Growing up Filipino, I was exposed to a lot of unhealthy eating involving fatty pork, fried anything and Chinese buffets. Surprisingly, I was never the “big girl”; rather, I was lucky to have high metabolism and remained skinny. This, however, didn’t mean that I was healthy. A lot of people saw me and figured I was a pretty active and healthy kid, but actually, I ate a lot of junk food and stayed at home watching television. A lot of kids could easily outrun me, and I wasn’t the best person during field day.
To give you an idea, my dad and I would occasionally go to McDonald’s and order a Big Mac as a snack. Now, if you remember the 90s, a Big Mac was a huge burger that consisted of two patties stacked on top of each other, two cheese slices in-between and three buns. It was really huge for a kid, and I would finish it like it was nothing.
Fast forward to college, I met my current boyfriend who was into the outdoors. He had a love for rock climbing, and he introduced it to me. Rock climbing was difficult for me, because I lacked muscles; but, it never stopped me from pursuing the sport. After a month, I started noticing muscles that I never knew I had. My strength increased exponentially, I was less tired, and a lot more happy. I felt like a million bucks.
It wasn’t until my junior year that I realized how important exercise was. I stopped climbing, and I solely focused on balancing my part-time job, being an undergraduate research assistant and studying as a full-time student. After a few months of not exercising, I could tell that I got tired easily, my concentration was a bit off, and I was a lot grumpier than before.
I realized that not exercising brought out the worst in me, but with my schedule, it was difficult for me to do something about it. Then, two years later, I admitted to myself that I was just making excuses. I was lazy, and the thought of exercising made me have a “what’s the point?” attitude. This mentality stayed with me until a year after I graduated.
When I moved back home from college, my boyfriend persuaded me to try mixed martial arts, because he knew I was into Filipino Martial Arts (I dabbled in this for a few weeks during my last month in college). I found a gym I was interested in, and I became hooked immediately. The teachers were awesome, and throughout the whole time, it didn’t feel like exercise to me. Rather, it gave me the same feeling I had when I rock climbed. I didn’t see this as exercise, which I felt was more like a chore you should do for your body. Instead, it felt like I was learning important skills that would help me become a stronger person (internally and externally). I pushed my body to whatever limits I could to become the best I could be. Not only did I pursue Filipino Martial Arts, but I was also introduced to the arts of jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai/Boxing. At one point, I even joined a class on Greco-Roman Wrestling (my first and last class). The feeling of being strong and learning how to defend myself made me feel so confident, which was something I lost after I stopped climbing. And then, post-baccalaureate studies happened.
After being at the gym for almost a year, I was given a wonderful internship opportunity that landed me my current career. I figured 3 months of no-gym time wouldn’t make a difference. Unfortunately, the gym I attended to decided to close permanently, since both teachers had time-consuming careers. It was a bittersweet moment, but I felt that my hope for continuing a healthy lifestyle dwindled. I put exercising on the back burner for a year, and with it, my metabolism slowed as well. I had opportunities to check out other gyms, but they were either too far away or the classes were not legit.
It wasn’t until I saw a picture of myself that I realized how much I hated my body. I was envious of the body I had in the past, and I just felt gross. My confidence level was at an all-time low, and I felt like a loser. I was being a couch-potato, and it made me not want to do anything. The internal turmoil I had about myself showed externally through the cleanliness of my apartment or how I dressed. It was as if I gave up caring about myself.
Note: In my “About Me” page, there’s a picture of my boyfriend and I in Jamaica. I would have to say the pictures in Jamaica also motivated me to start working out again. You could really tell how different I looked from when I used to work out.
Then, one day, I admitted to myself that I was the sole reason why I let myself go. I was the reason why I would eat junk food and use studying as an excuse to not exercise for at least 30 minutes out of the day. My apartment had a gym and lap pool at the front office that was accessible 24/7, and I didn’t motivate myself enough to go there. It was all me. After admitting the true cause of my problems, I signed myself up for a boxing gym.
Two months later, here I am. Happy as can be.
Being fit is important, because it brings so many rewards. It makes you feel confident about yourself, because you feel stronger mentally and physically. When you push your body to its limits, you learn quickly the meaning of not giving up. A week after I joined the boxing gym, my body felt broken and tired. Every part of me ached, but I somehow managed to mentally persuade myself to keep going the next day. It wasn’t easy, and eventually, it got easier. I stood up to my inner demons, and I felt like a winner.
In the end, it’s only you that can make a difference.