“I will not let age change me;
It's time to Create the Life You Want!
Are you really living the life you want? Tired of the way you look and feel? Feeling like your body is breaking down with chronic aches, pains and injuries? When it comes to creating the life you want, most people think all you have to do is ABC; then you will get XYZ. This would have worked a very long time ago, but not in today’s ever- changing culture, technology, and our fast-paced lifestyles. We are part of a great big reality that is too much for us to see and understand. Everything is so complicated and interrelated. If we try to understand everything, we will understand nothing and get frustrated.
So what should we do? Well, the biggest mistake is that we don’t have a clear knowledge of who we are and what we really value. We need a great deal of quite time and have that conversation with ourselves to reflect and discover who we are and what makes us truly happy. It’s when we try to understand ourselves that we will understand everything. Have that conversation with yourself and ask:
Am I where I want to be in my life?
What do I value?
Are my actions inline with my values?
Am I ignoring and neglecting my health?
Do I enjoy my work? Does it stress me out or is it unfulfilling?
Are there happiness, laughter, and growth in my relationship?
Am I enough?
When you are on this journey of soul-searching, you will need to be very patient and let life take its course while you continue each day to better yourself. I started with my body over 20 years ago and used fitness as a vehicle to the life I want. What I discovered was the more I understand my body, the more I understand myself. When you work on yourself, you are more clear about who you are, the cloudy path of where to go will be much easier to negotiate. Obstacles that will come your way will be much easier to handle and every goal you set for yourself will be much easier to achieve.
My whole life changed when I started having that conversation with myself. I didn’t know which direction to take. All I knew was that I wasn’t happy and my body told me loudly and clearly after my doctor diagnosed me with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
My journey to fitness has led me to my life’s calling. Most importantly, it has helped me to become the person I needed to be and more! I’ve learned to be understanding, open-minded, and less caught up with the little dramas of life. I developed higher levels of self-awareness and deeper understanding of myself and my body. Fitness has also given me a new perspective. I found that the techniques I used during my workouts applied directly to every other area of my life: from starting and running my own businesses, to fully accepting and liking the person I see in the mirror. The biggest lesson I’ve learned was that I need to know who I am by working on myself everyday in order to create the life I want and that it’s a journey of continual growth.
We are happiest when we have meaning and purpose and we need a healthy and fit body to continually be creative in what we love to do. Even dogs live a happier and healthier life when they are physically active, learning new things, and servicing the disabled. Movement and growth are necessary in life, relationships, and the success of a business. Let me share with you my Journey to Fitness and how I got to where I am today.
While growing up, the grass always seemed to be greener on the other side. My two cousins were the smart ones; my sister was the skilled one. And me? I didn’t really have skills or talent. In fact, the only thing my parents said that I was good at was sleeping. As a child, my father would always compare my sister and me to our two cousins, who were super smart in academics. As a little girl in Canton, China, every week my sister and I would take turns standing in front of a little green chalkboard and we would be quizzed on our homework by our father at home. Each time our answers were wrong, we had to stick our hands out, with our palms up and my father would whack our hands fast and hard with a long thin stick.
This weekly test stopped when we moved to the United States in 1985, and boy was I happy. My father didn’t have the time because he and my mother had to work two jobs. Plus my father didn’t understand the English language, so he wasn’t able to quiz us on our academics. That didn’t mean my sister and I could slack off, though, because all it took was just one look from my father to get our butts moving. As I grew older, my father became not only my dad, but also a hero. I saw a hard-working man, who worked two minimum wage jobs, over 70 hours a week, and still had the energy to ride the bus to Chinatown on his only half-day off to buy groceries. Then he fixed and repaired things around the house.
During my junior year in high school, my dad received a phone call from my uncle in San Francisco. He asked my dad if he was really serious about wanting to open up an Asian grocery store in Kaneohe. “John,” my uncle’s oldest son, was not handling his divorce well and recently had been arrested for ignoring a restraining order his ex-wife had put against him. She was a picture bride my uncle and auntie had arranged for him. When she left him, he started getting depressed and would sometimes wait outside her workplace just to see her face. The arrest was the final straw for my uncle. Hoping for a fresh start, he sent “John” to Hawaii to open Cheung Fhot Grocery with my dad.
In the beginning, business was slow and profits from sales were just enough to pay rent. My dad saw the need to expand on inventory in order to increase sales, but my uncle wasn’t willing to invest any more money into the business. Tension started to grow as my dad felt that the small amount of money my uncle had originally invested was just to babysit “John.” Fourteen months later, the partnership came to an end due to disagreements regarding the business.
Because both of my parents did not speak English, my sister and I took over the responsibility of running the grocery store. Everyone in our family had duties. My mom would work all day in the store taking care of the produce section. Then at four in the evening, she would ride her bicycle a mile and a half to the same Chinese restaurant where she had worked for over eleven years to wash dishes. My dad was in charge of driving to Chinatown in the morning to pick up fresh produce and other inventory. Our grocery store closed at six in the evening and my dad would put away the produce and clean up. Then around 9:30 pm he would meet my mom at the restaurant and both of them would clean the restaurant’s kitchen and dining room floor, windows, and restrooms. By the time they got home and ready for bed, it would be midnight and they would do it all again at seven in the morning. My sister and I took turns working at the grocery store because of school. Then at night, we both would waitress at an Italian restaurant a block away. This was our routine for the first two years after we took over the business. By the third year, my parents were able to quit their outside jobs. Our grocery store had doubled its original size and business was steadily growing.
Every so often, my dad would jokingly say, “You two girls are very lucky. Look at this family business that I started. It’s a perfect job to raise a family. You two girls can get married; your husbands can work here also at the store. Both of you can have kids and still be able to work. You won’t have to look for babysitters; you can just take your babies to work. I would never have opened this store if you and your sister were smart like your two cousins. Somehow it all worked out; this business is perfect for both of you girls. I don’t think either one of you can get a better job than this place.” At that tender age, I saw it as a good thing. My dad had built this wonderful nest for our future.
My life took a turning point when I turned 23. Every day, I experienced low energy, extreme bloating in the abdomen, and chronic lethal gas problems. There were days when the gas bubbles were so big that they would push against my organs and the pain would bring me to my knees. After seeing my doctor and having a blood test, urine test, and ultrasound done, my doctor diagnosed me with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). It’s a condition caused by diet, stress, anxiety, and depression. When your life is nowhere you want it to be, your body will let you know with signals, like headaches, high blood pressure, over-eating, over-drinking, and so forth. If you ignore these signs, more serious signals will come knocking at your door. For me, it was IBS. Some people would get constipated, some would get the runs and others like me would get bloated and gassy. Then there are the unfortunates who would have all three unpleasant symptoms.
After the diagnosis, I had that conversation with myself. I kept thinking and asking myself questions. I knew I had uncertainties, I knew I was lonely; I knew I was unhappy and unfulfilled, but I felt too guilty to complain. I have a roof over my head, clean clothes on my back, parents who love me; I have never been raped, attacked, or abused or even been in an accident. What could be the problem?
After months of reflection, I came to realize that I was just going through life. I was 23 years old but felt as if I were 43. I was going to school because my dad told me to. He suggested being safe and getting a degree in accounting. I was working for my parents, I was living with my parents and my biggest fear was becoming like my parents. Don’t get me wrong; I am very grateful for some of the important qualities and values they have taught me, but there were other qualities I do not wish to acquire. “Who am I? What do I really, really, really want?” Then it hit me. The stress and anxiety were fear. Fear of the feeling of guilt if I were to move in a different direction to find myself. Just thinking of leaving the family store brought me stress and anxiety because that meant my parents would have to close down the grocery store and return to minimum wage jobs with long hours and hard labor with limited income potential and future.
I felt trapped with the responsibility and the obligation of running the grocery store. I also felt trapped with the responsibility of taking care of my parents as they aged and besides the caretaker side, there was a lack of English issue. Since my parents needed such assistance, leaving the island was definitely out of the question. Also, the relationship between my older sister and my dad was never really good. In fact, I was my dad’s favorite daughter because I was the one who always did what he said. My sister, on the other hand, always butted heads with my dad. I assumed she would one day leave and I would have to take over the store by myself and just the thought of it brought me more stress and anxiety. I just didn’t know what to do, but I knew I couldn’t live that way any longer. I needed to move forward; I needed to find myself; and most of all, I needed to grow.
I contemplated every moment of every day. Two feelings would simultaneously explode in my whole body. There was the feeling of guilt weighing heavily on my mind and body and then there was the feeling of hope bringing a sense of calm and release. Finally one night I just couldn’t take it anymore. I had just finished counting the cash from sales for the day and had been sitting at the front of the grocery store for over 20 minutes to work up the nerve to tell Dad how I felt.
I still remember that night very clearly. I slowly walked to the storage room and my body started to get numb. The storage room where we had our dinners every evening was dark as usual. My parents would turn off all the lights in the evening when the store closed to save on the electric bill. There was one small light that lit the room to move about safely. It was after dinner and my dad was cleaning up the little table he and my mom had just eaten their meal at. My mom walked past me, heading to the front of the store to put away the produce. I stood there staring at my dad. His back was facing me as he was quietly singing a Chinese song and starting to put the food and dishes away.
I walked by him and sat on a little black foldable stool facing him. He kept singing and then I said “Dad,” He stopped singing, looked at me and said, “What?” I said, “I’m not happy.” He said, “Why?” I told him I couldn’t do it anymore. I told him I would promise to take care of him for the rest of his life, but I just couldn’t see myself being at the grocery store the rest of my life to fulfill his dream. That night, he just snapped and said, “ I don’t need you, you can leave anytime you want! I have never stopped you from doing things you want to do! All this hard work was for you and your sister! If you two weren’t so dumb, I wouldn’t have opened this store! It was all for you two girls!” The fear and guilt I had earlier turned into anger. I lashed back and said, “I don’t want to hear that anymore! I’m tired of you comparing us to our cousins. I’m leaving and I’m giving you two years to find someone to hire and help you. Two Years!”
I ran home that night, I mean literally ran home. Our house was only a tenth of a mile up the road. Another quarter mile from our house was Windward Community College which I was attending part-time; then half a mile from our grocery store was the little Italian restaurant where my sister and I waitressed. That was my whole world at that time in my life. A very small world.
When I got home that night, I ran into my room and slammed the door. I cried, and cried, and cried. Inflamed with anger, I said to myself, “I’ll show you, Dad, I’m not dumb. I’m going to become somebody. I don’t know what I’m going to be, but I’m going to be on Oprah one day. I’ll show you.” That night I kept having that conversation with myself. What is my next step and what am I going to do? I had no clue, so I decided to start with my body. I told myself, if I look better and feel better, maybe I would have the confidence to try new things. I had a trainer 3 months prior at 24 Hour Fitness before and had no result. I felt the program she had given me was very general; she was unhelpful and unsupportive. Plus, she was just skinny and average looking and I wanted a transformation. I remembered going to a fitness and bodybuilding competition a while back and my eyes got big as a horse and my mouth just dropped when the curtain opened with all the contestants looking like barbies with muscles. They looked strong, confident, and in control. I wanted to look and feel that way.
The next day I busted open the yellow pages and called every personal trainer on the island and left messages. I wanted a trainer who had gotten results, someone who had competed in contests before. I believe everything happens for a reason. People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime and the next day a trainer from Gold’s Gym returned my call. He was a very humble and soft-spoken man in his mid-thirties. The first thing I told him was that I was frustrated and didn’t want to waste any more time. Then I asked, “Have you been in any type of competition? With a smile in his voice he said, “I’ve done a few.” Unknown to me, he was Chris Faildo, a three-time runner-up of Mr. Universe and in 2007 finally achieved his title. When I first met with Chris one afternoon in August 2000, my intention was just to purchase ten sessions from him and have him show me what to do and what to eat. Then, after going home that evening, I had that conversation with myself and I said to myself, “I can’t do this on my own with just ten sessions. I need a mentor, I need someone to hold my hand and take me to my goals. I want a transformation.”
During our first session, I said to Chris, “I’ve thought about it; I would like you to train me four times a week for a hundred sessions. Please help me to achieve my goal.” He looked at me and asked, “How old are you?” “23” I said. Then he asked, “ And may I ask, how are you going to afford me? “ Back then he charged sixty dollars a session. “Well, I’ve had two jobs since I was ten years old. My parents taught me to save money for a rainy day and this is my rainy day and I’m going to use it.” Then Chris said, “I am confident I can help you achieve your goal, but you will have to do and eat everything I recommend.” I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I will eat cardboard if you say so. I WANT THIS.” He looked at me with a soft smile and said, “ Let’s train.” One month later, I saw a flyer for an upcoming bodybuilding contest and ask Chris if he think I could participate. His encouragement and support gave me the confidence to set a real big goal for the very first time in my life. My life has never been the same ever since and I’ve been living and creating the life I want.
Everything that’s happened in my life came from the choices I made. In the beginning, the success I got from contests that I had entered and won was driven by revenge and the need for approval and acceptance from my father. When your intentions are not from the heart, the results won’t last long. I ended up going through five years of extreme bingeing, gaining all my weight back and more. Let me tell you, I have never taken drugs before in my life, I have never even been drunk, but I can tell you how a food hangover feels like or how I can eat 3000 calories in one sitting and still not feel satisfied. The only reason I wasn’t heavier than the 2005 picture above was that I did a lot of cardio to compensate for the large amount of food I was taking in. I also knew that if I got any bigger, I would not have any clients.
It was a horrible time in my life and I didn’t like being a hypocrite, telling my clients what they needed to do, but behind closed doors, I was mentally and emotionally out of control and using food to numb the discomfort and pain. I just couldn’t live like that any longer. It was the long daily walks and deep conversations I had with myself that helped me discover who I am and what really makes me happy, I finally have created and do live the life I want to the point where I am able to share my story with you today.
Life is about choices and growth. Where you are right now in your life came from the choices you made. As Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ thinking drown out your own inner voice and most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
Your health is a gift you give yourself. It’s something only you can do for yourself; and when you give yourself this gift, you will discover who you truly are and what you are really capable of achieving. Have that conversation with yourself every day because living the life you want not only will bring you happiness, but also give you a sense of deep joy and fulfillment.
I wish every one of you a wonderful and bittersweet journey. May you find your passion, meaning, and purpose through fitness.
To your health and happiness,
Li Si Yang
NASM CPT (National Academy of Sports Medicine)
Resist a Ball C.O.R.E. Instructor
Resist a Ball Advanced C.O.R.E. Instructor
Resist a Ball Creative Cardio Moves Instructor
Apex Fitness Group 24/7 CPT
First Aid, CPR & AED
PhysicalMind Institute, TheMethod Pilates
IDEA Fitness Fusion Convention Chicago 2005
IDEA World Fitness Convention, Las Vegas 2005
Evolution Fitness Conference, Honolulu 2005
IDEA Personal Trainer Convention, New York 2005
ORI Anuenue Hale Caregiver Training 2006
IDEA World Fitness Convention, Las Vegas 2006
IDEA World Fitness Convention, San Diego 2007
IDEA World Fitness Convention, Las Vegas 2008
Tom McCook Workshop from Center of Balance 2010
Franklin Method Workshop Module A Pelvic Core 2010
PSI Basic Seminar (2011)
National Posture Institute (2012)
Dr. Michael Luan workshop and classes (2013)
International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) siminar, San Diego (2013)
The Fascianation Method on Self-Myofasica Release (2014)
SCW California MANIA®, San Francisico (2014)
SCW Boston MANIA® (2014)
SCW California MANIA®, San Francisico (2015)
SCW Boston MANIA® (2015)
AFAA Group Instrutor (2015)
AFAA Mat Pilates (2015)
Da Vinci Bodyboard (2016)
Yoga Tune Up Level-1 (2017)
Sarga Bodywork Level-1 (2017)
ELDORA Level 1 & 2 (2018)
MAT JumpStart upper body (2018)
MAT Specialist (2018 - 2019)
Z Health Performance (2019)
Mobility Mastery (2020)
Shoulder Stability and Mobility Protocol (2021)
The Academy of Mindful Movement (2021)
The Academy of Mindful Movement Internship (2022)
2001 Miss Student Body, Overall Winner, University of Hawaii
2001 Miss Designer Body, Contestant
2003 Miss Designer Body, Contestant
2003 Miss Hawaiian Island NPC, 1st Place
2003 Miss Aloha Muscle NPC, Overall Winner
2007 ABA Natural Body Building, Contestant
2007 Miss Hawaiian Island NPC, Contestant
2008 Paradise Cup, Contestant