I remember that the first time that I was introduced to the world of health and fitness was back in the 6th grade. I was a chubby 12 year old kid. I wasn’t obese, but I was overweight. I was always a big girl. I found my nursery class picture and I was the tallest and fattest kid in our class (I practically covered two people behind me in the picture). I remember showing this picture to my husband, and upon seeing it, he said with a laugh, ‘kinain mo ba classmates mo?‘ (Did you eat your classmates?). I laughed back.
I could laugh about it now, but what people don’t know about me is that there was a time when I was really obsessed with how I looked and how much I weighed.
That time, I knew that I was going to graduate the year after and I wanted to look my best during graduation. I started dieting. When I started, I was around 135 pounds at 5 feet 4 inches tall. My mom went with me to see a nutritionist, Tita Sunny Rose (I still remember her name). She gave me a meal plan that I should follow and our helper would prepare meals according to the plan. My mom kept a huge thick Mead notebook for me and she would write down everything that I ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner and even snacks. I also went with my aunt to a place called Joanne Drew (I don’t know if it’s spelled correctly). It was a slimming salon in Greenhills, which was popular during the ’90s. I was twelve years old, but I was already undergoing body treatments (like the ones that you see in the ads of slimming salons nowadays).
The treatments and the diet worked. Before graduating, I was down to 103 pounds. But then, Joanne Drew closed after a year, so I had to enrol with Slimmer’s World to help me maintain my weight. I was one of the first customers of the newly opened Slimmer’s World Megamall. I was 14 years old that time. My younger sister, who was 11, also enrolled with me. We were one of the few ‘kids’ in the gym.
But my age didn’t stop me from taking the gym seriously. I was really into it and I really wanted to be thin and fit. I went to the gym every day after classes, and I would stay there the entire day during the weekends. During summer break, I would go to the gym at 7:30 am and would leave Megamall at 10 pm. The gym was like a day care for me and my sister. I would bring a big gym bag, almost as big as me, and it would contain 10 shirts, 4 sports bras, 4 cycling shorts, etc. I attended all the aerobics classes (a hit that time) and would run on the treadmill in between. I have no idea how I got to do that!
When I was 15, I discovered Aerobics marathons, and I joined every single one of them. I became good at it and I enjoyed competing very much. I was reaping awards and was even featured in magazines. But that wasn’t all of it. When I was alone, I was unhappy. I felt so unaccomplished and ugly. I thought I looked fat (even if I was thin and lean already). I think I really had issues with how I viewed myself. I was fit at 112 pounds and as I recall, my body fat was super low. My BMI was just right, but I hated myself for gaining weight. In my mind, it was always, ‘I should be back to being 103 pounds’ or ‘I’m so fat and ugly’. I would always wear ‘manang’ clothes as how my friends would put it and I always wore a jacket, because I felt my arms were huge.
I took diet pills that contained Ephedrine (which is now banned). I took diuretics (pills that would help you pee) so that I could lose water weight. I lost, but then after eating, I’d gain weight again. I’d weigh myself every morning and evening, which I know is something that shouldn’t be done (because it was probably just water weight that I lost or gained or maybe even the muscle mass that I gained with all of the ‘gyming’ I’ve been doing). I would starve myself, too. I would skip eating or if I ate, I would kill myself by doing a lot of cardio workouts or I would take laxatives.
I don’t think that I was anorexic, because I still ate, but I was probably a bulimic. I didn’t throw up but I took laxatives and diuretics — a lot of those (I read that bulimics are those that binge on food and try to expel it after by vomiting or by any other means). I started with one pill a day until I felt that it wasn’t working anymore, so I would add dosage. I got to the point when I would take one whole pad of diuretics and laxatives.
Then came the day when upon waking up, I couldn’t stand and I couldn’t talk (literally). I slurred when I tried to talk. I was rushed to the hospital and what they found out was that my potassium in the body was really low. I had sodium-potassium imbalance in my body, which caused me this inability to move my limbs and to talk. I hated the feeling. It was like being strapped to your bed, but without strings. I was aware of what was going on around me, but I could not react to any of it.
After three days, luckily, I was up and about again. I think I was around 17 that time. As if that episode did not matter, I continued to being how I was prior to the incident. The incident didn’t really make me change my thoughts and how I perceived my body to be. I worked out again and competed. Even with a fit body, I thought I was fat and I wanted to lose more. I entered college and my routine did not change. At 19, I was competing in running marathons and I usually placed 5th in the 10K category. My best time was 40 mins and 47 secs. My friends would tease me. They would say that if I was on break from the gym, I would go to school and not the other way around. Most of my life was really spent inside the gym.
To be honest with you, my weight was really a big deal for me. I think the only time I realized that gaining weight isn’t a big deal was when I reached mid-20’s, when I had a lot of things at work going on and I couldn’t work out as often. Lucky for me that it wasn’t (I think) too late for me to let go of all these inhibitions and my really low self-esteem. I gained weight during that time, even hitting a high (excluding my pregnancy weight) of 150 pounds at 5 feet 4 inches. I think it was because I was always out partying with friends and drinking alcohol. Alcohol was really the culprit!
When I met and started dating my husband in 2007, I let go of drinking. I think he made me happy (aww), so I had no urge to drink anymore. I started to get fit again, but I wasn’t going back to the psycho fitness regimen I had before. I lost weight and stayed at 140 pounds for the longest time. I lost weight before our wedding and dropped to 128 pounds. That was the lowest weight that I have achieved since the time I started working. For the longest time, I felt comfortable with this weight. I no longer feel like I was obese. I felt good about myself even if I know that I’m a bit on the heavy side. I liked how I felt about myself. I guess that was my time to recuperate and to enjoy living.
During that time, I felt loved no matter how I looked. I accomplished a lot of things, not because I was thin and sexy, but because of ‘me’ and all of my strengths and capabilities. I hardly stepped inside gyms and only went to yoga classes, where I felt relaxed and more grounded. I developed confidence. I found myself.
Every time I would try to start writing this article before, I found it hard to finish writing about this struggle of mine, because it’s really not a good story to tell. For 2014 though, since my mission is to be a health advocate, I thought that it might be good to tell this story, so that teenage girls or other women (or even men) who are or about to be in the exact situation as I was before get to realize that they need not go through the same kind of struggle.
You are beautiful (or handsome). You are loved, just the way you are. Never think otherwise. If you look in the mirror, you will see that you are made by God to be in his image and likeness. Yes, there is no harm in trying to be healthier, but know your limits. Don’t go overboard. Do it the right way.
I am now on a quest to become healthy this 2014. Yes, weight is one of the metrics, but it is just one of the things that I will monitor. Together with this, I will monitor my muscle mass, body fat, visceral fat, bmi, body age and resting metabolic rate, so that I will truly know how my body is doing. If you want to know your metrics, too, email me so that we can meet up, we can measure and we can talk and share fitness goals.
I sincerely hope that this reaches those who are struggling to find what is beautiful in them. Here’s hoping that everyone ends their obsessions and struggles this 2014. Have a healthier year, everyone!