Straight to Fitness with Curves (Magnolia)

When I was a teenager, summer vacations didn’t mean fun and relaxation. While they were short breaks from schoolwork, my summers were spent doing another kind of work. For me, particularly, they were spent losing weight. As the fat kid who later became a fat teenager and an even fatter young woman, this was the kind of a “work” I both hated and dreaded.

No doubt many would think me lucky that my parents spared no expense in gym memberships for me. Mom, always the more worried parent, would do her homework by checking out different gyms, fitness clubs, and weight loss programs for me. I appreciated the effort and the expense, but after a while, the whole idea of losing weight became much more of an emotional burden for my fragile self-esteem.

I was really thin when I graduated from high school, but the weight slowly crept back in from stress eating. By the fourth year of college, which was also the second year of medical school, I had gained almost all that I had lost, probably more. Mom got so concerned that she decided to upgrade my membership, adding extra programs for the rest of the year. After lectures or duties, and on free weekends, I would haul myself to the gym, never once telling my parents I hated every second of it. Shortly after, I had a bad workout and I hurt my back, turning me off exercise and gyms forever. That pain saved me from having to go back again, but it also hounded me for years, causing me emotional distress and a lot of physical discomfort.

I had given up on the idea of ever going back to the gym when I discovered Curves Philippines a few years ago. The first local branch of Curves, a franchise from Gary and Diane Heavin’s original Texas fitness club, was located at the Bonifacio Global City, and they have since expanded to more locations in the city. I wanted to give the concept of circuit training a try and their guarantee of short but effective workouts was tempting, but the distance and long travel time (think Metro Manila traffic) ultimately dissuaded me from pushing through with the plan. I figured, the harder it is to go anywhere, the more likely I would not want to go because of the commute.

Fortunately, just this year, I got wind of a location nearer me — at the new Robinsons Magnolia Residences, just beside the commercial complex of Robinsons Magnolia in New Manila. While not exactly within my neighborhood, it was near enough for me (around 15 minutes without traffic, and 30-45 minutes with) to want to explore the fitness services offered by Curves Philippines.

I went in for a consultation bright and early one morning and after a short interview and explanation of how the circuit works, eagerly jumped to the workout. The concept of the Curves circuit revolves around the combination of strength training and cardiovascular workouts to elicit maximum exercise efficiency. The use of specially designed hydraulic resistance machines that target different muscle groups provides consistency and regularity to the drills. Alternating each turn at a machine with cardiovascular exercises (aerobics or dance) builds resistance and endurance, thereby creating the “burn” that one hopes for. And because the circuit involves only two complete rounds each time, 30 minutes is all one needs at a minimum to start a fitness routine.

The bicep-tricep, leg press, and chest machines

Having been to many gyms in my lifetime, I love that Curves has many advantages over others I’ve joined in years past. One, I love the comfort and security of being in an all-women gym. The tagline “no make-up, no mirrors, and no men” is absolutely spot-on as Curves abides by this faithfully. Not having to share facilities with men allows women the confidence to push our bodies to our limits, without unnecessary worries.

Two, I appreciate the one-on-one supervision, which, unlike some gym clubs where you work out independently, is part and parcel of one’s membership. Curves has trained coaches on hand to supervise you in machine use and create workouts tailored to your level of ability. I started experiencing knee pain right after a trip abroad last year, and at the time of my Curves visits, I wasn’t too steady on my knees. The coaches who supervised me at each of my visits made sure I was challenged and pushed to my best but were always mindful of my physical limitations.

Three, I love that toning and conditioning were necessary components of their fitness regimen. Inside the Curves gym is a large, immovable cube frame meant for stretching before and after the circuit. I would do this as part of my warm-up and recovery regimen, and time with this was always my favorite part of the routine.

Four, I love that Curves keeps upping their game by providing a wide variety of additional activities. For those looking to extend their workouts’ duration and intensity, Curves offers yoga, kickboxing, zumba, and dance aerobics sessions as adjuncts to the circuit. They also have special Arms and Core sessions throughout the week to help you gain tone and strength in these areas. From their Facebook page, I recently learned that they also have Tai Chi, and this has me second-guessing my absence from the circuit, despite injuries.

Post-workout, sweaty but happy!

Sadly, in April of this year, I had to hold off exercise while I was under medical observation and treatment for my heart. When I hurt my remaining good knee in August and partially tore a ligament, I had to scuttle any thoughts of returning to the circuit, at least not before my knees are healed enough to walk without constant pain.

I miss Curves, really. After each workout, I would come out walking taller and straighter, my back, neck, and knees less painful. I also didn’t limp and hobble as much after each session. And while I didn’t focus on weight loss as an incentive to work out, I did lose a kilo or two despite having one of the lightest regimens in the gym, this, based on the activities of the superwomen I worked out with. Working out at Curves, I realized, just always made me feel stronger than the way I felt the day before. It’s a feeling I miss every day these days.

I am grateful to the wonderful people who looked after me during my visits — Coaches Jhing, Jessie, and Irene — and I miss them all. I look forward to going back one day soon, “Pinky” promise. So please, drop by and see for yourself what an amazing place Curves Magnolia is, and while you’re there, please say “hi” to them for me!

 

Curves Magnolia
GF The Magnolia Residences,
Dona Hemady St. cor N. Domingo St.,
New Manila, Quezon City
(0906) 526 7307

 

 

 

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Holding Pattern

I’ve been in a weight loss stall for a few weeks now. After I lost 23 kilos (about 52 lbs), I’ve been caught in a holding pattern of sorts. I try not to obsess over it or give in to anxiety and doubt. After all, I did this all by myself; I should trust myself that I can actually do more than I think I can. By changing the way I eat and view my food, I have effectively done what my many years of dieting have not been able to do. As such, despite my overwhelming preoccupation with numbers on the scale, I willfully focus on non-scale victories, like finally being able to fit into a dress I’ve been eyeing at Old Navy. I couldn’t fit into a 2XL before, now even an XL has room for me to move! It may be a little thing in the over-all scheme of things, but for someone who’s never been able to shop off the rack, it still is a victory.

I’ve decided to add more exercise to my daily routine to break this stall. Inspired by my friend G (incidentally, she got me started on this wellness journey), I’ve been walking more and moving more. And while I haven’t gained weight, I don’t want to take my hard earned loss for granted. My age and a host of factors associated with years of weight loss and rebound weight gain have made it harder for me to lose the excess pounds. Still, I’m not giving up just yet. I can see the goal post from where I am now. Even if it does take a while, I have the patience to see it through.

In the meantime, allow me to humble brag a bit. The top picture was A❤️ and me more than a year ago. The bottom one is of us today, five months into this new way of eating. A❤️ has lost about 17 kilos since December and I have to say, sometimes, his willpower beats mine, keeping me on my best behavior always. 😉

When I get into a holding pattern, I think I have to keep reminding myself to look at this to see the big picture. 😍 Not bad for old folks, eh?

Happiness is… a Hot Cup of Coffee

Most mornings, I break my fast with a cup of coffee. Some days I brew coffee; most days, because sleep is a premium, I go instant. I heat about two cups of water in an electric kettle and pour it over a heaping teaspoon of coffee granules. I add a packet of stevia, then a tablespoon each of heavy cream, butter, and coconut oil/MCT oil, the last depending on what I have at the moment. I pull out my Aerolatte frother and stir away, creating a rich, smooth, and creamy concoction. I smell the faint hint of coconut and the strong notes of coffee, and already, my senses are wide awake.

I like to take my time to savor my coffee. I usually just have one cup a day; on special occasions, though, I make an extra cup. But when Alphonse- my coffee guzzling son- comes out of his little schoolhouse in the morning, I have to gulp the whole thing down in a hurry, leaving only a teaspoonful or so at the bottom of the cup for him to drink. I have to tell you that caffeine and Alphonse don’t mix very well, unless I want a hyperactive man-child literally climbing the walls.

Lately, Alphonse has been asking for more and more coffee. I take that as a sign to stop drinking coffee in front of him so I decided to extend my intermittent fast to 18 hours, moving my BPC in the afternoons while Alphonse is busy. This way, I have a few hours to enjoy coffee without downing the whole thing in one go.

Now this is where Ember comes in to give my life an extra boost of happiness. I got the Ember travel mug as a Christmas gift over the holidays, and while I have accumulated a wide variety of mugs and tumblers over the years- from double walled stainless steel vacuum flasks to plastic reusable mugs and hardy acrylic cups to dainty ceramic teacups- nothing quite beats the virtues of the Ember.

Just what is the Ember?

The Ember is the the first temperature controlled travel mug that keeps your beverage at your desired temperature for hours, allowing you to enjoy your drink without hurry. For people like me who like to sip and savor, the Ember is a handy mug to have around. It may seem like a novelty, especially since some thermal mugs can keep things warm for hours, but once you’ve tried it, you’ll love the way your coffee (or tea) stays exactly the same way for hours.

At USD150, the Ember travel mug is a pricey deal, particularly when one considers that its volume is only 12 ounces. The 10-oz Ember ceramic mug is a little more affordable at USD80, but without a lid, it is more useful for home and office use. I prefer the flexibility and durability of the travel mug. The huge advantage Ember has over newer, less expensive temperature mugs (such as the Lexo tumbler or Joeveo’s Temperfect mug) is that it allows one to remotely set the temperature via a smartphone. While I write, or clean, or bake, or even get the occasional catnap, I keep the Ember filled with hot coffee and it helps me get through another afternoon of chores. I’ve been using it for a few months now and I can say with certainty that it is a great way to enjoy a hot drink any time of the day.

Most US Starbucks stores carry the Ember, but for those of us here in Asia, Amazon is our best bet for purchasing one. The good news is that the product is available for delivery to the Philippines.

Pros: easy to use, remote fine tuning available, completely washable

Cons: price, availability in the country

Verdict: If you love coffee, you won’t go wrong with the Ember. 🙂 It’s worth every cent.

Fat Woman Changing

Three things happened to me in the year I turned 50.

One, I lost all our temporary help in the household. Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite the many difficulties it presented, but that is another story for another day.

Two, I lost my hair. For some reason, my hair started falling out in clumps early this year. I was losing so much hair every single day I decided to have my locks cut off into a shorter style. For the first time in a long while, I have above-the-shoulder length hair. I miss my long hair, but I love the ease and comfort of this new wash-and-wear style.

Three, I lost my “body.” Rewrite that to say I lost some heft, emphasis on some and not all of it yet. This is the story of how that came to be.

In February of this year, I got a complete medical check-up courtesy of my HMO. My husband had to make the appointments for me and he badgered me to keep them. The truth was, I was a little hesitant because I knew I had gained even more weight since my last physical. Also, I hate weigh-ins with a passion. I dodged my doctor’s receptionist every time she called me in for a weigh-in. I would run to the bathroom and hide until my turn at the clinic came up. Then too, at the back of my mind, I was worried that there would be some significant changes in my state of health as I had been experiencing more and more health issues of late.

As expected, some of the results came back on the wrong side of normal. Moreover, I was surprised to find that I had tipped the scales at an all-time high. I had to slyly convince the nurse to shave off 3 kilos from my listed weight by claiming that my jeans, oversized shirt, sweater, and thick socks made up those excess 3 kilos. I was fooling myself, of course, because the weighing scale at home (which I had deftly kicked out of sight under my son’s bed) confirmed this astonishing figure. I guess when you’re with a roomful of people ogling at the weighing scale, your dignity takes a dive when the scales tell you you’re the fattest person in the room and everyone knows it.

So there. I am fat. I’ve always been fat. Even when I wasn’t at my heaviest, I was still bigger and fatter than most girls- and boys- my age. When I was younger, I dieted and exercised myself to injury, losing big patches of my hair due to nutritional deficiency and hurting my back for more than year from over-exertion. I never stayed thin for long, though, and the weight rebounded fast and furiously. It didn’t help that in my youth, the boys I liked all preferred me to be thinner. I starved for one boy, literally, eating nothing but lettuce for weeks. He dumped me later for a thin girl. (What a jerk, right?) Another young man I really liked told me “you have everything I want in a girl, except that you’re fat.” That one, he broke my heart.

When A❤️ came along, he didn’t care whether I was fat or thin. He loved me the way I was, period. The pounds piled on more each year, yet it didn’t seem to faze him. With his encouragement, I learned to love myself the way I was, to be comfortable in my own skin and fat, and accept that I could never ever fit into society’s norms of thinness.

Everything in excess, however, takes its toll, and up till a certain weight, I was still active and healthy. The problem began last year when I began getting sicker and weaker. I caught a bug that evolved into a nasty pneumonia. I developed asthma, with painful bouts of air hunger. My knees ached all the time; my back hurt like crazy. My blood sugar hovered precariously in the prediabetic range. My blood pressure seesawed dangerously. I knew it was time to take control of my life again.

I didn’t want to announce this lest I jinx my progress. Besides, I’ve talked about losing weight so many times over the years that I was afraid people would not believe me anymore. Talk about feeling like the boy who cried wolf. Also, to talk about it would be to commit to it with finality and I wasn’t so sure I was ready to commit to it in the early days. Now, I am.

So here I am, telling you and everyone else who’d care to listen that I have lost 21 kilos in the last few months. That’s 46.2 pounds in the English Imperial system. I wore sizes 24 to 26 in the plus size section three months ago, now I fit into a pair of size 18 jeans. Whoa! I haven’t fit in a size 18 in 14 years!

I am still fat, true, and I have quite a way to go. But knowing what I know now- that I can be healthy and “thin” by changing my mindset and way of eating- I am pretty confident that the next time I step on the scales and people ogle at my numbers, I would no longer get that urge to burrow my head in the sand. I look back at that day in February, thinking of how I invented all kinds of excuses to justify my weight- perhaps my shoes were too heavy?– and I smile at the memory. My husband bought me a new weighing scale recently and I have it front and center in the living room. We’ve gotten quite close, really, and I no longer kick it under the couch. 😜

Here’s to this fat woman, and may she never tire of changing.

Mom on the Run

These days, our household’s daily schedule is very regimented, revolving largely around Alphonse’s schedule. Everything is a function of his needs- food, toileting, medications, therapy. I can speak for all of us, my husband and eldest son included, when I say that our personal needs have taken a backseat to his. It’s certainly difficult but we’re not complaining; it’s just the way it needs to be.

Once in a while, however, we allow each other the time to de-stress and relax. Take for example the time two weeks ago when Alex took charge of Alphonse so that my husband and I can catch a late showing of “Wonder Woman.” We must have been one of the last ones in the city to catch the movie (I had read all the reviews by then), but it still turned out to be a great, if harried, date. Or how about last weekend, when my husband gave me an hour of nap time and cared for Alphonse while Alex was with friends? Despite the lack of extra manpower to aid us, our household continues to function because we all try to give more than, if not as much as, we take, each one of us mindful of the others’ needs. 

Now, one of the things I wanted to do for my birthday last month was to go to the salon for a pampering. Unfortunately, long hours at the salon are now impossible to fit in our schedule, so we had to improvise on an alternative. Instead of getting the full service at the salon, which would not only be time consuming but expensive as well, I split the process  into easier, more manageable, and less costly steps. This way, I don’t stay too far and too long from Alphonse, and I save a few bucks in the process.

I’ve been going to the same hairdresser for the last 20 years, and Rose of David’s Salon SM North EDSA Annex is an expert when it comes to cutting my hair the way I like it. Thus, the hair cut is nonnegotiable and would have to be done by Rose, no ifs or buts. As for hair color, since I like DIYs and I’ve been doing my own color for years, I decided to find an easy alternative.

For those who want a quick, no-frills, affordable hair color service, I discovered that nothing beats the “free application with purchase” service. In the Northern mall landscape, Landmark TriNoma offers this regularly, as opposed to other malls with limited time promotions. It has even provided a dedicated area called The Lounge for patrons who may want to avail of the service, with personnel trained and employed by the hair color companies manning the section.


The only requirement to avail of the service is that the hair color (Revlon at P394.75, for example) must be purchased on the same day as the service. Patrons must keep their receipt and submit it for registration. They are also required to sign a short waiver form stating they have used the product previously and have done a skin test. 

Yes, this is me, with three months of gray hair !


The Lounge can accommodate 5 clients at once and usually, there are enough personnel to keep the line moving. There is a small seating area beside it for clients waiting for their turn. Those who don’t like sitting idly while waiting can go around the mall to shop (as I did, shamelessly, with a black plastic cap on my head) or move to the adjacent nail salon for a manicure or pedicure. 



So how was the service? The color application was good, almost professional even, and for the cost of a bottle of color, well-worth the hour I spent at The Lounge. The attending service personnel definitely eased and hastened the process, especially as a perpetually stiff neck has made it difficult for me to reach the back of my head for an even application. 

A week later, also on a Sunday, I got to finish the process with a visit to my favorite hairdresser. I made sure to come as soon as the mall opened to be first in line, and I was done in no time at all. I’m only sorry I didn’t have enough time to enjoy the other services at the salon. A manicure and pedicure would have been heavenly, as also a hair treatment. Still, just a decent cut is enough to make one feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and that is how I always end up feeling after  Rose does her magic on my mane. The picture speaks for itself- doesn’t my hair look movie star worthy? 

This is what they call “talikod-genic!”


Moms on the run do not always have the luxury of time, but we do deserve pampering. That this is done affordably, with minimal time and effort away from children who need us, made these experiences well worth the effort. Will I be doing this again? Definitely. A great big thumbs up to this! 

730 Days Gone

I wrote this on July 15, 2016, on the Second Death Aniversary of my father.

The Home Above

Two years ago, while my sister Jas and I were going through boxes of old papers, a single letter fell on the ground. It was a letter from the Carmelite missionaries, dated July 15, 1978, saying that July 16 was the Feast Day of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. I told Jas about it, wondering at the coincidence and pondering on the importance of this unexpected discovery. It turned out to be Daddy’s last day. A week later, I found a stash of old cards we gave Daddy, and this was in them. I think Daddy was sending us a message. I know for sure he is in heaven now.

It was late on a rainy night much like this two years ago when Daddy left us. Alphonse, normally in bed and asleep by ten, could not sleep that particular night. He paced around the room, restless and seemingly bothered. We tried to appease him by blowing bubbles with him, an activity that almost always soothes him, but he angrily shooed us away.

When the phone rang twice at 11:00 pm, Alphonse stopped walking around the room. He stood near the foot of our bed, transfixed and silent. When I put down the phone, he seemed relieved. Then, without fuss, he allowed himself to be led to his bed by his brother. I often wonder about this night, how Alphonse seemed to know of or sense Daddy’s passing even before the call came. Daddy passed away sometime after ten in the evening, alone in his room in a private care facility in Taguig.

I broke the news to our mom as soon as the call came. She started wailing loudly, her heartbroken sobs interrupted only by the anger and blame she directed at me. I stopped her from going to the facility that night. There was a storm coming, I told her repeatedly. I promised we would all go back when the storm had abated. How was I to know?

At one in the morning, amid strong rains that whipped and lashed at our convoy of vehicles, we made a slow, sad trek back to Quezon City with Daddy. We finished signing papers at two in the morning. The funeral staff had brought him to the preparation room but they allowed us access to him. Daddy was soft, but cold. He smelled faintly of baby powder and dried blood. The attendants had wiped Daddy’s face clean and we kissed him on the cheeks and forehead. We held his smooth, cold hands one last time. And then we left him lying in a metal slab, a white cotton sheet tucked around him as if he were sleeping.

The power was out when we returned home. It was going to be light soon but we needed to rest our weary bodies and troubled minds. My husband and I tumbled into bed and fell asleep, my fingers knotted in his. I closed my eyes and willed myself not to cry. There were still so many things to think of. I made a mental list of them, going through each item over and over again until sleep finally came.

Hours later, I woke up unexpectedly from my dreamless slumber as I felt a cold chill pass through me. Sometime during the early hours of morning, A♥ had let go of my hand and rolled over in a fetal position, his back to me. I turned over to reach out to him but in the darkness, I saw my dad lying between us. Daddy seemed to be just sleeping. I’m a self-confessed scaredy cat but somehow, I didn’t feel scared; I felt comforted. I stared at the figure before me and whispered “Let’s rest na, Dad.” I rubbed my eyes of their tears and closed them again.

Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) made landfall in Metro Manila early that morning, leaving much of the city in shambles and without power. The rains fell without let-up but Mom, A♥, and I needed to brave the downpour for one more errand. Daddy needed new clothes. All his old ones were much too big for him. He had lost so much weight in the last six months that he needed to hold up his pants with a tight belt. And his shirts, even the new ones, they all hang off his scrawny frame loosely.

Mom went through all the racks of suits they had and chose a navy blue suit, a light blue shirt, and a striped tie. A♥ hurried to pay for our purchases while I oversaw the packing of the suit. The saleslady reminded Mom to hold on to the receipt so we could exchange the suit if it didn’t fit. Mom looked at her sadly, eyes brimming with tears, and said “We won’t be bringing it back.”

Daddy’s wake lasted all of five days. We did not expect so many people to come. From early morning to late at night, we sat with guests who wanted to pay their final respects to him. We told Daddy’s stories over and over again and in turn, we heard snippets of his life from those who knew him as their friend, as mentor, as business partner. Daddy felt most alive to me then.

The night before his funeral, I finally allowed myself to cry. I knew that the next morning would be the last time I would ever lay my eyes on his face. After that, I would only get to see him in my dreams, and only if I got lucky. I burrowed my head in A♥’s arms and wept till his arms were drenched in hot, salty tears.

At six in the morning of Daddy’s funeral, I woke up suddenly again, shivering. My teeth chattered from the cold that wrapped itself around my chest and back. I knew it was Daddy hugging me goodbye.

Over the next year, I would dream of him intermittently but often, and in each one, he grew more robust and less frail. I dreamt of him frequently as the father I had in childhood but of late, I see him looking more like he did in his early sixties. The last dream I had of him was a few months ago. In it, I saw him through my bedroom window looking up at me from the garage. He looked healthy, happy, and serene. I saw him mouth the words “I love you” over and over again. I woke up with cheeks wet from tears. I think he’s telling me- us– that he is alright where he is.

It has been two years since that rainy night in July. Seven hundred thirty days without Daddy. I don’t feel the pain and loneliness too much these days, but God, I really miss him still.

The Currency of Life

buddha kindnessIt was a few days before the deadline for graduation ball registration. I had been waiting for a particular person (not A♥, he is quick to remind me) to ask me to the final ball of our high school years. I was jittery and already a bit afraid that the call would never come but I had my heart set on that one boy. Just him. I crossed my fingers and waited.

Perhaps sensing the distress I was in, a friend came up to me and said “Hey, Pinks, I know how much going out with him means to you, but if he doesn’t ask you, I’m here. I’ll take you to the ball.” I hugged him awkwardly (back then, hugs were always awkward affairs) and thanked him profusely.

“No big deal,” he said. “That’s what friends do for friends.”

As it turns out, I finally got the call the night before the deadline and what I mistakenly thought as my dream-come-true did come to be. Still, in all these years, I have never forgotten the thoughtful words of that young man. Although he and I have gone on separate roads since then, his act of kindness remains undiminished in my memory.

The other night, A♥ and I went to say goodbye to him.

His was the third wake we have been to in as many weeks. The first was for my cousin, who passed away after a bout of illness. Then, early this week, we paid our respects to a friend’s beloved parent. On Wednesday night, we bade farewell to our Pisay batch mate and dear friend of our youth.

As we find ourselves going more to wakes and funerals of those we hold dear, we are changed by the knowledge that Time is no longer our friend. Life is short and each passing second draws us nearer our end. While we used to measure our lives by grades and achievements, by graduations and promotions, by the leaps and bounds of our youth, today we are suddenly more aware of the beats of our hearts and the breaths we take. For the first time in a really long while, we feel mortal.

But life, as they say, is a one-time offer. You can’t have it more than once. As such, we need to live and live well. To love and love fully. To make each second, each breath, each beat, count. And we need to live with kindness as the currency that drives our short lives. “To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die”* – it’s to live forever.

Judging from the testimonials on our friend’s Facebook wall, kindness was never in short supply in his life. He gave it away often and all too willingly.

Many years ago, I was one of the recipients of his gift. I only wish I got to say “Thank you” one last time.

 

*Hallowed Ground, Thomas Campbell