Recognised as one of the most sought-after columnists and writers of the last 10 years, veteran author Ploy Chariyaves confesses that her latest book - her first dealing with health - is the toughest she's ever written. But the outcome has been rewarding.
A year in the writing and Ploy's 13th title, "Happy & Healthy" recounts how two years' experience in health management brought improvements in her well-being as well as a slimmer figure that's become the talk of the town. She's been able to shed 15 kilos while still indulging in sweet treats. That's a "happy and healthy" experience, she says.
"People kept asking me how I achieved such dramatic weight loss. They all wanted to know my diet methods," says the svelte Ploy. Shedding weight, however, wasn't the goal - just a nice side effect of her main objective: good health.
Though Ploy was chubby in her younger days, she kept fit and healthy so never worried about it. But then she began to gradually put on weight.
"What I saw in the mirror was an overweight lady with an unhealthy lifestyle, not the healthy L-size woman I had been. Proof was the hypothyroid, migraines and insomnia I had been suffering for years," says Ploy, now down to size S.
Back then, life was nothing if not hectic. As a columnist for a slew of magazines, she found herself constantly battling deadlines. When the pressure was on, she resorted to sweet treats - cakes and chocolate - as rewards. Adding to the toll on her health was the insomnia that cut her sleep to four or five hours a night.
Ploy made the decision to enter her 40s as a healthy woman, but with her 40th birthday only two months away, big changes had to be made.
"It took almost two years to recover my physical health. It sounds a long time but I wanted to find a sustainable healthy routine that I could enjoy living with for the rest of my life," says the author, who's turning 40 in November.
Through the 10 chapters of "Happy & Healthy", Ploy shares the trial-and-error-process that eventually led to success. But the book is neither a simple how-to guide nor an ordinary diet manual.
"I've retained an easy-to-understand writing style for an informative and entertaining read, and made the health issues accessible to everyone but also personalised to individual readers. I don't believe in how-to bibles that promise everybody the same the results if they follow the same methods. That's why I worked hard on research and interviews that should provide enough information for each reader to find what works for him/her.
"And though diet is central to a healthy lifestyle, the book is not a diet manual. The primary target is a well-balanced, healthy life, but a perfect shape will be one of the results."
Ploy confirms that a healthy life starts with a balance of the right nutrition and proper exercise. But that's easier said than done for most people.
"The first five chapters introduce tips for self-rehabilitation through 'mind management', balanced eating and workouts. The last five chapters cover alternative medicine, healthy trips, health trends and a directory of health-related information and services."
The second part of the book also features the story of Ploy's dramatic change from a 64kg woman whose health was on the slide to a healthier and more youthful 48kg Ploy.
"Originally, the idea was to illustrate it with old photos of myself but my art director said they were too ugly," says the author with a laugh.
So, what's Ploy's key to good health and well-being? A holistic health programme that combines good food and regular exercise, she says.
"I hope readers will find their own ways of improving their health with this book. Don't go too extremes and don't push yourself too much," says Ploy, who now does 40 minutes of cross training three days a week. "Have fun with it and go slowly."
She recommends tofu, vegetables and fish as part of a healthy diet but says she won't be eating them three times a day for the rest of her life. Instead, she focuses on a concept of balanced eating that includes five low-carb dishes per day.
"For me, food is not just fuel, it's a passion. I have a sweet tooth so I can't live without sweets. But with proper and balanced eating, you can incorporate your 'weaknesses' as part of a happy and healthy lifestyle."
"Happy & Healthy" (Bliss Publishing) will be launched at a party tomorrow at 5pm at Siam Paragon's Kinokuniya bookshop. All are welcome.