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 arsenal in my toolbox 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. That year I also founded a nonprofit called Fitness Without Borders. I would go on to volunteer most of my free time to building community programs, promoting health education, organizing free bootcamps, leading fitness mom groups and collecting fitness equipment donations for foster children. 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.