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Healthy Achiever: Cheryl Yeoh, CEO of MaGIC Shares Her Take on Healthy Living

In this series, you'll discover the secrets of how high achiever Malaysians juggle a tight schedule and still manage to live healthy. Get an insight into MaGIC CEO Cheryl Yeoh's life below:

An adventurer in life, Cheryl Yeoh is a resourceful and versatile entrepreneur who looks to create meaningful impact with her products and is also passionate about helping other entrepreneurs.

She co-founded Reclip.It, a personalized shopping list app that was acquired by Walmart Labs in 2013. Named by Mashable as one of the top 44 female founders every entrepreneur should know, Cheryl won notable accolades yet decided to bid goodbye to her comfort zone in San Francisco.

She returned to her home country Malaysia after being appointed to run MaGIC (Malaysian Global Innovation & Creativity Center), a government-funded company to build great entrepreneurs. To us, that would mean a crazy load of commitment, work, and time!

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As the CEO of MaGIC, Cheryl believes that it is of utmost importance for a person to have a healthy mind, body and relationships to contribute to the community. With a heavy load of commitment on her end, we were curious how she made it.

Today, she shares her real life experience on how she manages to live healthy and stay active.

HealthWorks: Tell us more about yourself and what do you do?
Cheryl: I’m an adventurer, an entrepreneur, and a person seeking to live a meaningful life and make an impact in this world, in the time that I have left. At the moment, my contribution manifests in the form of leading MaGIC and helping entrepreneurs.

HealthWorks: Do you believe that taking care of your health helps you to be more productive in life?
Cheryl: Yes, most definitely. You can only be a good person, do good work and contribute if you have a healthy mind, body and relationships. Everything good starts from the heart and mind. So mindfulness and having the right motivation and attitude is the beginning to our life’s work. A healthy body helps support our mind, good relationships help support our heart, and keeps us grateful. Happiness is only real when shared with the people we care about, and who care for us.

HealthWorks: Many people use “busy schedules” as a reason for not living healthy. Seeing that your schedule is pretty hectic, how do you make time to commit to a healthy lifestyle?
Cheryl: It was admittedly tough at the beginning, as I was transitioning into a new environment, new job, and being put in high-pressured situations. I’m the kind of person who commits entirely into something I’m deeply passionate about, so I sometimes neglect certain aspects of my physical and mental health. However, I’m aware of the neglect and gave myself 6-8 months to adjust and made plans to get to equilibrium. In the new year, I started on that plan and have been making small steps toward a healthier lifestyle.

HealthWorks: What is your favourite workout routine to get you in the groove?
Cheryl: I’ve always been a very active person, and preferred high intensity routines (squash, spinning, kickboxing, sparring, dancing, etc). These days, in my quest to achieving more mindfulness and to slow myself down in this fast-paced environment, I like to practice yoga, go on long hikes, and try to meditate 10 mins every other night. I also like to take long walks after dinner if I can. On weekends, I golf, dance or go rock climbing.

Cheryl (Left) traversed Mt. Kinabalu via the Ferrata route at 3,776m above sea level (Middle) Making most of her flexibility by doing a flying kick (Right) Enjoying her weekend round of golf

Cheryl (Left) traversed Mt. Kinabalu via the Ferrata route at 3,776m above sea level (Middle) Making most of her flexibility by doing a flying kick (Right) Enjoying her weekend round of golf

HealthWorks: What’s a typical day like in terms of food? 
Cheryl: I have a pretty big appetite so I tend to eat small meals throughout the day. I rarely skip breakfast, as I think it’s the most important meal in the day, and I tend to eat a smaller dinner with fewer carbs. I’m trying to eat less meat and rarely buy meat to cook, unless I eat out. I’m also very conscious about eating sustainable, responsible and locally grown or bred foods where possible, and try to stay away from processed foods as much as I can.

HealthWorks: You recently had an Ayurvedic detox program! What inspired you to do it and how was it?
Cheryl: I’ve been doing an 8-day Ayurvedic detox program to start the year, every January for the past 4 years. My friend Kevin joined an Ayurvedic program in New York City in 2012 and shared his routine with me at dinner one night. I was so inspired by the discipline it required and the rationale behind every dietary routine throughout the 8 days. For example, you drink carrot juice with extra virgin olive oil and ginger to cleanse your liver. You eat a fresh clove of crushed garlic every morning to boost your immunity. You take a spoon of flaxseed oil or coconut oil to line your digestive track, so food goes down easier. You do a 6-min hot-cold hydrotherapy to expand and contract your blood capillaries to reduce headaches.

The principle is that our digestive system works all year round non-stop to serve our dietary functions. It’s healthy to give it a break to refresh and unclog, so you omit these food groups: meat, carbs, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine. I also like that during our juice fast, we realize that our bodies actually don’t need that much to survive. We end up eating excessively because we’re lured by the marketing calls of packaging and branding. This annual routine keeps me mindful about what I put into my body and also helps reset a lot of cravings that I used to have for carbs, sweets, and caffeine.

All in all, it’s a great mindfulness practice. I enjoy it more when I have a group of people doing it with me, because I always believe in the collective spirit of a community, rather than doing it alone. Happiness is only real when shared.

What Cheryl made: (Left) Homecooked split pea soup. (Right) Homemade breakfast of chia seeds, weetbix soaked in soy milk, with fresh figs, blueberries and bananas, sprinkled with flax seeds.

What Cheryl made: (Left) Homecooked split pea soup. (Right) Homemade breakfast of chia seeds, weetbix soaked in soy milk, with fresh figs, blueberries and bananas, sprinkled with flax seeds.

HealthWorks: You deal with many entrepreneurs every day. What do you think an entrepreneur’s healthy lifestyle should be like? What advice would you like to share with them?
Cheryl: As mentioned above, (being obsessed entrepreneurs) I think it’s perfectly fine when we’re just starting out to sacrifice certain aspects of our health. However, at a certain point, we should be aware that neglecting our health becomes detrimental to everything that we’ve just worked so hard for. Ultimately, all the success we gain is useless if we don’t have our health to enjoy it, or good people around us to enjoy it with. It’s also useless if we’re not self-aware and happy with our lives, because we’ll not have the right state of mind to be an internally content or grateful person.

My best advice is to make a gradual plan for how we would slowly regain control over those aspects of our life. For example, start with getting at least 7-8 hours sleep and drinking enough water. Then work on eating a balanced diet and getting enough vitamins. Next, exercise 1-2 a week at least or try to walk a little more each week. Finally, try to journal, confide our thoughts and feelings with a close friend, and meditate, if possible.

Go on a retreat once a quarter to recharge. Try not to work on weekends and get a massage once in a while. Being entrepreneurs, it’s sometimes very tough to ever stop working, but I believe it can be done if we try to alternate days where we work like crazy and give ourselves days where we just take our minds completely off work. It’s as important to recharge our minds, the same way I recharge my body with the Ayurvedic cleanse.

CHERYL YEOH (1)
HealthWorks: What are your views on the health and fitness scene/culture in Malaysia?
Cheryl: Compared to 13 years ago when I first left Malaysia, I think Malaysians are actually increasingly more health conscious and fitter. For example, I see a lot more juice bars and healthy eating options. People are also jogging more and running marathons. I was surprised to find the largest indoor climbing gym in Asia at One Utama.

The Ministry of Youth & Sports is also playing a big role in encouraging young people to get fit with their Fit Malaysia campaign, which is great. At MaGIC, our team is starting up a weekly yoga class and basketball sessions with entrepreneurs in our coworking space, and will expand into more options soon. As employers, we’re also responsible to encourage our employees to be fit and healthy.

HealthWorks: How do you view success in life? 
Cheryl: I think of two things every day when I live life – one is my wedding day, and the other is my death bed. For the first, if I can visualize who are my 5 bridesmaids and closest friends that I’d want to invite to my eventual wedding, then I know I’ve made enough meaningful friendships. If not, then I should continue working on being a good friend until I can fill a wedding hall with people I care about and know well enough to invite. It’s not the quantity that counts, but the quality of the friendships I’ve built.

My second philosophy in life is determined by how people would react on the day I die. It sounds morbid but it’s realistic. What would people say about me and my contributions to the world or how have I impacted their lives personally? Would people be sad, indifferent or happy that I’d passed? Have I made a difference in the little time that I’ve been alive, and if so, how does that contribution define me beyond my life?

Our lives are very fragile, and we how we define success will lead the decisions we make in life. So I believe in making them wisely, for we are only temporary beings passing through this world, and we are bound to leave many things behind.

HealthWorks: What’s your daily inspiration to get you going?
Cheryl: My daily inspiration is: what can I do today that would change someone’s life or trajectory for the better?

HealthWorks: If you own a huge billboard and you have to paint one advice on it – what will it be?
I’d rather regret doing something, than regret not doing it at all.

In her free time, Cheryl love massages and can never pass up a good one. She also loves cozying up at home with a good movie, some warm tea (or scotch) and home-cooked dinner.

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The Healthy Achiever Series is where we interview some high achiever Malaysians on how they keep healthy and happy. Stay tuned for more follow-ups to this series! If you have a story to share, send them to hello@healthworks.my and you may be featured!

We're passionate about making you healthier and happier. Like you, we know that sometimes being healthy can be a chore. So we remind and motivate each other (and you) to choose healthy. Sometimes we stumble and sometimes we run a marathon, but that's what life is! A learning journey all the way!

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