“Hashtag, 50 is the new 30,” says Tiat Lim when asked about his age.
And for Tiat, who turned half-a-century old early this year, the statement isn’t a hollow one by a mid-lifer in denial either.
After all, the man has been found to have successfully reversed his biological age by more than 20 years.
The “de-ageing” process to turn back the clock took him about six years, from around the time he and his sister opened their gym, Bespoke Fitness, in 2016.
The impetus, which he’d shared in an earlier media interview, was his dad’s death from a heart attack in 2010 when the latter was in his 60s.
“My sister always had the idea for us to start something and transform lives through fitness,” he’d said then.
He tells AsiaOne recently that the initial objective for himself was to get fit and healthy.
“But I overshot and overkilled,” he quips.
In 2018, two years after changing his lifestyle, he flew to the US to be tested for his biological age at the Mayo Clinic.
“They measured my biological age at roughly minus-10 [of my chronological age],” Tiat shared.
He made it his goal then to de-age by another decade come 2022. Amazingly, he has done it, and more.
“Last year in 2021, I was measured by the National University Health System’s (NUHS) Centre for Healthy Longevity and they basically said that I’m at minus-23. So I’ve actually exceeded my minus-20 target by three years,” Tiat shares proudly.
And his ‘youth’ shows on the outside as well.
The 1.76m-tall quinquagenarian has a ripped bod that we reckon even younger men half his age would envy.
PHOTO: Tiat Lim
“I have never had a six-pack in my life, not even during my Officer Cadet School days,” says Tiat. His once-doughy midsection has now been replaced by a set of well-defined abs.
The law graduate and serial entrepreneur shares how at his heaviest, he weighed 80kg and sported a slight paunch. With his hair combed back, “I looked like Kim Jong-un,” he deadpans.
Tiat during what he calls his ‘Kim Jong-un days’ in 2012 (left) and 2004 (right). PHOTO: Tiat Lim
Understandably, references to the movie The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button are par for the course.
People around him have been shocked by how he seems to have aged in reverse, just like the character Button.
“Friends see me today and they’re like ‘holy s*** what have you been doing?'” says Tiat, adding that the reactions he gets “reinforce my journey”.
He admits too that his youthful appearance still turns the heads of women much younger than him.
“But obviously that’s not my primary motivation,” the bachelor quickly clarifies.
So what is?
“The issue is not so much living longer. But it’s about living healthily all the way to the very end.
“The problem is that we’ve got extended lifespans, but our healthspans are not keeping up,” says Tiat.
“So that’s actually why I’m pursuing de-ageing and hopefully, inspiring others to do something similar.”
Tiat shares that their mum, who goes through the self-developed FitRX programme at their gym, is now able to do pull-ups as well as perform a vertical rope climb.
Not bad for a 76-year-old.
Through the same NUHS biological age test that Tiat did, her results indicated that she’d successfully shaved eight years off her chronological age.
“She was actually unhappy about it as she’s very competitive,” says Tiat with a laugh.
He adds that while he’s “done a series of startups” since graduating from law school, Bespoke Fitness being one of them, it is “probably the most useful”.
And with transformation being a key refrain in Tiat’s personal life as well as business, it’s also one reason why the gym recently relocated to a space at The Guild International College, a high school for special needs students aged 13 to 25.
There, Tiat and other coaches not only provide students with physical education classes but also offer them work experiences at the gym.
“Transforming lives through fitness is our vision and applies to everyone who steps into our gym,” says Tiat emphatically.
But for those hoping to uncover the fountain of youth, there’s unfortunately no shortcut.
It all boils down to what Tiat calls the “de-ageing pyramid”, which involves fitness, nutrition and sleep at its core.
Other factors such as supplements and the emerging field of regenerative medicine are also what can help reverse the ageing process, he shares.
It’s no surprise to learn that to Tiat, the foundation of age reversal lies in exercise, and his pitch for getting in your daily dose of physical activity is a persuasive one.
“You know, the gym will always be cheaper than a hospital if you’re just thinking about it in monetary terms.
“So I don’t quite understand why people are so reluctant to exercise. If you’re not doing any basic preventative maintenance to keep your meat machine in shape, why are you surprised when it breaks down?”
And when it comes to diet, Tiat is a strong proponent of eating three full, healthy meals a day.
“I don’t believe in starvation, cutting carbs, nor eating boiled chicken breasts every day.
“I can’t eat cardboard like that, it’s just not sustainable,” he states drily.
He’s also not a fan of what he calls “fad diets”, such as intermittent fasting or the paleo/ketogenic diet.
Instead, Tiat says it all boils down to making clean choices when it comes to your meal. And that means “no SOAP – sugar, oil, additives, alcohol and processed foods”, a plan which Tiat sticks to six days a week.
On his one and only cheat day, “I eat whatever the heck I want”, where he gravitates to his favourite food – biryani.
Next Milestone: Minus-30
Tiat admits that he’s a goal-oriented person with “things on my bucket list that I want done”.
And top of the list is definitely to hit the minus-30 mark in his de-ageing journey, which he hopes to accomplish in five to 10 years.
A reality TV show, where participants compete to see who can achieve the largest biological-chronological age gap, may also be in the works if Tiat has his way.
It is evident that age reversal and extending one’s healthspan are a particular passion of Tiat’s, and one that he’s singularly focused on.
Throughout our chat, Tiat regales us with scientific studies he has read up on regenerative medicine and how he’s ever ready to be “guinea pig number one” should there be any collaborators on that front.
“Who doesn’t want to be the first man to step on the moon, right? It’s like being the Neil Armstrong of de-ageing, and that’s where I eventually hope to get to.”
Besides shooting for the moon, Tiat shares that he aspires to be “the Bruce Lee of de-ageing”.
Why Bruce? “FitRX is like my wing chun. And he had a six-pack?”
Jokes aside, Tiat’s end goal, and the ultimate reward, is “in helping mankind stay younger for longer”, calling it his “legacy project”.
At 50, Tiat is raring to go and shows no signs of slowing down. But if there’s one thing in his life which has mellowed a little with age, it’s his temperament.
“My perspective on health and fitness and my pursuit of it have definitely not changed. It’s still about de-ageing.
“But maybe [age] has made me a little bit more patient, because I’ve never been a very patient person,” he shares thoughtfully.
“I think I’ve always been a perfectionist. So maybe with maturity, I can dial that back a little and be a little less hard on myself.”
This article was first published on AsiaOne and republished on theAsianparent with permission.