You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Christy Chung on her secret to looking young: intermittent fasting, low-sugar diet and exercise help keep the 50-year-old actress fit and healthy

South China Morning Post logo South China Morning Post 19/9/2020 Elaine Yau elaine.yau@scmp.com

a person standing in a park: Chung met her husband, Shawn Zhang Lunshuo, in 2014. © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung met her husband, Shawn Zhang Lunshuo, in 2014.

Christy Chung Lai-tai looks decades younger than her 50 years. The veteran Hong Kong actress has amassed a legion of male fans thanks to her complexion, curvy body and sizzling on-screen persona - and for her recent appearance in a popular Chinese reality-television show.

The show - Older Sisters Who Brave the Winds and Waves - pits 30 women aged over 30 against each other as they vie for a place in a pop group. Though Chung was eventually eliminated, her dances in high heels and body-hugging outfits showed that age has barely touched her.

She tells the Post that the secrets to her success are maintaining a healthy diet, getting a good night's sleep, not drinking alcohol and feeling young at heart.

Get the latest insights and analysis from our Global Impact newsletter on the big stories originating in China.

"I won the Miss Chinese International Pageant (organised by Hong Kong television station TVB) at the age of 22. I was at my prettiest then. So my mental state will always be (the same as) when I was 22 years old," Chung, who was born in Canada, says.

a woman wearing a dress: Chung says the secret to keeping her youthful looks is maintaining a proper diet, getting a good night's sleep, not drinking alcohol and feeling young at heart. © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung says the secret to keeping her youthful looks is maintaining a proper diet, getting a good night's sleep, not drinking alcohol and feeling young at heart. a piece of cake sitting on top of a wooden table: Honey replaces sugar in Chung's diet. Photo: Shutterstock © Provided by South China Morning Post Honey replaces sugar in Chung's diet. Photo: Shutterstock

She keeps her body in shape with a snack-free, low-sugar diet with plenty of protein and greens. "At my home kitchen, I have replaced white sugar with honey and coconut sugar. As I have a mostly vegetarian diet with very little starch, I consume more protein powder to make up for the lack of meat.

"I eat fruit in the morning and prefer low-sugar fruit like blueberries, strawberries and grapefruit to the sugar-laden ones like mangoes, watermelons, pineapples and peaches. Eating fruit in the morning helps you burn off the sugar through work and exercise later in the day."

The Chinese-Vietnamese actress has delivered plenty of memorable performances - she played roles in Mermaid Got Married (1994), The Red Wolf (1995), 97 Aces Go Places (1997) and Bruce Lee, My Brother (2010). She met her husband, Chinese actor Shawn Zhang Lunshuo, 38, while appearing on Chinese reality-TV show Perhaps Love in 2014.

Chung recommends eating yogurt to increase the probiotics - live microorganisms in food similar to beneficial microorganisms found in the human gut - in one's digestive system, and foods high in antioxidants, such as garlic, red ginseng and spring onion, to boost the immune system. Antioxidants are seen as preventing damage to our cells from molecules called free radicals that may be linked to chronic diseases.

She is also an intermittent faster and limits her food intake to just eight hours a day, as she believes this will help preserve the digestive system and thus help her live longer. "Eating throughout the day will subject your digestive system to frequent work, which is not good for the stomach," Chung says.

a close up of Christy Chung: Chung, despite being eliminated from Older Sisters Who Brave the Winds and Waves, has amassed plenty of fans for her youthful looks. © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung, despite being eliminated from Older Sisters Who Brave the Winds and Waves, has amassed plenty of fans for her youthful looks.

Michelle Lau, a registered dietitian and founder of nutrition consultancy Nutrilicious, says eating fruit (a source of carbohydrates) for breakfast helps maintain stable insulin levels, provides energy for the day, and improves brain functioning and general well-being.

"A good mixture of carbohydrates and protein helps the body and brain function optimally. As an example, I would recommend consuming a piece of fresh fruit with whole grain cereal and low-fat milk for breakfast," Lau says.

People who fast must be committed to doing so for at least 14 hours to see the health benefits, she adds.

Christy Chung lying down and looking at the camera: Chung limits her food intake to just eight hours a day. © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung limits her food intake to just eight hours a day.

"Fasting induces a cellular repair process called autophagy, in which your cells use old and unneeded cellular material and proteins for energy, which may protect against neurodegenerative conditions and cancer," Lau says.

For autophagy to happen, you need low liver glycogen, which is usually only achieved after about 14 to 16 hours of fasting. Low liver glycogen is even more likely to happen after 24 hours of fasting. Fasting is a serious commitment, and it isn't for everyone. Some people feel low energy, moody, and have trouble sleeping."

Long-term fasting may impair the action of the sugar-regulating hormone insulin and could lead to increased risk of diabetes, Lau cautions, and recommends people see a dietitian before embarking on such a fasting programme.

Chung, who is an exercise enthusiast, loves dancing, skiing, yoga and tai chi, and she takes a portable trampoline with her on work trips so she can maintain her daily jumping ritual. She also recommends setting aside four minutes every day to do Tabata workouts, available on smartphone apps, including push-ups, jumping jacks, heel touches, squats, ab twists and other movements.

"I have exercised since when I was young and living in Canada. I played sports with boys all the time. I loved taking part in the reality television show, as it had plenty of dance practices. I didn't feel tired, even when I danced for hours non-stop."

However, Chung cautions older people not to exercise too strenuously.

"When I was in my twenties, I could run for one or two hours (every day). Last year, I ran every day, sometimes running twice a day, the first time in the morning for 45 minutes on an empty stomach and the second time after dinner for 45 minutes. But I slept worse. Now, I do (less strenuous) exercises like stretching, yoga and trampoline jumping."

a woman posing for a picture: Chung loves dancing, skiing, yoga and tai chi. © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung loves dancing, skiing, yoga and tai chi. a cup of coffee on a table: Chung recommends eating yogurt to raise the level of probiotics in your gut. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for digestion. Photo: Shutterstock © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung recommends eating yogurt to raise the level of probiotics in your gut. Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for digestion. Photo: Shutterstock

Stephen Wong Heung-sang, professor and chairman of Chinese University of Hong Kong's department of sports science and physical education, agrees that older adults run the risk of getting injured if they over-exercise.

"According to the World Health Organisation, adults over the age of 65 years who have no limiting health conditions are recommended to engage in 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise like brisk walking and swimming per week and to engage in muscle strengthening activities twice per week for health benefits," Wong says.

"Additional benefits can be gained from doing more than the recommendations, but it is important that older adults do not overdo it. They should also perform activities that help them with balance such as heel walking and toe walking. Mini-trampoline training (helps improve) their ability to regain balance."

a group of people posing for the camera: Chung says she maintains her good mental state by loving her family and being grateful for what she has in life. © Provided by South China Morning Post Chung says she maintains her good mental state by loving her family and being grateful for what she has in life.

Chung posts videos of her family exercising together on her Weibo account, China's version of Twitter. She says she maintains her good mental state by loving her family and being grateful for what she has in life.

"I reduce stress by playing with my kids and pets, having massages, and having seaside chats with my friends in person. We must never bottle up unhappy feelings. It's also important to be grateful for what we have so we won't feel greedy and lacking."

This article originally appeared on the South China Morning Post (www.scmp.com), the leading news media reporting on China and Asia.

Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

More from South China Morning Post

South China Morning Post
South China Morning Post
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon