I am telling you this story because I want to show a few things:
– – My knowledge in fitness and nutrition was a progression
– – My body underwent Metabolic Damage and I couldn’t lose weight for years
– – Building good habits throughout the years created a healthy life routine
– – Consistency is the number one thing that helped me lose weight after kids
– – My success was not an overnight success
I was a chubby child. An average teen. A “thick” college student. A Fit competitor. An Overweight Woman. And a Healthy Mom.
The first time I weighed myself was in sixth grade. I was 80lbs. I wasn’t considered fat or skinny. I was a healthy weight for my height. Being both Filipina and Chinese, I grew up loving rice. I ate large portions of white rice with other carbs including spaghetti and even macaroni and cheese! I also enjoyed sugary cereals, fruit roll ups and ramen noodles. My diet was definitely not very balanced! I didn’t play any sports, as we couldn’t afford it. That year I also received my period for the first time, which began the rollercoaster of hormones and weight gain that normally arises as you become a woman.
Junior High opened the world of candy for me. Of course, candy always existed but now I can purchase it without my parent’s consent at the school store. I can also eat these delicious fries that only cost .50, which was much cheaper than the school sandwiches for sale. I already started a small fitness routine at home (which included jumping jacks and leg lifts) but became competitive in P.E. and wanted to excel in the running, flexibility and strength challenges. I didn’t weigh myself, but my height finally settled at almost 5’4.
In high school I started to become more careful of my food intake. I asked my mom, a woman who has suffered from health-related diseases all her life, for help in creating a healthier diet and she told me to start looking at the fats in foods. So, I ate a lot of carbs and sugar. I brought lunch to school, which consisted of a cinnamon raisin bagel and fat free cream cheese in the morning. I had a turkey sandwich with wheat bread and lettuce (no mayo or cheese) for lunch, with 10 saltine crackers and I had a fruit for snack. If I did buy lunch it was often a baked pretzel with a minimal amount of cheese and if I did eat fries, I would blot each bite. Of course, I continued my daily consumption of candy as Starburst, Mike n Ikes and Skittles had no fat. I didn’t play sports in high school, but I did participate in cheerleading. I weighed 117lbs when I left high school.
In college I gained the “Freshman 15” but in a span of 3 years. I ate a lot of Lean Cuisines, chicken burritos, Jamba Juices and turkey Subway sandwiches. Someone told me that if I wanted to lose weight all I had to do was bake a lot of chicken breasts and eat that all day. So I tried it and couldn’t last a single day. I also started eating egg whites in the morning. Prior to that I rarely ate eggs and when I attempted, I felt like gagging. I heard of the Atkins Diet and read all about ketosis so I started eating less than 20g of carbs a day. After 3 weeks of McDonald cheeseburger patties (no buns) that were at time, on sale for just .39 each, I lost a couple inches off my waist but I was constipated from lack of fiber and real nutrients. I still worked out consistently, often taking kickboxing classes and playing tennis with my college boyfriend. In my junior year, the year I also became a personal trainer, I weighed 133lbs.
When I became a trainer it opened a whole new world of fitness and nutrition for me. I learned how important lean protein was for building muscle, complex carbohydrates for energy and unsaturated fats for overall health. I learned how to speed up my metabolism through building muscle and to get the “Britney Spears Abs” through a combination of healthy eating, cardio and strength training. I started having great abs and feeling confident for the first time in my skin. I joined the “Body for Life” program with my new boyfriend, who was also a trainer, and finished the 12-week program at 127lbs.
After college I decided to join the Miss Chinatown USA pageant to become acclimated with San Francisco as that was the city I wanted to move and work in. Besides networking, the competitive drive in me started unveiling as I had competed successfully in my teens winning local, national and international contests. I dropped to 115lbs in a matter of 2 months through limiting my carbohydrates and training more, especially when practicing my athletic jazz routine. The year was 2003 and I won several pageants that year including Miss SF Chinatown and Miss Philippines USA – even competing in Manila Philippines! I found that my body was too lean for the pageant world so I tried my luck in fitness contests. At the time, “figure” competitions were just arriving on the scene and “bikini” was not yet popular. I joined Miss Bikini California and started a 6-week preparation of eating very strictly and splurging every sixth day. I deprived myself of any sugar, including fruits. I often performed cardio twice a day. The week of the contest I was directed by colleagues (I didn’t have a trainer/coach) to limit my carbs for two days, then up my carbs the last two days, then restrict my water the night before so I could look my best the day of competition. I weighed in at 113lbs and won the contest. I celebrated with Mexican food and Cheetos. The day after I booked my first paid photo shoot, which was $75/hour (for 4 hours) I ate a cheeseburger at McDonalds – not because I liked it – but because I was deprived of it. My weight also ballooned to 119lbs in one week. When I competed in nationals months later I didn’t carb cycle or train as intensely. I competed at 123lbs and placed Top 5 in both Bikini and Model America. I distinctly remember eating Halloween candy I had saved up almost the entire drive back home from LA.
This cycle of bingeing (because I ‘can’) and starving (eating 1200 calories and performing a lot of cardio and strength training), really began taking its toll on my body and mind. In November 2003 I binged and purged for the first time. It would officially begin my 3 year war with Bulimia. I would have 2-3 episodes daily at least 3-5 times a week. It often happened when I visited home or became very anxious. In reflection it was shocking how much I could consume. I could literally down an entire sheet of cake, a half gallon of ice cream and loads of candy because it was all easy to uptake. I never felt full. I just felt incredible sadness, a sick void inside of me that I nourished through lots of food and eventually praying. At the time I was now working as a Fitness Manager and later as a Project Coordinator with 24 Hour Fitness Corporation. I kept a steady weight 135lbs until I was finally able to recover from having Bulimic Episodes. When the bingeing/purging stopped, my weight began to climb. From the years 2005-2008 my weight would range anywhere between the 140s and 150s.
At my heaviest I was 150ish. I say this because I weighed myself once and the surfacing number was 153 and I immediately jumped off and never weighed myself again for years. That was around 2005-2008. At that time I was eating six meals a day, training 5-6 days a week, sleeping 8-10 hours a night and living a stress-free life without children. It seemed that no matter what I did, I could not lose weight. I felt frustrated, fat…but I knew that if I was healthy internally and exhibited healthy actions to support that, then eventually I will manifest a healthy external physique.
When I met my soon-to-be-husband I was around 145lbs. When I became pregnant with our first son, my last weigh in at the doctor’s office was 180lbs. Six weeks after giving birth I went back to my routine of working out, first building my strength and stamina. I already trained during my pregnancy, which assisted in my limited weight gain of just 35lbs. I lost the weight within six months plus ten pounds. Then we found out we were expecting again. I gained 35lbs, weighed in at 170lbs at my last 2nd pregnancy weigh in and lost the weight within six months plus 10 pounds. After our second child I weighed in at 125lbs – the weight I’m most comfortable at – and it felt like ‘bouncing back’ was easier for me than it ever was even before I was pregnant. I would accomplish this feat one more time a year after with my last son (I gave birth in 2009, 2010 and 2011).
I always tell people that pregnancy re-calibrated my body after years of Metabolic Damage due to poor eating, excessive exercising and overall stress and anxiety levels. Regardless if I was 115 or 180, I stayed consistent with my workouts and implemented healthy eating practices throughout the day. Those long-standing habits are what helped me most when losing weight after having my children.
I also began nurturing my body more. Instead of ‘hating it’ – I reminded myself daily to love it…to say I love it and show it through feeding it nutritious foods and exercising. God has always played an important and central role in my life and I knew that when I found my purpose in helping people through fitness in college that one of the challenges I was given was to truly FEEL what it was like to be hopeless, overweight, depressed and unhappy. Believing in myself and the sincerity of a higher power guiding me through the toughest trials helped keep me faithful, consistent and most of all, persistent.
Today, after 15 years in the fitness industry, I am continuing to evolve. I used to drink protein shakes daily – now I get all my protein from real foods (mostly fish and eggs). I used to put Splenda on everything – now I don’t use any fake sugars. I am starting to eat less gluten, incorporate more fruit and enjoy whole foods. I don’t often perform cardio for longer than 30 minutes at a time and I am focusing more on core work, stretching, running and having an overall balanced fitness routine.
My goal is to be 60 one day – in the best shape of my life – with my three grown sons, taking a midriff-baring photo with “What’s Your Excuse” on top. I believe you can design your life. You can mold your body. You can become your physical best – as long as you set goals, plan your attack, execute, reflect and repeat. God Bless.