Challenging My Body

More than a month ago, I embarked on a journey I had always been too lazy to take. I had all the excuses in the world and I whined about the past failed attempts – that despite how hard I worked, nothing came out of my efforts.

I’m talking about my body. And it’s not an easy thing for me to talk about; it’s been much easier for me to cover it up, hide it, and smile sheepishly at the people who’ve felt entitled to criticize it. I’ve packed on some pounds over the years, but I’ve always looked at my figure in the mirror with disdain, pinching all the flabby areas and frowning at the parts that I had inherited (I was told big arms and thighs were in the genes, as were diabetes, asthma, skin allergies, and a list of other medical ailments – which made me curse at my genetics all the more).

I’m being harsh. But that’s just it. When it comes to my own body, no one is more brutal than me. And it affected the way I dressed (it’s the reason I wear mostly navy blue and hate capped sleeves with a passion), how I ate (going from starving myself to gorging on all my favorite sweets), how I carried myself, and how I responded to people’s statements about my body. Tumaba ka (You grew bigger) just sounded like such an assault that I sometimes had to leave the room and fume quietly at the audacity of that person to point at my flaws.

That’s the thing. It shouldn’t be a flaw. Having had the time and space to mull it over, I realized that I wouldn’t be so affected if I didn’t cling on to unrealistic ideals of what my body should look like. And maybe it was borne out of years as an athlete (I was a gymnast and a cheerleader up until college), but somewhere along the way, I lost the point of it. Over the quarantine, I reviewed the pattern I’ve fallen into: looking at my physique, looking at others’ bodies, comparing and contrasting, fuming and crying, hating, wishing but never actually doing much. Giving up.

Then, a friend recommended this series of workouts by an instructor named Cassey Ho. It was a 100-ab challenge for thirty days that she shared on her site, Blogilates. I was always up for a challenge, and even though my tummy has grown squishier over the years, I’ve always been secretly proud of having strong abs (because of the countless V-ups I had to do in gymnastics and cheerleading training). Plus, I thought, well I have nowhere else to go and I’m stuck at home, so now’s my chance to really commit!

While doing the challenge, I was also able to watch Cassey’s other videos, about her weight issues, her feelings of insecurity, and struggles with her own perception of her body. Listening to her talk about her 90-day journey to her best self, I realized that the reason I had found it such a challenge to lose weight was because I had never attempted to listen to my body. Yes, really listen and pay attention.

I put it through so much pressure, practically cracked a whip at it and told it to shape up. And then cursed and cried when it didn’t react the way I wanted it to. When Cassey started talking about weekly measurements and numbers (which I was usually allergic to), it suddenly made sense because it was the best way to see what your body was actually responding to. She was getting to know it better, seeing what helped and what didn’t, in the sense of reaching her fitness goals.

And what’s the point of setting fitness goals anyway? To lose weight? To gain muscle? To earn the praise of friends and family? I should’ve know that these are superficial pursuits, the baggage that comes with the truest aim: to feel good about yourself and to see your body in the best light (this makes me tear up for some reason).

It’s a journey and a process. I’m happy to say that this time, I’ve stuck to it and found a great support system among my closest friends. In the middle of the 100-ab challenge, I took on the fourteen-day shred challenge by Chloe Ting, inspired as I was by an IG video by Penelope Pop. Three of my friends and I started at almost the same time and we pushed each other on by sharing sweaty selfies and progress photos.

[Special shoutout to Monica (bottom right) who I confided in whenever I got discouraged; back in 2015, she was able to reach her fittest self through constant exercise and diet <3]

After the fourteen days were up, I got so disappointed by the imperceptible changes in my before and after photos that I threw a tantrum (haha drama). But the extension of the ECQ put me in such a rut that I pushed myself to start the 35-day challenge by Chloe Ting (#THANKYOUCHLOETING). It was also at that moment that I decided to change my diet. Because I wasn’t seeing results from just doing rigorous exercise, I knew I had to look at what I was putting into my body. I turned to Blogilates, printed out her 90-day diet plan, and tacked it onto the fridge.

I started buying groceries online and searching for healthy recipes. I began cooking and preparing my own food (which I used to hate). I controlled what I ate and then tracked my progress by weighing in and measuring regularly. During that first week, I lost 2 lbs. That’s when the results really started showing.

Now, I’m not a complete stickler when it comes to food. I LOVE TO EAT! And it was so so so hard during the first two weeks to only eat salads, broccoli, chicken breast, and kamote, especially when my siblings cooked such delicious food (look at the photos below huhu). So I gave myself some allowances in my calorie intake and sought out yummy low-calorie desserts (like this chocolate mug cake and banana bread) to satiate my cravings.

Yes they made a brioche loaf huhu
They made cinnamon rolls while I had to eat boiled kamote for dinner

This is me now after having completed the 30-day 100-ab challenge, the 14-day challenge, and the 35-day challenge (plus some other YouTube fitness videos which I’ll share below):

It’s my goal to lose 30 lbs, hopefully before I turn thirty this June. But it seems unlikely that I’ll reach it before the deadline. And that’s OK! I’m still going to keep at it. Although, I admit that I do have a tendency to think about what’s lacking and what I still need to overcome. When I whined about this to my fiance, he tsk-ed and said, “Instead of looking ahead and fixating on how far you are from your goal, look behind and see how far you’ve come.

So I’m taking his advice and looking back: I’ve lost about 7 lbs since I started, 5 cm from my waist, 2.5 cm from my hips, and 3 cm from my thighs. My arms have remained stubbornly the same, but I’ve always had muscular arms (ahem, I’ve used these arms to beat other men in a handstand competition haha #humblebrag). My goal is to be fit and strong.

Above all, I want to nurture a real appreciation for my body – not for what it looks like but for what it is capable of and strong enough to accomplish. I want to be comfortable in my own skin; really, it’s about time I give my body the love it deserves. I know that in the future I will be asking it to do more (to haul inventory, travel to far-flung villages, live through a pandemic, carry a baby, nurse him/her, stay up through sleepless nights and work at the same time etc.), so I’m savoring this moment and making the most out of what I have now.

And to everyone who is on the same journey, what I’ve learned is really to just trust the process. It’s ok to cry and feel discouraged. That’s part of it. What you shouldn’t do is hate yourself and your body because that just makes it worse. Be kind to yourself. I have to keep repeating this: progress takes time and it’s important to have fun along the way! 🙂

Lastly, I want to point you all to the the amazing women who inspired me to take on several challenges that really tested my will and determination. It’s the least I can do since they provided all their workouts for free. Sharing is caring:

For my next challenges, I will be doing Chloe Ting’s 28-day Summer Shred and Blogilates 28-day Reset Challenge. But for today, I shall be celebrating with some sushi wooot!

Good luck to me and to all of us! May you all stay healthy and safe.

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