My Story

This post first appeared on my personal blog (published February 21, 2017). I would like to share here too how I was before and what got me started with prioritizing health. For context and as a way for me too to finally document my condition years ago, I’ve written in detail about my acid reflux encounter. Hoping that this may serve as an inspiration and call to action for us to take care of our bodies, so we may take care of others and do the things that God sends us to do.

In college, I don’t think I was the conscious and picky eater. I would drink carbonated drinks and powdered juice drinks, have sisig and other oily meals, and go for instant noodles and microwavable meals when a quick meal is all I could eat when school stuff piled up.

Eating cleanly and healthily weren’t priorities. In fact, I probably thought that the only time I was unhealthy was when I was not suffering from triggered asthma attacks (because of exhaustion or laughing so hard!). I knew so little about good health then.

In high school, I was a big eater too. I remember eating 3 or 4 packs (or was it 4? Haha!) of pancit canton, loaded with preservatives, finishing a cylinder pack of potato chips, and munching on chocolates. My cups of rice would probably from 3-4 or more when we had my favorites like my Mom’s chicken and pork adobo, teriyaki chicken, or ginataang sitaw at kalabasa. My Mom and Dad cook delicious meals with lots of love, so it was a challenge for me to discipline myself.

I remember reaching 80 kilograms at one point in high school, but I mostly remained at 75 kg then. It was the same in college, until I got sick due to stress and poor eating habits. In my 1st to 2nd year, I was at 70 kg, and during my 3rd year when I got acid reflux, my weight spiraled down to the lightest I’ve ever been in my life: 58 kg.

Acid Reflux – 1st Salvo

Acid reflux happened to me in June 2012 when I was a group leader in two of my major subjects and I had responsibilities too as an editor then at our schoolpaper. I was skipping meals sometimes or didn’t get to eat at the proper time because of the several things that needed to be done. Stress and anxieties of not being able to do my studies well got the better of me. I lost my appetite, vomited regularly, and my body felt weak.

EDIT 02/22/17: I suddenly remembered something. I had to go to the emergency room once too because I woke up late in the evening. My head kept looking up by itself. Every time I tried to put it down, it would face upward again. That scared me, and I didn’t know what was causing it. I think I was alone in the dorm room when that happened. When Ms Jen and I, our dorm’s owner, got to the hospital, we learned that it was a spasm, which is an involuntary muscle contraction. I can’t recall the cause of it.

Due to these, I lost weight fast. I remember having to defend our final project with my groupmates days after being brought to the emergency room in the hospital a short drive from our school. I’m thankful for my groupmates and friends who helped me with my studies and schoolpaper duties before.

The doctor said to cut caffeine (I wasn’t a tea or coffee drinker), spicy food, oily food, chocolates, softdrinks, and food with lots of preservatives and chemicals. My diet in college did include oily food, because that was the most accessible in school, so I had no choice. After healing from acid reflux and following the doctor’s orders, I recovered again after our 4th semester.

But, being the stubborn student that I was, I thought that it was okay again to eat oily food or drink powdered juice drinks when I was feeling better. Not long after our 1st semester of the 4th year started, I earned the rewards of my hard-headedness and disobedience. Acid reflux came back on a more alarming level.

It was a dark period in my life. I couldn’t eat, because I would vomit it all out again. Gastric acid needs to have something digested, so when my body couldn’t find food to digest, I vomited acid. If there was no acid to vomit, I would vomit the water I drank. I had to drink water even if I knew I would throw it out again because of the danger of dehydration. I’ve always feared vomiting, even as a child. But because of suffering from this condition, I kind of gotten over my fear of it.

In addition, I was experiencing headaches or dizziness – I can’t quite remember. I would get hiccups too which lasted 1-2 hours; I couldn’t stop them at all, and it hurt too. The vomiting triggered my asthma sometimes as well.

Recurring Acid Reflux

I was staying in my dormitory’s new building already in Intramuros when acid reflux started showing itself again. I woke up in the wee hours of the morning, and it was raining hard. It was August of 2012 – I think that was the time Habagat was in Metro Manila. It was flooded around Manila and NLEX was impassable too. My Mom couldn’t drive and pass the expressway because of this, and our home was prone to flooding. It was both painful for us, and I knew the pain that my Mom felt too, because she couldn’t come get me. So one of our dormitory’s staff, Ms Jona, accompanied me at the lobby of the dorm, while it was raining outside. Come morning, she accompanied me to Manila Doctors Hospital on a pedicab even if it was flooded in some parts of the city. I’ll always be thankful to her, Ms Jen, the security guards, the dorm helpers, and the pedicab driver who’ve helped us during this journey.

I stayed in the hospital in the morning and got checked again. Fortunately, the timing was great, because my Dad was on his flight back to Manila. I’m grateful for God for His timing. Although we didn’t know that the acid reflux would come back again, the time my Dad was scheduled to come home was the time I would be out of the hospital that day. I returned to the dorm and waited for him there. I remember asking one of our dorm helpers to buy an ice popsicle for me to stop the vomiting. Even though my Mom couldn’t come fetch me because of the impassable expressway, we were glad that my Dad was there to take care of me. When he arrived, I thought I was healing already, because I felt that everything was going to be okay. I think we all feel that way, even if our physical pain tells us otherwise, when we are with people whom we love and who truly care about us.

We stayed in the rental room at the first floor of our dormitory. When I would wake up and vomit hour after hour, my Dad would caress my back, so it would be easier to vomit. I always had a small pail near me, so that’s where all the regurgitated acid or water go. He’d hum a Beatles song for me to calm me down.

When the heavy rains passed, I was confined at the hospital for a few days. My friend Julie, who was studying near, visited me. On my first acid reflux encounter, she visited me too in my old dorm and bought me food – good, healthy fish and vegetables.

Thankfully, my Mom was able to pass by NLEX then and arrive at the hospital. She and Dad supported and took care of me, while I was healing. I had to prepare for an endoscopy too where they will check my esophagus with a camera . I had to have anesthesia. I was nervous about the procedure, but my Dad and I sang Hey Jude and Blackbird together to ease the nerves. The findings showed that my esophagus had minor bruises due to the vomiting and that my sphincter, the muscle which keeps the food in our stomach, doesn’t close entirely anymore, so eaten food can come out easily and freely. There was a way to tighten the sphincter again, but we didn’t want to have an operation. Our doctor, Dr. Bañez, who was incredibly kind and gentle and encouraging, suggested that I have a lifestyle change. By that, I had to be more careful now with the food that I eat and to avoid stressful situations. Stress has an effect on our stomachs. This is probably the reason behind my feeling queasy or sick whenever a big event would happen. When I was in Kindergarten, I remember vomiting (or about to?) during our flag ceremony. When there are graded recitations or first days of school or presentations at the front of the class, I would feel like vomiting.

Because of this, I had to drop all of my subjects except for my animation elective. My groupmate and friend Carla was ever so supportive when we had to do our midterms and finals, while I was sick and stayed in our province to heal. I also had minimal duties in the schoolpaper. These were all required as thinking about my tasks will bring me stress, therefore, triggering the acid reflux.

Healing

Dr. Bañez said that my recovery would take 3 months. I remember just laying down in the living room or sometimes in the bedroom, not eating anything solid at the first few weeks. I’d just have small bits of crackers or soup. Softdrinks, oily food, and the other things I’m not supposed to take anymore were out of my diet. It was still okay to take them after I’ve healed completely – as long as it’s not everyday and is in moderation. I also had my share of medication to help in the digestion and in stopping the vomiting. My Mom also gave me a small bottle of peppermint – one smell of it helped me curb my vomiting and made me feel refreshed.

But, vomiting still happened in the weeks that followed my checkup. I’d still wake up sometimes in the night and have to go down on my knees on the bed or on the floor to vomit. Acid tasted bad, but the water tasted even more unpleasant for me, for some reason. I’d pound on the ground because of the pain. I couldn’t sleep too with low pillows, because there may be a tendency for the acid to regurgitate. It will be dangerous if it happened when I am asleep as it could probably choke me. The three months of recovery really were needed.

This was the time too when I experienced occasional nightmares. I get scared whenever it’s nighttime. I believe that this was also the moment when my personal relationship with God started. I read more about faith, the Bible, and verses that helped me. This verse from Isaiah was the particular one which stuck to me while I was healing:

“Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”Isaiah 40:30-31

God’s Word felt so alive then to me. Those words spoke to me and up to now, I still remember their effect and how I felt when I read those verses.

I can’t recall if it was my college friend Yvez who shared that verse to me when I was healing. Nonetheless, I am thankful for that reminder from a friend and from God.

Truly, I wanted to heal. I wanted to recover. I wanted my body to be okay again. I wanted to eat again and be healthy.

Gradually, I started healing – all through God’s grace, my family and friends, encouragements from others, and visits too from my childhood friend Cleudine during my birthday. Little by little, day after day, I could finally feel my appetite coming back. After weeks of not eating the regular amount I did before (which was a lot!), I got excited again. Until such time that my body was feeling much better, and I gained the kilograms I lost. I think I was able to gain them fast again, because the acid reflux worked like how a crash diet would. You surprise your body with a sudden change from your regular diet, like eating more of just vegetables or fruits. With acid reflux, my body went from full appetite to little or no appetite, and when I started feeling better, I started eating again.

I wish that I could have maintained that weight at 58 kilos, but sadly, after college and when I started working in November 2013, I am back at 70 kilos. Hahaha! As if acid reflux never happened.

Aftermath

Up to now ever since I had acid reflux years ago, I have completely removed from my diet the softdrinks, powdered juice drinks, instant noodles, and junkfood. (Except for sweets). I’ve managed thankfully with God’s grace and my Mom’s and Dad’s advices and support to make better choices in my lifestyle.

In 2014, from 70 kilos, I got to 65 because I started exercising. I watched in Youtube videos for low and high intensity workouts. It was in November 2013 too that I started jogging at a park in the city where I lived and worked at. I would jog three times at night every week; sometimes, I’d jog in the weekend during morning. For me who has asthma, brisk-walking, jogging, and short distance running were okay.

I was okay at 65 kg, but when for the first time together in 2014, my Mom and I were able to come to the States to visit our relatives for Christmas and New Year’s, of course I couldn’t control myself from not eating too much, because it was the holidays and our families got together again after many years! We would cook meals together and bond around the dinner table, sharing stories and home-cooked meals and good and delicious store-brought food too. And my cousins and I love sushi, so…

The photo above shows a few of my cousins and I! They are tall. Haha! I’m probably 65 or 66 kilograms here.

I gained 5 kilograms again. I gain weight whenever we visit, and it would be hard for me to lose them. So at 2016, I’m back at 75 kg. The weight I was at when I was in high school. I fret too at my choices. Haha! Even if I cooked my own meals too like stir-fried vegetables and other healthy recipes, I still got heavier. Although I can justify that I was eating healthily and not as much as oily food as before, I’m still wrong, because I eat way too much than what is needed by my body. If I eat vegetables but eat more than what is appropriate, it’s still bad. I can hear my Dad saying,“Ang dami-dami mo kasing kinakain. (You eat too much). You need self-control.”

So during our Christmas vacation in the US last Dec 2015-Jan 2016, my cousin Jango and I worked out together for the first time. He taught me weight-lifting and preparing healthy salads. But what stuck most for me was the weight-lifting. I’ve always thought that lifting would make your body bigger. I didn’t want to be bigger! However, Jango said that if I use lightweight ones like 5 lbs weights, it will be okay for me to tone my muscles. Lifting actually gives us a way to shape our muscles.

The Comeback

So February-June 2016, my exercise regimen consisted of lifting weights and jogging. My officemates and I also played badminton sometimes two times a month and even jogged at the park (I miss those days and my officemates!). However, last year was the time that I had lots more responsibility at work. My mind and body felt tired easily, so at night, I didn’t have any more energy to work out. I wanted to do recreational stuff like draw or read – rest, practically. I wasn’t able to jog or lift weights any longer too for the second half of the year. Sometimes, I would have comfort food too and munch on one Family Mart Lemon Square per day.

The photo above shows my friends and I for 17 years. This was December 2016.

I had no time for working out. And my weight was then playing at 75-77 kilograms. On a fortunate note, I haven’t reached my previous heaviest weight which was 80. And it’s still safe for me to say that I do eat healthily compared to the days before I had acid reflux. Yes, I still do have fried chicken, sisig, and other oily food, especially during the holidays and January. For two years too, I’ve walked roughly 1-2 kilometers from Monday to Friday whenever I walk to work and back to our home, so it’s not entirely reverting back to a sedentary lifestyle right, like the one I had before?

Not completely sedentary, but I know I could do better, but it was just so hard to motivate myself.

I found that in the past year, it was difficult for me to breathe at times, probably because of how chubby I was. I’d also breathe heavily when going upstairs before in our company building. I didn’t have the motivation to exercise again too as I’ve focused more on comfort than the enduring of a great pain to have a healthier body and mindset.

My Mom had me checked this January with a body composition monitor. We found out that my BMI already says I am obese, and my visceral fat is high. There are two kinds of fat: subcutaneous and visceral, and visceral was the more dangerous one as it’s the fat that surrounds the internal organs like the heart.

In both of my Mom’s and Dad’s sides of the family, we have hereditary diseases, so I really got scared of how high my fat level was. I was obese too at 78.6 kilograms – just a few kilograms short of my 80kg mark before. I was worried too because my cravings for oily and sweet food might influence my Mom too, and I didn’t want for us to be both unhealthy. I was eating more than what was needed. I remained undisciplined, unmotivated, and had no self-control. Sometimes, when I look at a mirror or find my reflection in the window at malls, I’d pity myself. I do love myself and how I look like, but I do not feel good anymore. Am I showing love to myself if I am not controlling my food intake? Am I loving myself if I choose to give in to the bad choices when there are good ones? How am I supposed to serve God in a healthy body and do the things we want to do and help my Mom and Dad if I am not taking control of something that should be under my control (i.e. lifestyle and food choices)?

There had to be a shift in my mindset. There had to be a change, but there will be no change, if I do not get off the sofa and start moving.

I need to be healthy.

What does being healthy mean?

To be healthy for me is to be at my best physical and mental condition in performing my daily activities. I will be able to do chores and work without feeling tired easily. It’s also consuming clean and good food with all the right nutrients and benefits and exercising to keep our body active. As for the mind, I know I am healthy when I am able to organize my thoughts, processes, and solve problems well and that my attitude is of a growth mindset, instead of fixed. Instead of the impossibility of things, I focus more on the possibility and the positive side of things. Additionally, I can add emotionally healthy too when I am not being too sensitive. Haha! As for spiritually healthy, it’s connecting to God daily or moment by moment through prayer and reading the Bible. In our Lord’s Prayer, there is a line that says “Give us this day our daily bread.” Our daily bread is meant to be taken everyday, and the Word of God, before any other physical food could ever fill us, is the one that sustains us from morning to evening.

The Decision

This February, I made the decision that I will continue this health journey of mine which started in 2012. Weight plummeted down and went back again – I was consistent for sure with this. But recently, I found out that weight is just a number to signify how heavy we are. If we are heavy, it doesn’t mean that it’s bad or you are chubby, because it could be the muscles that you’ve worked on and toned that made you heavy. But for me and the fat I could playfully pinch in my arms and tummy, I’m pretty sure that the bulk of me is not made up of muscle – and the results of my body composition check affirms it.

So where am I now?

Seven days ago, I started the TR90 Weight Management Program from Pharmanex under Nu Skin. TR90 stands for Transform in 90 Days. It revolves around three things: active lifestyle, innovative products, and healthy food choices. I liked this program, because it works the same way as the “Teach a man to fish, so he can eat for the rest of his life” mantra. Instead of giving you food to eat, it does more than that. The program informs you about the current trend of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles today, how you can eat well and what you should eat, and the significant help of exercising.

But the best thing I like about it is that TR90 builds your habits – the good ones. You’re given 3 months to make wiser choices. Good health surely doesn’t and will never ever come at a fast pace. If you want to succeed at something or attain good physical condition, it will take a lot of time, and to have good health will be a long-term investment with many sacrifices to be made along the way. I want to start early; I don’t want to plant bad seeds today and sow the many diseases I could possibly have in the future. I want to plant good seeds and not act only when it’s too late and I am sick again. It will take much time to be healthy, but I’d rather have that than the short-lived pleasure of having a delectable fudge brownie. (Really, Arli? Haha!)

It’s taken me almost 5 years when I first started my health journey; it’s only now that I’m being serious about it, because 1) I’ve already went through a phase where my poor choices rendered me stressed out and sick for a long time, 2) my visceral fat is high and I am obese, 3) I am aware now of how important health is, and 4) because I have stronger motivation now.

I want to be able to help my Mom and Dad. I want for us to travel to places together and still enjoy it without us feeling any ache in our bodies. My Mom and Dad have a lot of dreams and I do too, and I want to help them achieve it. I won’t be able to do so if I am unhealthy, undisciplined, and worrying more about my own weight problems. I cannot fully be present in helping my Mom and Dad and to spend more quality time with our families.

Because I get insecure at times and put myself in self-pity like I did before, I tend to just focus on myself. I forget the more urgent needs of the people around me.

Also, I have big dreams. And I know that God needs me to be obedient and disciplined and rooted in His plans, so I not only have to have a healthy body but also a well-fed soul, heart, and mind.

Lastly, I want to help other people too who have problems with their health, particularly in weight management. But of course, I won’t be able to help others if I have not even helped myself. I’ve always been chubby ever since, and it is only now that I got the chance to make a difference. I want to inspire others to start taking control of their health with better eating habits, integration of the exercises that they like and are good for them, and anchoring our motivations to be healthy on a purpose bigger than us.

With that, I’d like to share this old post of mine last November 2014:

Endure for the Right Reasons

Last November 17, I started writing in this trusty green steno notebook that I bought solely for my motivation to be physically fit. Here, I write daily what I ate, what I thought or felt in eating a particular meal, the exercise I’ve done, and the lessons I picked up for each of the day.

On the first page, I wrote a promise. The whole point of it is that I want to be physically fit so I can serve God, my family, my friends, and the people He wants me to serve in a healthy body. I’ve had asthma ever since I was little (just a fit of laughter can get me breathing with difficulty already). I’ve had acid reflux in 2012, and it started me pursuing to live a healthy lifestyle. 

Wanting to be physically fit, however, includes a tendency wherein you can gravitate towards desiring to impress others, to look good, or to prove people in your past that you can do it. I realize that this kind of motivation won’t work. Let’s say you may have achieved your ideal weight. What if the people you’re trying to impress just don’t care? In their minds, they will always see you as this chubby girl they once called names. I know what it feels like to put your worth on others’ opinions about your appearance, and I know what it feels like to be made fun of for your weight. I didn’t take them much seriously then, but it had bad implications on how I viewed myself. Pleasing other people isn’t the way. All your effort to please them would go down the drain. 

This journey, this lifestyle, for me, must be aligned with what I want to do, and that is to serve. My reasons for continuing must be centered on what Christ wants me to do and to learn. That our worth does not depend on what we look like outside. We need to clean the inside of the cup than focus on its outward appearance. We can look like the best people out there, but if our hearts aren’t giving or selfless, then I don’t want to look best, presentable, and nice at all. As the timeless quote from The Little Prince says it, “What is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

I am doing this, so I can help my Mom in our business, to take care of her and my Dad, to care for our dogs and our home, to serve the people in the company I am working in, and to help others that God wants me to serve in His time. 

I pray for these words to always ring true in me, and may they also ring true to you.

[The rest can be read over at my personal blog.]

That was me three months ago – this is me today!

I still have a long way to go. Here’s to a lifetime of pursuing good health for us and our families, dear friends!

You can read about the lessons I’ve learned during the 90-day program over here.