Uncle's sudden death shocks overweight man into changing lifestyle
Man brushed off doctors' warnings, turning his life around only after his uncle died from multiple organ failure
When he was 31, he was so overweight that his insurance premiums doubled.
Despite his young age, Mr Darren Ho was a walking time bomb.
"Doctors were telling me that I had fatty liver disease. They also said my knees and ankles were starting to give way because they couldn't carry my weight any more," says the digital division head of an international broadcast company.
"Besides high blood pressure, the doctors also warned me that my organs would stop functioning properly if I did not start taking care of my health."
His weight skyrocketed from 77kg to 142kg in a span of two years.
"I used to be part of the junior national tennis team, and my meals were always restricted," says Mr Ho, who is 1.76m tall.
"I guess as I got older, I just took less and less care of myself."
Then a businessman, he was eating big meals and drinking with clients almost every day.
On days when he didn't have to entertain, he would feel he needed to unwind - with big meals and alcohol.
"It got to a point where I was making excuses for why I needed to eat and drink every day," he says.
He was given several warnings to change his lifestyle but ignored all the signs.
"Despite the dire news, I didn't care. I brushed it off and concluded that doctors exaggerate and worry all the time," adds Mr Ho, now 33.
He was jerked out of his "all is well" delusion when his uncle, who was in his 50s, died unexpectedly from multiple organ failure.
Mr Ho says: "It came as a shock. I asked my mum what happened, and she just said, 'He didn't look after himself.'
"It was only then that I really feared for my life."
Mr Ho knew he could no longer eat 12 bowls of rice a day. His daily bottle of wine had to go, too.
After two years of hard work and a strict diet, Mr Ho is back in shape, but the nightmare of what he used to be still remains.
"I don't want anyone to become what I became," he says.
"I am determined to help as many people as I can to make sure nobody ever gets to that point.
"It was ridiculous."
Mr Ho is a volunteer with Rock The Naked Truth, a support community for people facing body image struggles, where he gives simple workout and nutrition tips.
"When I first started exercising again, I ran 200m and dropped to the ground," recalls Mr Ho.
"It was just five minutes of running, but it felt like I ran a marathon. It was painful."
He adds that getting his health back on track was not an easy task.
"There were times when I would be in unbearable pain. After exercising, there were times I would question my own sanity.
"And I thought to myself, 'Maybe it is all right to give up.' It is not like I didn't try."
Despite the difficulties, he realised that his excessive weight gain and deteriorating health were no longer just about him.
"I needed to do it for my loved ones. I wasn't going to let myself be a burden to them," says Mr Ho, who is gearing up for every triathlon scheduled for the year.
"The shortest triathlon I'll be doing includes a 20km cycle, a 5km run and a 750m swim.
"But the one I am excited about is the Bintan Ironman event in August. I'll have to swim 3km, cycle 90km and run 21km."
Mr Ho adds that the lessons he learnt in his experience goes beyond understanding the importance of being healthy.
"The one thing this has taught me is the extent of my mental strength," he says.
"I achieved my goal even when it felt like I was never going to make it.
"And because of that, I want to help people who are struggling because they need to know that it is possible.
"The best feeling is that I now feel like I can take on anything."
'We want people to love themselves'
GET HEALTHY: Rock The Naked Truth founder Cheryl Tay. PHOTO: ROCK THE NAKED TRUTH
Rock The Naked Truth wants to help people who have body image issues.
Its founder, freelance journalist Cheryl Tay, 29, says the group has regular meet-ups and exercise sessions every month.
This is to help people love their own bodies and get healthy.
"We want people to love themselves and learn to accept that their bodies are not meant to be of another shape. And we want everyone to be fit, healthy and happy."
Miss Tay started the group because of her own experience. As a big teenager, her self-confidence was badly affected.
"I grew up thinking I wasn't good enough, and I used to feel inferior about myself," she says.
'BUTT TOO BIG'
"I had all the grouses about my body - boobs too small, legs too thick, arms too flabby, butt too big, face not pretty - but my extroverted nature concealed how I really felt about myself."
Miss Tay took weight loss to the extreme, spending thousands of dollars on weight-loss programmes and eventually succumbing to diuretics and laxatives.
But none of them worked.
It wasn't until she hired a personal trainer, who made her lift weights, that she saw her body change.
She says: "It took me a while to admit what I went through because I felt ashamed and weak.
"Through this group, I am hoping people will open up and share so that we can become healthy together."
Information on the group can be found at rockthenakedtruth.com