After an hour of so of shimmying to the likes of Shakira and Beyonce, I’m writing this blog post as I wait for my running music downloads to finish.
I don’t usually write about my travails with fitness, being more into the timeworn themes of love, darkness, and angst — gym hours, calories, and workout routines seem much too banal topics to write about, especially considering the sort of stuff I usually post here. I mean, who cares about the number of reps I do for supersets or the length of time I manage to stay in a modified shoulder stand, right? Besides, I consider myself primarily as a nerdy, artsy-fartsy sort of writer, not David Zinczenko.
But I AM a health nut, and I am very candid about it with my friends, who know how religiously I observe my workout and food-logging habits. I exercise five to six days a week for at least an hour and a half, and keep my food intake to about 1200-1300 calories (1500 calories, tops) while maintaining my pesco-vegetarian diet and ensuring that I get my recommended daily nutritional needs using this nifty web service, CalorieCounter.
Sounds crazy? Sounds wrong? Yeah, some of my friends think so too, which prompted me to write this lest they continue to fear for my humanity.
If you told me I’d be this concerned about fitness three years ago, I would’ve laughed in your face. A couch potato dedicated to books, art, books, music, books, movies, books, and more books, I couldn’t run half a mile for my life, but methought I could bench-press a hundred pounds by sheer mental strength. I’d never felt the need to be physically active, since all the things I enjoyed were pleasures of the mind. And I was proud of that, despite the occasional anxiety I felt because of my weight. After all, I’ve always, always prized brains over brawn (although a mixture of both never hurt. Consider the image below).
When I embarked on a “healthier” lifestyle nearly two years ago, I wasn’t even the one who cinched the decision. After being diagnosed “morbidly obese,” my parents enrolled me at the local gym, got me a personal fitness trainer. I, not wanting to waste their hard-earned money poured into what seemed to me a trivial luxury, and being the competitive achiever that I am, did my darned best to lose weight. I went to the gym regularly and modified my food intake and sleeping habits (sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain, and I was nocturnal). Later on I got into yoga, mountain-climbing, and running, and recently went back to playing badminton. I lost 40 pounds in a year and a quarter, and now I’m trying to lose 20 more pounds (because I’m still overweight).
IT HAS NOT BEEN EASY. I love eating. Parents used to sit their picky eater kids beside me at banquets to ramp up their appetite (my eating gusto always got them chomping too). Besides, my parents, my grandparents, even my sisters are fantastic cooks (and I the fantastic gobbler of their cooking). And I deemed my time better preoccupied with the nobler things of the mind and soul, rather than with those of the baser body (I am a student of literature, after all, and I was — probably still am — pretentious like that). So you can just imagine the discipline and moral fiber I had to summon from the deepest folds of my pleasure-loving being just so I could move my fat ass from “morbidly obese” to “slightly overweight.”
But I expected that. I want to lose weight the healthy, hard-earned way — no crash diets, no drugs, and certainly no surgeries! Luckily, I can be very intense when it comes to achieving what I want. Like Grant Achatz, “Anything that could ever prevent me from achieving a goal, I put in a box, tape it up, throw it over my shoulder. [I] aim for a goal and attain it. Then [I] look to the next one.” What I didn’t expect was that I would actually enjoy this new lifestyle. Sure, I may jokingly whine about “torturing” my body with physical activity and “depriving” myself of unhealthy — if yummy — food, but the thing is, despite post-workout tiredness and my seldom indulged sweet tooth, I don’t feel kawawa, I don’t feel like I’m hurting or depriving myself or, like, impoverishing my soul. Indeed, I’d never felt so good or proud about myself. I may not gorge on juicy steaks or subsist for days on end solely on candies, cakes, and chips now, but you know what, been there, done that, and I can say that there’s not a lot missing in my life without that kind of diet in it. When some people see me with my bowl of oatmeal, fruits, and nuts, while everyone else is stuffing themselves with donuts and pizza, they shake their heads in pity. What they don’t seem to understand is that I LIKE IT. I don’t feel in any way deprived because I love what I eat. If you hand me a plate of steamed okra, I’d chuck it back at you, but if you make it sautéed ampalaya, then we’re talking!
Aside from whenever I’m on an idea-generating/writing buzz, I feel most “high” when I’m hiking or running. This perhaps sounds overly Romantic, but for me there’s no sense of awe or power or poetry quite like watching the sun set while you’re atop a mountain or running under the stars and feeling like you’re flying. There’s no calm like going deep into a yoga pose and letting go of every thought and just feeling your breath. And if my lifestyle helps me continue doing these things that make me feel alive and good about myself, then I don’t see why I should discontinue it just because a few people think it’s “crazy” or “wrong.”
UP NEXT Contextualizing weight loss: my determination to lose weight and its implications for my feminist politics and Third World reality