As with many females, growing up, I had “feeling fat” days and though that my body did not look good enough. Having a sweet tooth meant inevitable weight gain, so I tried to combat it by staying active.
But as I aged, even when I amped up the exercise, the pounds steadily crept up. By my late 20s, I was truly overweight.
The irony was that I was most insecure at my skinniest. Though a lot lighter then, I now have a much better appreciation of my body. It has gone through a number of injuries, nurtured and birthed my son, suffered a miscarriage, but surviving it all compels me to be stronger for what’s next.
Looking back, I realized that during my youth, I lacked the knowledge and gratitude to honor the only body I will ever have. Age and physical deterioration are inevitable, and while I wished to have internalized it earlier, I’m glad to know what I know now. It’s never too late.
One of my favorite writers, Haruki Murakami, revealed in his memoir, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”: “Having the kind of body that easily puts on weight was perhaps a blessing in disguise. In other words, if I don’t want to gain weight I have to work out hard every day, watch what I eat, and cut down on indulgences. Life can be tough, but as long as you don’t stint on the effort, your metabolism will greatly improve with these habits, and you’ll end up much healthier, not to mention stronger.
“But people who naturally keep their weight off no matter what don’t need to exercise or watch their diet to stay trim. Which is why, in many cases, their physical strength deteriorates as they age. If you don’t exercise, your muscles will naturally weaken, as will your bones.”
From XXL to small
Cons Amorsolo Babas is 5’1” tall and lost 53.6 lbs in five months. What motivated her to lose weight?
“I was told that I was borderline diabetic,” she said. “I was given a strict meal configuration plan by my doctor. It was mainly eating the right kinds of food with portion control, 1,400 calories/day. It was difficult at first because I love food. But if I wanted to enjoy life with my loved ones, I had to do this. In my mind, if this doesn’t scare me enough to get fit, nothing will.”
How did she do it?
“My doctor wanted me to weigh between 115 and 125 lbs. I went to dance aerobics classes at the office Tuesdays and Thursdays. When I started seeing the difference, it motivated me more. It was now two-pronged: I wanted to be healthy and I wanted to look my best. I gave myself a deadline—I wanted to reach my weight goal by March 2014. And by God’s grace, I have,” she said.
Babas also had to battle with self-doubt. “Losing weight is a daunting task, so I made ‘bite sized goals.’ I just wanted to keep taking off 10 pounds. Every time I reached the 10-pound mark, I celebrated,” she said.
To fuel her fire, she keeps in mind how hard it was to lose all the pounds. “I don’t want to go through this all over again,” she said. “So I really control and watch what I eat. Now I’m shifting to muscle toning and sculpting. I still want to look better. I owe it to myself and my family.”
Her words of wisdom to fellow weight watchers: “It will be difficult. And, there will be times you will want to give up. But remember how good it feels to see results… If you like that kind of euphoria, keep on going because the euphoria only gets better!”
From somebody to great body
Forty-year-old Marc Yu stands 5’7” and pegs his total weight loss at 35 lbs. “What first triggered my weight loss was when I couldn’t fit into my formal clothes anymore,” he said. “I couldn’t even fully zip up my suit pants! That was in mid-2006. From then on, I decided I needed to get back in shape.”
At first, Yu played badminton once a week, then upped it to twice a week. “Right about the same time, my cousins, with whom I lived at the time, also started to get into fitness, so we’d go jogging once or twice a week, as well as go to the gym for some weight training. We also started to eat healthier, skipping the chips, soda and sweets aisles in the grocery, and greatly reducing our eating out to a minimum. Then, slowly but surely, we all started seeing the pounds melt away month after month after month.”
In 2011, Yu had the opportunity to be one of the candidates for the Slimmers World Great Bodies competition.
“That’s when my training kicked into high gear. My trainers not only kept my cardio regimen, but also added a diet plan to shed off more fat, and an intense weight-training program to add more muscle mass. It was not easy. By the event night, I thought to myself, win or lose, I had already won because I was in the best shape of my life!”
Beyond vanity, Yu’s determination runs deep: “In our family, there is a history of hypertension and diabetes. This is something we are mindful about.”
His advice to others on the road to fitness: “Losing weight (or gaining weight if you’re on the other end of the spectrum) is hard to do. To achieve this, you must make a lifestyle change and stick to it. Make fitness a part of your daily routine. Once it’s in your routine, it becomes a habit. Once it becomes a habit, it becomes your lifestyle. Nothing feels better than seeing yourself in the mirror in great shape!”
Clean up your act, value it
“Muscles are hard to get and easy to lose. Fat is easy to get and hard to lose”—this, Murakami recalled from a gym poster he saw. And, as one gets older, it only gets more true.
“Automate, automate, automate” is Dr. Mehmet Oz’s advice for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. “If you get into the habit of having the right food in the kitchen, you’ll eat them; if you don’t buy the tempting stuff, you won’t be tempted. It’s really that simple.”
On my fitness journey, I have maintained my 15-lb weight loss for about a year now, because I eat more mindfully and continue to work out five to six days a week to Tracy Anderson’s Metamorphosis DVDs.
I find her Method, prescribed daily weigh-ins and taking measurements every 10 days, helpful because they give me facts on how I’ve taken care of my body for that period of time.
This frequency is in line with Murakami’s regimen: “I never take two days off in a row. Muscles are like work animals that are quick on the uptake. If you carefully increase the load, step by step, they learn to take it. As long as you explain your expectations to them by actually showing them examples of the amount of work they have to endure, your muscles will comply and gradually get stronger. Through repetition, you input into your muscles the message that this is how much work they have to perform.”
Working out for vanity’s sake has never appealed to me; after all, I now weigh less than during my wedding. When workout goals come from the perspectives of health and gratitude, it just becomes a lot easier to junk excuses.
“The standard we set for ourselves is the way we teach standards to our kids,” said trainer Tracy Anderson. “We can’t tell our children to be healthy while we are not; safe while we are reckless; heartfelt while we are shallow. If we want to be healthy we have to behave healthy, and that doesn’t stop with diet and exercise. Being a parent or mentor is the most vital role we play in life. Respecting the gift and fragility of life is to learn how to clean up your act and value it.”
Murakami’s take on aging is also worth digesting: “Needless to say, someday you’re going to lose. Over time the body inevitably deteriorates. However, I’d like to postpone, for as long as I possibly can, the point where my vitality is defeated and surpassed by the toxin. One of the privileges given to those who’ve avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.”