes each day helps reduce the risk by 21%.

4. It Helps To Reduce High Blood Pressure

(Image: Healthline)

Not surprisingly, walking can also help to reduce high blood pressure as well. Researchers at the Korea Institute of Sports Science in Seoul studied the blood pressure of 23 men with prehypertension and hypertension after a brisk walking session. Four of them were made to walk for 10 minutes while the rest, for 40 minutes. The results reflected that blood pressure dropped by at least 2 points after each type of exercising session.

In fact, reasons 2, 3 and 4 are interlinked. When you exercise, your heart becomes stronger and LDL-C will be eradicated from your system. Hence, your heart will become more efficient and able to pump blood throughout your body better. As the heart pushes more blood with each beat, it will beat slower and your blood pressure will, therefore, be under control.

5. It Helps To Tones Your Legs And Butt

(Image: Verywell)

Since walking puts your quadriceps, hamstring and glutes and your lower leg muscles to work, it will eventually help with the toning of your legs and (look here girls) glutes (aka butt) muscles.

6. It Helps With Your Mental Health

(Image: Sandstone Trail)

Walking helps to trigger endorphins, which can help to promote relaxation, and prevents anxiety and depression. Since walking is some form of exercise, and exercise also aids in the production of serotonin and norepinephrine hormones – the neurotransmitters that can help to eradicate depression.

Furthermore, sport and exercise psychologist K. Kip Matthews also expressed how exercise can help to ward off depression by enhancing the body’s abilities to respond to stressors.

He said in an interview with CNN, “What appears to be happening is that exercise affords the body an opportunity to practice responding to stress, streamlining the communication between the systems involved in the stress response. The less active we become, the more challenged we are in dealing with stress.”

Furthermore, walking (especially in the park or garden during the day) will expose you to more fresh air, and hence, more oxygen. This pure oxygen will provide each and every cell in your system a boost of energy, making you feel better and energetic for the rest of the day.

7. It Helps To Prevent Dementia

(Image: Cracked Hat Illustration)

According to 2010 statistics provided by the Ministry of Health (MOH), there are about 20,000 Singaporeans suffering from dementia, with a prevalence rate of 5.7% among those aged 65 and above. However, the number is expected to rise to about 45,000 by 2020. On the other hand, the Alzheimer’s Disease Association of Singapore (ALZ) projects such cases to increase to 103,000 by 2030.

However, there is a way we can prevent dementia. Studies have shown that walking can help reduce the risk of the disease by 50%. A study led by Dr. Kirk Erickson in 2011 figured out the connection between exercising and an increased hippocampal volume. Hippocampus, a crucial part of the brain where long-term memories are stored, appears to shrink in size as one ages. Yet, the study found out that even simple exercises like aking a 30-40 minutes brisk walk a few times a week is capable in increasing its volume by 2%, effectively reversing age-related loss in volume as a result.

And even if you are still young, Dr. Erickson advised, “The earlier you begin, the greater the protection for your brain – but exercise leads to improved brain function at any age.”

8. It Helps Spark Creativity

(Image: Alejandro Torres)

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”. Even contemporary French philosopher Frédéric Gros assented with him.

Gros wrote in A Philosophy of Walking, “Walking can provoke these excesses: surfeits of fatigue that makes the mind wander, abundances of beauty that turn the soul over, excesses of drunkenness on the peaks, the high passes (where the body explodes).”

He elaborated further, “Walking ends by awakening this rebellious, archaic part of us: our appetites become rough and uncompromising, our impulses inspired. Because walking puts us on the vertical axis of life: swept along by the torrent that rushes just beneath us.”

9. It Helps To Promote Healthier Skin

(Image: Lionesse Gem)

If you want to ‘look’ healthy, healthier skin could be your answer. Walking helps to increase the circulation of blood and thus provides the necessary nutrients your skin requires to be strong, firm and elastic.

The sunlight that you are exposed to during your walk helps your body in the production of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect on healthy skin, which works effectively well against acne outbreak. Furthermore, since Vitamin D is essential for the proper control of smooth muscle cell function, cardiac muscle function, and the proper formation of many different cells throughout your body, it can affect how well you age.

It is recommended that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D synthesis, and healthier skin.

10. It Provides A Great Bonding Time

What’s better than to take a stroll with your friends and talk about your life while enjoying the scenery?


Take part in Step Challenge 2017!

Step Challenge is back for its second season. From 22 July till 9 August, the participant who clocked the most number of steps from each category will walk away (no pun intended) with an Apple Watch.

There are six categories:

For individuals, there are the Active NSmen, Active Youth (< 25 year-old), Active Women and Active Masters (>40 year-old).

Participants can also take part as a team (3-4 pax per team) under Active Families & Friends and Active Corporates.

Interested parties can download and install the ActiveSG App from App Store or Google Play. Sign in and select S’pore Step Challenge on your Home screen and join one individual and one team challenge. Thereafter, you will just need to launch the app every day in order to clock your steps!

Participants who clock 50,000 steps during the campaign period will be able to redeem to a limited edition NS50 Jerrycan water bottle. Furthermore, these participants will also be eligible for lucky draw and stand a chance to win S$100!

Health benefits and material benefits coming together in one. So get up from your comfort zone now and start moving!

Feel free to check out the official website to learn more about the campaign.

The Site That Motivates Me To Innovate

Entrepreneurship is on the rise, especially with the startup trend that is taking the world by storm. According to the co-founder of Warby Parker, Neil Blumenthal, a startup is a ‘company working to solve a problem where the solution is not obvious and success is not guaranteed.”

An unguaranteed success might have put many people off from entrepreneurship, yet it has not been the case here in Singapore. It was reported that between 2005 and 2013, the number of startups in Singapore roses from 24,000 to 42,000, of which at least 5,200 are tech startups. Furthermore, the government has also pushed out various funding schemes to support local startups. The SPRING Startup SG Founder, Startup SG Tech and National Research Foundation’s (NRF) Early Stage Venture Fund (ESVF) are some of the examples.

However, despite all the resources available to start your business, it is important that one continues to read and broaden his/her knowledge. Of course, many might turn to traditional news sites like the Wall Street Journal, Forbes or The Business Insider or more locally, The Business Times for business and trends insights. As much as these traditional platforms do provide us with contents that are ‘harder’ in nature, these contents are usually ‘harder in nature’. They may not use layman terms that strike a chord with its reader.

Hence, I also make sure I expand my readings to other non-traditional sites. And recently, I encounter this site.

DBS Innovates

DBS Innovates is an initiative by DBS Bank. It is like a micro blog that is constantly updated with the latest banking innovations and insights. Of course, I ain’t a banker and neither am I interested in the banking industry. However, the site also provides readers with some motivations and ideas for business innovation.

There are 4 tabs for the site, Innovation Insights; Making Banking Simpler, Faster, Smarter; Innovate For Good, and Behind The Scenes. Personally, I feel that articles under ‘Behind The Scenes’ could provide some motivation for entrepreneurs who are just starting out. There are real-life stories of entrepreneurs who’ve gone on to make a mark for themselves (Koufu’s Pang Lim) and as well as of a UX designer.

Cashless Payments

I have an interest in the future of our local F&B culture and there are actually a few articles on the site that I read with enthusiasm. DBSInnovates has successfully persuaded me that there is a future in our local F&B culture by incorporating innovations such as cashless payments. In the words of Koufu’s Mr. Pang Lim, in one of his interview with the site, “Embarking on technology and automation to improve productivity helps not only in reducing operating costs, but it also improves our value creation ability.”

In another article, DBSInnovates interviewed a hawker who has been selling ngoh hiang for the past 30 years. Mr. Ng Kok Hua seizes the up and coming trend of cashless payments and allows his customers to scan QR code via their PayLah! application for payment.

These are the kinds of examples that are close to reality, which many of the other mainstream articles lack. This is definitely in line with the bank’s motto to ‘make banking joyful’. I definitely looked forward to more of such kinds of articles from the site in the near future.

Here are some of my favourite articles from the site:

 

Taking Time Out And Embrace Nature

Like most Singaporeans, I’ve been living in the concrete jungle for all of my life. At least up till this point in time. Living in the concrete jungle means that I am constantly surrounded by urban pollution. Although there are initiatives by the government to make sure that we build a ‘green city’ despite all the urbanisation, the replication of the serenity one experiences in the forest is still a challenge.

I admit I am a typical urban boy. If you throw me into the middle of the forest alone for a few days, I’ll probably not be able to survive. Yet, my love for nature is evident. Maybe one reason is that I am easily tensed up and stress, so embracing nature is perhaps one of my outlets to de-stress. Furthermore, it is a healthy outlet.

I remember mentioning to Vivian quite a few times during our run how much I yearn to go for a hike. There are people who took time off, get a few friends, and off they wander among the wooden skyscrapers. I never have the chance to do that, though the last time I hiked in one of our nature parks was when I went out for a photography trip with Henry. Man, carrying gears up the sloppy paths and around the long, never-ending route was tiring. But hey, nature photography is my favourite kind of photography. I never like to take photos of human being anyway, because you never know if the smiles behind are genuine. In addition, we tend to read too much into a portrait – every smile, every wrinkle, every emotion. I like nature photography – birds, streams, river flows – for whenever you take a look at it, you could somehow feel nirvana running through you. Life could be as simple, just like how our ancestors once experienced.

One day, we decided to go hiking. Both of us together with Kheng Yin. I was frantically looking forward to it because it was like a dream came true. It was early in the morning, I woke up at around 0600 to get myself prepared for the journey to the west. I met with KY at Ang Mo Kio before taking the train down to Beauty World to meet up with Viv.

Getting There

The entrance to Bukit Timah Hill is just a bridge away from Bukit Timah Shopping Centre.

We came out from Exit A and walked along the perimeters of Bukit Timah Shopping Centre. There is a bridge that leads us to the Church of Singapore. From there, we walked down Hindhede Drive.

WATCH OUT: Be careful of the incoming traffic as you walk along Hindhede Dr en route to Bukit Timah Nature Reserve.
STARTING POINT: The huge Visitor Centre signifies the start of the hiking trail.

Up We Go

I was shocked as I came face to face with the steep slope at the start of the trail. The hilly elevation is much steeper than the photo I took above. It looks more like a Satan’s creation than a hiking trail. The moment we started walking (more like climbing), we could feel our heart rates increase over time. There was one point that we did not have enough energy to talk anymore. The only sound coming from us was the sound of our panting.

We met several middle-aged uncles along the way. It was slightly before 0900 on a weekday morning and these people were already on their way downhill. I came up with two conclusions: Either they are residents from the nearby estates or that they actually made the effort to wake up early for a morning workout.

I was thinking to myself, would we still be as active when we reach their age in a few decades time. I’d probably refuse to drag myself up early in the wee hours. Their dedication to personal fitness is motivating. Every time when I was having my jog, working out at the gym or just strolling in the park, I always meet these uncles (and even aunties) who will put a lad like me to absolute shame. Despite the age, their level of activeness and, for some, fitness level, are way ahead of me. I told myself that I shall make a continuous effort to keep myself fit and by the time I become older, it will become a habit naturally.

Retro Walking

There was an interesting trend amongst those who were coming down hill. Most of them are walking backwards. We gave them a curious look as we walk past them. We were equally amazed by how almost everyone was walking in an unusual way.

Apparently, this is called ‘retro walking’. Guess what? There are actually health benefits to this kind of walking. Retro walking differs from normal walking (like duh). It involves totally different sets of muscles. It helps to reduce the shear force on the knees by reversing such force. Hence, it is extremely beneficial for people who encounter joint pain. Retro walking also helps to reduce strains on your hamstrings. This is

Retro walking also helps to reduce strains on your hamstrings. This is because it reduces the overall range of motion at the hip point, therefore limiting the extension and the stress on the hamstrings.

As for those who are looking at some cardio exercise to incorporate into your routine, retro walking could well be able to serve your requirements as well. You will require more energy to walk backwards as compared to forward. The reason is that the electromyographical (or muscle) activity of the lower extremity (the part between your hips and your toes) appears to be greater when you walk backwards.

Greater energy burn without straining your joints. Sounds like a good deal.

Sense of Achievement

Everything felt so calm around here. The tranquillity allows me to put all my burdens at the back of my head. I took a deep breath. I smell one of the freshest air I’ve ever inhaled. The last time I could enjoy such nice air was during my jog from Marina Bay to East Coast Park. There ain’t many people, except for a group of students from a local girls’ school.

LOOK HERE: We were basically exploring all corners of the reserve. (Image: Kheng Yin)
IT’S A WEB: KY trying to take a close up photo of a spider web.
TIRED: I swear we looked a little worn out here. (Image: Kheng Yin)
WE ARE GOING UP: Look how energetic KY was. Viv, we’ve tried.
ENDLESS: It looks like a long and winding road (cues Beatles)

To be honest, it did not take us long to reach the peak of Bukit Timah. The journey started off tough, no thanks to the elevation gain right at the start. I think we took less than 30 minutes? Or was it less than 45 minutes? The slope became gentle as we went on.

REACHED: We’ve finally reach the top of the world. Ok, just Bukit Timah actually.

Despite the hill was just slightly more than 163m in height, I actually felt a sense of achievement right there. This is the highest hill I’ve ever climb so far. There are people of my age who have gone on to conquer Kinabalu, Fuji or other legit ‘mountains’. I might have the opportunity to head up to Kinabalu one day but for now, I guess Bukit Timah will do too.

SINGAPORE’S NEXT TOP UNCLE: Okay, I didn’t realise there was this uncle in my way. But well, looks photogenic heh?

A Piece of History

The short route up the peak of the hill was not enough for the three of us. Hence, we took another route to undercover more parts of the reserves. We ended up at the Hindhede Quarry.

When we reached the quarry, there was a group of people doing pilates there. I think it is a smart move to hold pilates or fitness classes in the middle of a forest or a nature park. There is no artificial air, everything that you are inhaling are fresh air. The oxygen is freshly supplied from the surrounding plants and trees.

It was evident that by the time we reached the quarry, we felt more refreshed. Our bloodstream are supplying haemoglobin filled with fresh oxygen to all our body organs.

It is difficult to imagine how deep this quarry is after water from run offs and rain filled the empty surrounding over the years.

Located within the Hindhede Nature Park (located next to the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve), it was built around the quarry which was bustled with mining activities between 1900s and 1980s. Named after Danish civil engineer Jens Hindhede, the abandoned quarry was eventually reverted into a proper park in 2001. It is said that the quarry stretches 18m below sea-level with the water level reaching at least 10 storey high. I couldn’t imagine what would happen if I fell into the lake.

By 1100, we made our way out of the nature reserve and back to civilisation. I think I will need to return to nature soon.

Will It Burger? (Singapore Edition)

In an effort to celebrate the upcoming National Day, fast-food restaurant McDonald’s have introduced a special menu that is inspired by local delicacies from today (July 13) onwards.

Here comes Nasi Lemak Burger.

LOCAL DELIGHTS: McDonald’s latest menu which includes Nasi Lemak Burger, Chendol McFlurry and Coconut Pie will be available from July 13. (Image: McDonald’s)

The McDonald’s version comes with a coconut-flavoured chicken thigh patty, fried egg, caramelised onions and cucumber slices topped with sambal sauce, and served between semolina buns.

Sounds like a nice combination.

I think there is a question in our mind on how well our local food blends with burgers. We’ve come across chilli crab burger and satay burger amongst the culinary fusion, yet the lack of hawker food burger-lisation got me thinking…

Will the other of our favourite local delights taste well if it’s served as a hamburger?

Check out the first pilot episode of The EC Show to find out!

No Time To Run? You Don’t Need Too Much Time Actually

Always find yourself not having time to exercise? Looks like you’ve greatly estimated that amount of time required to keep yourself active and healthy.

In a research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers have come to a surprising conclusion that participants who run less than 150 minutes per week have lower mortality risk.

The research examined the associations of running with all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks in 55,137 adults, between the age of 18 to 100, who received at least 1 extensive medical examination between 1974 and 2002. Out of 5,089 of adults who ran 51-80mins and 81-119mins reported a death rate of 29.7% and 29.8% respectively.

On the other hand, among the 42,121 sedentary non-runners, there is a death rate of a whopping 45.9%. Death rate due to cardiovascular diseases for non-runners is at 17.8%, compared to the mean death rate of 9.6 among runners of various intensity.

Moving is Key

PUT ON YOUR RUNNING SHOES: Even a slow jog around your neighbourhood for 20mins can lower your mortality risk. (Image: KOTB)

The key to a healthier lifestyle is to keep active. According to the aforementioned report, the group of participants who do not run accounted for 16% of all-cause and 25% of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality.

Another study, The Copenhagen City Heart Study, done in 2015 also managed to support the report. The result from the later study claimed that “compared with sedentary nonjoggers, 1 to 2.4 hour(s) of jogging per week was associated with the lowest mortality”.

The reason behind this is simple. When you exercise, your heart beat increases in order to pump more blood to supply your muscle tissues with oxygen. Over time, such involuntary actions will help to expand both the atria (the top part of your heart where blood return from the rest of your body – except for your lungs) and the ventricles (the bottom part of your heart where blood is pumped out of your heart) to be enlarged. This is, therefore, help to increase the efficiency of your heart.

As more blood is able to be pumped out of the body, it will increase the flexibility of the arteries too. This is to allow more blood flow during exercise and also prevent arteries blockage even when you are in sedentary position. As a result, the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as coronary artery disease (CAD) will be greatly reduced.

More doesn’t mean better

However, although we always encourage everyone to push their limits, it is advisable not to overdo and overexert yourself. It is especially so when your primary goal is just to be healthy.

U-SHAPE RELATION: Studies suggest a U-shaped association between mortality rates and the amount of running you do. (Image: JACC)

Studies by the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research in 2012 have shown that excessive endurance exercise may lead to adverse cardiovascular effects, such as abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmias) and heart attack (acute myocardial infarction). This is because strenuous endurance exercise such as ultramarathon is capable to causing your atria and right ventricle to overload, hence resulting in the buildup of scar tissues in the heart.

The heart valves will eventually become thicker (patchy myocardial fibrosis), therefore “creating a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias”. The Mayo Foundation research also warned that long-term excessive exercise could also lead to coronary artery calcification, diastolic heart failure (diastolic dysfunction), and large-artery wall stiffening.

In conclusion, as long as you put aside some time, be it 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 1 hour, to keep yourself active, you will find yourself leading a healthier lifestyle.

Looks like the excuse of having NO TIME TO RUN is no longer valid anymore.

Dear Mr Wickström, this is how Singapore hawkers work

There is apparently a letter that has been circulating since 8 July. An article by Alvinology reported that a foodie by the name Sebastian Wickström has lashed out at Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle for ‘dirty business tactics’. He claimed that the local Michelin-starred hawker stall has given customers a false impression that there is a long queue.

You can check out his full rant HERE.

Initially, I wanted to put forward my case immediately after reading his letter. However, I decided to wait till a few days after that to actually organise my thoughts before I become as emotional. You can say I backside itchy, not my problem to meddle with but still trying to be a busybody.

Before I go on, I would like to clarify that I am not an employee of the aforementioned food establishment nor a spokesperson for every hawker outlet in Singapore. I am merely using my experience as a hawker stall assistant to debunk the allegations put forward by Mr. Wickström, and to bring about a clearer picture of how hawker stores operate in Singapore.

Dear Mr. Wickström,

On Queuing In Singapore

QUEUE UP OR GIVE UP: We just have that queuing habit. (Image: TripAdvisor)

In Singapore, we have a habit of queuing. We love to queue, whether it’s for food outlets with Michelin star, hipster food stalls at bazaars, mega sales or even for plushies at some fast food restaurants. There is an unexplained human behaviour instilled in most Singaporean: We just that willing to wait to get the full and authentic experience of the fanfare, nevermind the actual quality of the food.

Therefore, it is no surprise that food establishments like HKSSCRN have long queues. I waited in the queue before and I do admit that it felt like I could be waiting there forever. I personally love their soy sauce chicken – I tried it twice at the Chinatown Complex outlet and once at their franchise outlet a street away, hence I find that it is worth the wait.

There are some food establishments that despite all the fanfare, the food tasted meh. I am someone who dislikes queuing for food but I make it a point to check out whether the food actually worth all the waiting time. I consume food, but I don’t like my time to be consumed unnecessarily.

Yet, no one forced us to queue (unless it’s your job to queue if you are an employee of a certain delivery company or if you’ve lost a bet to your friends/colleagues). Come on, we are all willing parties. It’s not an ‘abuse of trust’. I think there ought to be such understanding established between both the operators as well as the consumers.

I am glad that you’ve got the understanding that “serving regular customers in a long but natural line with long waiting times is not necessarily bad and a lot of hawker stalls have long lines”. However, one thing you don’t understand is that whether queues are natural or whether they are not, by your definition, they still form the customer base.

When there’s demand, there’s supply. Small enterprises like hawker stalls work according to such principle.

Calling it a ‘dirty tactic’ is purely disrespectful

I get it, the owners of the Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle must strive to keep the line long, it’s a great sales technique but I want people to be aware of their dirty business tactics and unfair treatment to their loyal customers.

– Sebastian Wickström

I understand Mr. Wickström’s frustration over having to wait for an unfairly long period of time for what he called “an illusion of exclusivity and superior product”. However, translating your anger to such allegation just gives others the reflection that you are sour, very very sour. You sounded like Neil Warnock alleging Rafa Benitez of corruption when the latter fielded a weakened side against your relegation rivals and then lost the game, resulting your team to be relegated.

SOUR GRAPES: Accept the fact that all actions have consequences. (Image: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

You wouldn’t have put yourself into such demise if you had played consistently good football throughout the season. Likewise, if you didn’t decide to jump on the bandwagon in the first place, you wouldn’t have put yourself into all these ‘disappointment’.

If this is considered a dirty tactic, I think many hawker owners across the country might have to feel guilty about this because most of them do not set an ordering quota for on-site ordering. That’s from whatever that I know.

You might argue that HKSSCRN is internationally recognised through its Michelin accolades, it has the ability to amass a consumer pool that can way exceed other establishments. Hence, they have more customers to take account for.

No. I have witnessed other food stalls having to respond to bulk orders as well. They ain’t Michelin rated stalls and there are actually quite a number of people waiting in the queue behind.

On on-the-spot catering orders

UNEXPECTED: There are times when you received on-the-spot bulk orders, but it’s rare. (Image: DishDash)

It is inevitable that there are occasions where an outlet will face on-the-spot bulk orders from time to time, more so if it’s famous. I mean, these are the kind of dishes that you can boast about having on your dining table when your family or kakis come over for a gathering right?

Handling on-the-spot bulk orders are not easy as well. There is no preparation for it and the food preparers will have to rush out the order. The stress that comes along with it can be comparable to trying to finish your 20 pages proposal within the stipulated duration on an hour. Many hawkers want to serve as many customers as they can – whether those who are queuing ‘virtually’ or ‘on-site’. I believe that they put in the effort to speed up the process so that everyone can get their food as fast as possible.

You can say that they can refuse bulk orders like these. But most hawkers are very down to earth people. It is not common for them to receive large orders and it is a big deal to them. They need the income to pay for their capital and for their families as well. These are opportunities and if it can make their life better, why not?

To be honest, I’ve queued for HKSSCRN twice. In both occasions, I did not once encounter bulk orders that held up queues like what Mr. Wickström mentioned. Although I can’t safely say that such orders aren’t an everyday routine for them, but I think it’s a matter of luck.

On food catering apps

SKIP THE QUEUE: Many people are now looking to 3rd-party delivery app to purchase their food. (Image: Hawker.today)

Another thing that is trending currently is the use of third-party delivery service. Many people are looking to these services to get their food without stepping out of their homes or offices. This is a business opportunity that no one – whether you are an SME (yes, I consider food stalls as SMEs as well) or large corporation – would not want to lose out on.

Giving your potential consumers the convenience of avoiding the inevitable queues and getting the delicacies delivered into the comfort of their homes/office, you will be attracting more businesses and that means more income.

Like I’ve mentioned, these hawkers have families to feed. You can’t blame them for jumping onto such opportunities. More orders mean more work and do you not know most of these hawkers developed health problems such as arthritis due to all the efforts put into those plates or bowls to delicacies on your dining table?

The Downside

Definitely, Mr. Wickström did in fact provided us with something to ponder about. Should queues be better managed? Are there other options that we can look into so that consumers need not wait in the queue for so long and to reduce the stress on the hawkers?

TAKE YOUR Q-NUMBER: Is it feasible to introduce queue number system to hawker stalls as well?

The implementation of queue numbers system could be one way of solving the issue right here. There are some stalls that have actually implemented it and there’s no sign of queue. Recently, there has been a rise in hawker stalls following the footsteps of the bigger F&B players by introducing the food buzzer system. Such system will notify customers through the buzzer provided to them without having to keep a constant lookout for the queue system display.

However, the cost of implementation has to be factored in as well. Whether or not these actually will increase efficiency and whether the stall owners want to embrace such technologies will be a total issue altogether. Yet, I think in order to keep the hawker culture well alive into the next decade, it will be good if stall owners could look into the field of technologies to better equip themselves.

Conclusion

I am not writing this to pick up an argument or whatsoever. As mentioned earlier, I just want to clarify a few things with regards to the hawker businesses. Your acrimonious allegations might not have gone down too well with me, but I thank you for providing something useful for us to think about.

You might not be the only one complaining about the queues and the inefficiencies. There might be flaws in our systems and it’s important that we can find ways to counter them to enhance local hawker experience.

Meanwhile, I extend my invitation to you to try out other famous hawker stalls not rated by Michelin (there are few lists available on Seth Lui, Miss Tam Chiak and The Smart Local for your references).

Hopefully, you won’t encounter bulk orders from anyone ahead of you when you are queuing up for your food again.

Of course if you don’t want to queue or think that it’s a waste of your time, there are plenty of third-party food delivery apps out there which you can download. Deliveroo, FoodPanda, UberEATS, WhyQ, yiHawker – just to name a few.

Eat To Lose Weight

People like me have lower metabolism weight, hence we tend to go on an extreme diet to cut down on our calorie intake in order to lose weight. Yes, we probably need to cut down on about 500 calories per day to lose at shed at least 1-2 pounds of weight. However, here’s a quick fact: the more extreme your diet routine is, the more ineffective it will be.

And the reason why? Because starvation can lead to the decrease of your metabolic rate.

1) Your body will go into conservation (or starvation) mode and it will stop burning calories for you. AND THAT IS NOT GOOD. Yep, our body does burn calories even when we are at sedantary position. Digestive metabolism (or thermic effect of food) for example, helps you to burn 10-15 percent of your daily calorie intake (that equates to about 250kcal if your suggested daily calorie intake is 2200kcal).

2) Starving yourself will also lead to losing your lean body mass, which is your muscles. You won’t burn as much fats in the end. Muscle actually helps to increase your metabolic rate. Research has shown that 1 pound of muscle actually burns between 7 to 10 calories per day. In contrast, a pound of fat burns only 2 to 3 calories.

So what should we do instead? If eating too much gains weight yet going on an extreme diet doesn’t work as well, there must be the golden mean. Balance your diet. I know we heard that a lot from the dietitian, Health Promotion Board (HPB)’s advertisements and fitness literature, but how do we get about making sure we eat enough yet lose weight as well?

(Header image: Athleta)

Increase intake of high-fiber foods

HAVE IT: Fibre can help lower blood sugar, and cut cholesterol. (Image: The Asian Age)

These include your cereals, fresh vegetables, and whole wheat bread, etc. High-fiber foods are found to contain appetite-suppressant, which will make us more satiated and reduce our tendency to snack. This, in turn, will help with the regulation of your blood sugar level and also cholesterol level – which in turns help to improve your metabolism.

It is recommended that adults take 30 grams of fibre each day.

Personallu, in order to make sure that I am retrieving the necessary amount of fibre that my body requires each day, I’ve, in fact, replaced my rice for oatmeal completely.

I have my daily serving of Quaker Instant Oatmeal in the afternoon to go with my other side dishes. A serving of the oatmeal (35g) consists of just 129kcal and 3.5g of dietary fibre. I normally have 4-6 tablespoons, which kind of tally up to about 1.5 – 2 servings.

To add on to the list of benefits, a high-fibre diet can also reduce the risk of stroke, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.

However, if you’ve decided to make the switch, it is recommended to increase your fibre intake a little at a time to prevent fluctuant and bloating due to the excessive gas forming inside your stomach. It will not be that comfortable, trust me.

Don’t eat only when you are famished, but when you are hungry

As mentioned above, starvation can lead to the decrease in your metabolism. Scientifically, metabolism refers to ‘the amount of energy expended by an organism in a given time period – usually daily‘. To put it in layman term, it is the amount of energy burnt by your body to function.

For weight loss, we will need to focus on your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) – how much energy your body burns when it is at rest. Weight loss is simple mathematics – you’ll just need to burn more energy than your body consume. Hence, it is better to increase your overall BMR so that you can achieve weight loss without embarking on a torturous fitness campaign.

Believe it or not, the timing and frequency of which you have your food determine how much energy your body burns throughout the day.

It is important to understand the difference between famish and hunger. Famish is when you go through a long period without eating, which is especially that case when you ‘eat by schedule’. Our three meals schedule that we are most familiar with are in fact about 6 hours apart. Yet, your body requires enough fuel to produce the energy that we require.

The benefits of snack when you are hungry in between your meals (but don’t snack an hour and a half before your meal) is to prevent you from becoming famished by the time of your meal. We tend to overeat when we become over-hungry. If you are afraid of those extra calories, start drinking your plain water. Water helps to keep you full – it works for me most of the time. This will help in preventing your body to go into the conservation mode that I’ve mentioned earlier.

Smart snacking

SUPER SNACKS: Nuts contain unsaturated fats and protein which can help control your appetite. (Image: Connect Vending)

Of course, the kind of food that you’ve decided to snack on is as important as well. You don’t want to let your efforts go down the drain.

If you get hungry in between meals, opt for healthier snacks. Choose those with more fiber and protein and most importantly, lesser calories. Make it a habit of reading the nutrition label, and avoiding munching on snacks that are high in trans-fats and calories. If you are like me who needs a daily dose of chocolate to kerb the stress levels, feel free to opt for dark chocolate. My favourite would be the 75% dark chocolate. It contains more cocoa which helps to make you feel happier. When you are less stress, you won’t go for emotional eating.

If you are like me who needs a daily dose of chocolate to kerb the stress levels, feel free to opt for dark chocolate. My favourite would be the 75% dark chocolate. It contains more cocoa which helps to make you feel happier. When you are less stress, you won’t go for emotional eating.

I also go for nuts whenever I feel hungry. Nuts are very good source of protein and can help to control your appetite as well. Furthermore, it contains the unsaturated fats (more on that in a while).

Take your fats

GOOD FATS: Fats like Omega-3 helps to reduce appetite yet increase metabolism. (Image: Active Body Nutrition)

You didn’t read it wrongly. Go ahead and eat the fats.

However, you have to choose the correct kind of fats. There are 3 kinds of fats:

    1. Saturated fatsFound mostly in red meat and dairy products, saturated fats are not as healthy as the unsaturated ones but it is not exactly bad for the body either.
    2. Trans fatsThese are the fats that are bad for your body and will sabotage your plans entirely. Studies have shown that industrially-produced trans fats made from hydrogenated oils are linked to greater risk of death from coronary heart disease.
    3. Unsaturated fats (Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated)
      These are the healthy kind of fats that you should be including in your diet. Unsaturated fats promote satiety, hence reducing after-meal cravings. It can be found in nuts (as mentioned previously), certain fishes such as tuna and salmon, olives and avocados. I would like to give Omega-3 fatty acids a special mention. These fatty acids include alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). These polyunsaturated fats are commonly found in fishes and are especially beneficial to our human body if the right amount is taken. 

      In a study done by Bastard et el in 2006, low-grade inflammation of the white adipose tissue (where energy not used by the body are stored as fats) can lead to obesity, and subsequently, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerant and even diabetes. Omega-3 will help to reduce such inflammation and thus helps control fat deposits in your body. It has also been proven that Omega-3 can help to build lean muscle when you take it as a supplement to your exercise routine. This is extremely important to your weight loss programme because a pound of muscle burns more energy than a pound of fats! It will hence provide a boost towards your BMR as well.

      Although unsaturated fats can be beneficial, yet it should be taken with moderation. It must be noted that there are some polyunsaturated fats like the Omega-6, despite its positive health effects, will cause the body to produce pro-inflammatory substances when taken excessively. Hence, a balance of Omega-3 and Omega-6 intake in the ratio of between 1:1 and 1:4 is recommended.

According to dietary recommendation by the HPB, total fat intake should be limited to 25-30% of your total calorie intake – 10% of which from your saturated fats and the remainder from unsaturated fats.

Eat slowly

There’s no need to rush when you are eating. Enjoy the taste of the delicacy as it is being brought into your month. Studies have shown that it takes 20 minutes for our brain to register that we have eaten enough (satiation). Hence, the best way to prevent overeating is to eat relatively slowly.

Another research by Andrade et el (2012) has found out that, the most advisable strategy to maximise satiation and regulate energy intake is to allow yourself time to ‘drink sufficient quantities of water along with a given meal while slowing down eating rate’.

I’ve tried it personally as well – the slower you eat, the faster you’ll feel full (although I still eat faster than most of my peers).

A&W Returns To Singapore And With Halal Certification

A&W has recently announced that they are making a return to Singapore.

In an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore, A&W President and CEO Kevin Bazner has revealed that the new A&W outlet will be Halal Certified. He elaborated that the beef patties will be wholly sourced from Australia while its fresh chicken supply will “predominantly be sourced in the region and prepared locally”.

The announcement was received with support from the local Muslim community, many of whom have expressed their enthusiasm on A&W’s return.

Apart from that, customers can look forward to hot-sellers like fried chicken, burgers, Coney Dogs, waffle ice cream, curly fries and “freshly-made” root beer served in frosty mugs.

WAIT for A LITTLE MORE: Coney Dogs are one of the fan-favourites in the A&W fast food chain. (Image: SAYS)

Despite being the first fast food chain to open its business in Singapore, A&W had shut its last Singapore outlet in 2003, the same year Yum! Brands acquired the company. The company has since been sold to A Great American Brand in 2011. Since then, there have been plans for the fast food chain to return to Singapore.

The exact location on where the outlet will be have not been confirmed, but they are looking into key neighbourhood towns and regions, commercial malls and the Central Business District.

Meanwhile, those who crave for some A&W delicacy can travel across the Causeway to Aeon Bukit Indah in JB. You can take either Causeway Link bus services CW3 (Jurong) or CW6 (Boon Lay) to take you directly there.