Robin is huge and stands out in any crowd with his muscled body. People know him through badminton, cricket and also as the man behind the much loved Indian restaurant, Baba’s Kitchen.
He was never overweight: “I just wanted to make myself healthy,” he says. This is why he decided to take part in the first Word fitness challenge in 2009, where contestants who made the most impressive body transformation in 12 weeks would win a prize of US$2,009. Not only the challenge but the seven years since have proved that Robin has a mind (and body) of steel.
Robin was one of the first people who registered for the challenge. He was 98kg but felt heavy and wanted to make a change.
“[Trainer Ben Dell of] Ben Style helped me out with training sessions and diets,” says Robin.
Together with Ben’s strict diets, he trained three times a day for 12 weeks under the instruction of the trainer.
“I was not allowed to eat sugar, butter, cheese and other fatty and unhealthy food,” he adds. “I eventually lost 16kg.”
Robin admits he used to drink and eat a lot, and learnt that quitting a long-time habit is never easy.
“But you know when you really want to stop doing something, you will do it,” he says. And of course, he won the challenge.
Although it has been more than seven years since the transformation took place, Robin still goes training twice a day and follows a strict diet.
“I wake up at 5am, go to the gym at 6am and stay there for 45 minutes,” he says. “Then again 5pm at the gym, and have dinner after 6pm.”
Even if he travels for business or holidays, Robin keeps to his daily exercise routine. In order to spice it up, he has a running session every Saturday morning instead of going to the gym.
“[I run] about 12km in one hour,” he says. “I start from the Manor and go to Saigon bridge, District 2, then Vincom Mall and come back to the Manor.”
“Training to me is like working,” he adds. “You work six or seven days a week and you don’t feel tired as your body gets used to it. Training is the same.”
All this is to maintain a body weight of between 78kg and 82kg.
One of the notable things about Robin is his ability to control his appetite despite owning the two popular Baba’s Kitchen venues in Saigon and Hoi An, where he sees, smells and handles food every day. When you’re training, he says, people can eat whatever they want. But the most important thing lies in the amount of the food they eat.
“You can eat every two hours but the amount must be small,” he says. “That’s also the main problem of many people, they tend to eat a lot of what they love.”
Robin also admits people can eat all kinds of foods but they have to do training to burn off all the calories.
“Just like construction workers,” he says. “They eat a lot but they are still fit because they work a lot, too.”
However, many people misunderstand training — believing that the longer they stay in the gym, the faster they lose weight. According to Robin, it’s the exercises that are important.
“They must be serious and intense,” he says. “With the right exercises, a 45-minute session is enough.”
“All you need is a strong mind. Focus on what you are doing and what you are going to do.”
Photos by Bao Zoan
To read more stories about people who have made substantial personal change, click on the following links:
Todd Gilmore, The Triathlete
Sophie Pham, The Introvert
Ha Minh, The Woman
Laura Sheehan, The Mentor
Robin Babu, The Fitness Dude
Sheereen Amran, The Pastry Chef
Mitch Brookman, The Hairdresser
To read about some ideas for personal change, click on the following links:
Get Into Stand-Up Comedy
Take Art Classes
Get Professional Help
Nutrition and Vietnamese Food
The Power of Habit