A Convert’s Story

Sascha Koki
Hawai‘i Herald Columnist

“Guess what? You’re going to roll your eyes and laugh at me but I finally started drinking miso soup in the morning,” I say across the treadmill to my trainer Komina Charles. It’s our first time seeing each other since the busy holiday season and we are warming up for what will be a grueling back-to-reality workout (for me).

Komina smirks and laughs at me — she was always telling me that I needed to add miso soup to my breakfast at the peak of our training sessions, yet I only just added that to my routine this year 2023. Waking up to the chilly cold, staring at leftover ingredients from my New Year’s Day feast, and not wanting the bunches of mizuna (and expensive ingredients) to go to waste, I realized I could easily make myself a small batch of miso soup by simply adding miso paste to the ozouni soup I was tired of drinking. Having drank soup every morning for over 10 days straight, I couldn’t help but notice that the simple addition of a morning soup helped me lose the bloating and pounds from my holiday weight gain.

Growing up, I always saw breakfast as an aspirational meal; one I loved but couldn’t enjoy unless I was in Japan with my O-mama (grandma), or on vacation and — using the technical term here — going ham on a brunch buffet. Living in ‘Aiea but going to school in town meant breakfast consisted of cereal or carbs quickly scarfed down on our way out the door.

It was in stark contrast to my summers in Japan where O-mama would have a pot of miso soup on the stove every morning to accompany whatever else I was eating — eggs and rice or a fluffy toast with jam and butter. It was heavenly, and I’d always come back from Japan as a plump little butterball.

In my adulthood, I continued the terrible habit of leaving breakfast as an afterthought even when I insisted on having my kids sit and enjoy their breakfast at the dining table. I argued that I didn’t have time in the morning — I was getting the kids ready! And later I would say I was intermittent fasting.

So, what changed? The pandemic, of course. The ripple effect of the abrupt change in routine affected me in the form of an ever-expanding waist. It got to the point where my mother’s deft maneuvering landed me as monitor for a weight-loss program via a Japanese company called RIZAP (unfortunately, no longer based in Honolulu). As a monitor, I received professional support in exchange for the public airing of my weight, fat percentage and sizes accompanied by a cringe-worthy “before” photo for commercial and promotional use. Fun, right? As a result, though, I lost a total of 45 pounds in four months and made sure that my “after” photos were over the top for good measure. Somewhere on the internet, someone is truly impressed by or highly doubtful of my before/after results.

Anyway, the program has a simple objective: make weight loss the priority and provide all the tools, support and guidance available to make it happen quickly and safely. I know, that seems extremely vague and unhelpful but there were a lot of things I learned that I continue to apply to other parts of my life. Post-RIZAP, I’ve been able to maintain my weight by sticking to the routines and guidance of Komina, my trainer and good friend, with whom I’ve kept in contact ever since.

Back at the gym, we continue our “merits of miso soup” conversation over my out-of-breath circuit training-style workout. “You know, it doesn’t have to be miso soup. You can add any warm soup option in the morning since the point is to warm up your core,” say Komina as she adds weights to my leg workout device. “The three main reasons why miso soup works best is that miso is fermented so it’s good for your gut health, it’s warm, which is good for your metabolism, and when you have wakame or mizuna in there, it’s a great source of fiber, too.”

“What about tofu?,” I ask as I wrack my brain on typical miso soup ingredients.

“Tofu isn’t necessary — nice too but if you get your protein from, say, eggs, you don’t need a fancy soup,” she says.

That made sense, my morning miso soup proved to be an effective post-holiday detox, and my gut health seemed to be back on track after a few weeks of snacking on cookies and cakes throughout the day. The fact that I switched to a more basic miso soup didn’t negatively affect my stomach either. In fact, while the ozouni soup and all the vegetables were great at keeping me full in the mornings, the simple miso soup paired with my usual eggs and toast held me just fine, too. Plus, the food baby pooch at the bottom of my stomach was thankfully gone.

“Honestly, just keep it simple or it won’t stick. The most important thing is a consistent routine,” Komina says. “The bare minimum is hot water with lemon — no honey because you don’t want to add sugar — just lemon.” Komina also told me that the soup didn’t have to be miso and that since shoyu is also fermented, adding that to hot water with some dashi works just as well.

My personal goals for 2023 are self care, happiness, dancing, travel and creativity. These were words that popped out in a word find-style social media post but I took them to heart because they rang so true. Self-care in my 20s tended to mean lots of hot yoga and running but I’ve had two kids since and this column drops on the Friday before a birthday that brings me closer to 40 than 30. While “self-care” would have meant that I stoically went on a diet in the past, by also focusing on my happiness, it now means I will opt for self care that truly brings me joy. Gym with Komina, taking up dance classes and booking massages.

And morning miso soup. Join me on my journey to self care and happiness and see how I do with the rest of my goals. You can find me at 

@saschakoki on Instagram for more.

Sascha Koki is the vice president of Media Etc., a PR & Marketing company based in Honolulu. As a Japanese and Black hapa bilingual woman who grew up in Hawai‘i and Japan, Sascha has a unique perspective on growing up with three rich cultures; she sees herself as a bridge that connects these worlds through her career and in life. 

Happily married and a mother of two humans and one pup, she strives to raise her pack of wild cubs into compassionate beings that wield their powers for good while enjoying all that life has to offer. Passionate about fashion, beauty, wellness and good (okay, and bad) TV in near equal measures, this former Miss Waikiki and UH Rainbow Dancer is a true Aquarius.

In her column, she plans to write about “lifestyle” which really means anything and everything, all at once. Her wish is to inspire and shed light on everything from cultural issues to hilarious culture shock moments through personal stories.


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