Scene Picks July: Let’s talk health and wellness
Words by ScenePH
July is nutrition month, or so we’ve heard. And we want to take this time to look at the team’s relationship with health and wellness, our struggles with fitness, our discoveries, the things that make us feel good.
When we were brainstorming what theme to focus on for the month, we jokingly said that our schools used to celebrate nutrition month in July. A quick Google search told us that that was actually a thing, and not just a concept our schools invented as an excuse to educate us on health.
So, for this month’s Scene Picks, we each took a moment to reflect on our health and wellness journeys – the toxicity that comes with body image expectations; the pressure to perform and meet unrealistic standards; the physical activities that we hate or have learned to enjoy; the food that gives us an extra kick during an otherwise draining work day; the regiments that we’ve adopted. Discussions on health, fitness, and wellness can go on for days, which is something that we hope to explore throughout the month. But for now, we invite you to read our individual reflections, and hope that it provides an avenue for you to share yours as well.
Before the pandemic, I would always flake on my gym memberships. I’d go to the gym for one to two months then would completely forget about them. My biggest barrier was the commute going to the gym, but now that we’re on lockdown, I have no excuse.
I’ve been working out at home three to five times a week with the help of 808 Studio classes. Aside from not needing to leave the house to exercise, 808 classes are so much fun! They offer dance workout classes that will surely make you sweat and keep your body toned. Each class is taught live so there’s always something new to look forward to. It’s never a chore to log in on Zoom and dance in my bedroom like nobody’s watching!
My favorites are their Kpop themed classes! Dance and exercise to BTS, Twice, Itzy, and Exo!
When I was growing up, I was already a very active child. I love sports. I like basketball, football, biking, boxing, badminton, and whatever that keeps me moving. It makes me so happy being able to run around and to literally feel the burn in my muscles.
When I began training two years ago, my trainer pushed me to levels I didn’t know. I wanted to be stronger, have more endurance, get better balance (because I’m very clumsy), and adjust to my slowing metabolism as I was growing older. Of course, we had to stop when the pandemic hit and I truly miss going back to the gym. Now, I just try my best to workout at home if I feel like it. But what’s important is, I have never pressured myself to be some sort of image. It was always about what I wanted when it came to my body.
I didn’t care about my weight, to be honest. I was surrounded by people that loved me for who I was, whatever I weighed. When I was at my skinniest in high school to when I grew a little weight in college. And now, with the quarantine weight plus the post-COVID weight that I’m trying to burn. To me, it was about what would make me feel happy and what makes me feel good. I didn’t care what people would say or what the media interpreted.
Besides the workout, I like eating healthy or having vegetables because it just tastes good to me. But it doesn’t mean I’d say no to good pizza and pasta whenever it’s there. I like really long naps because you can never go wrong with sleep.
Really, when it comes to feeling good about yourself, you listen to those that love you regardless of how you look or what you weigh because those are the words you echo to yourself. Everyone else doesn’t matter.
When it comes to fitness, I’m guilty of taking this for granted. I’ve always been on the thinner side, so I’d think I was okay, BUT I wasn’t actually 100% healthy—just skinny. It’s something I realized belatedly in my late 20s, when my palpitations, migraines, and cholesterol (yes!) started acting up, and in my 30s, when I still had really bad acne that medicines, even pills couldn’t control. In particular, the skin problems became a huge point of insecurity that often messed up how I thought about myself.
It was only last year that Bianca recommended I try a more holistic approach. Thanks to this push, I consulted with Katrina of Cleopatra’s Secret to try her natural skincare products, but she ended up interviewing me about how I felt physically and even emotionally—because they all play a huge part in how our body performs! This was my big aha moment: when I finally understood how my skin and whatever else I was feeling reflected the health of not just my organs, but also my brain. I spent a good part of the lockdown (and up until now), trying to correct and feed my body better, using food, herbal teas, natural products, and lifestyle changes as medicine. Of course, I still have my lapses, but for the first time in forever, I started to see my face clear up without having to slather on chemicals. Plus points: I’m also learning how to better read my body’s reactions to things I did or didn’t do—which is empowering!
When it comes to exercise, I’m honestly not a super fan of workouts, but Katrina showed me how ensuring that blood and other fluids move around keeps the body performing optimally, so I’ve been looking for heart-activating things that are fun for me to do. Honestly, anything that gets you moving is good! I’ve taken to walking my dog, biking with my nephew, and lately, trying the NEOU app for basic dance classes and Symbio stretch/recover PT classes, which have been great for my back!
My biggest takeaway from all this, especially now that I’m in my mid-30s, is to respect and love your unique body—to listen to it! Truthfully, I still struggle to stay on track, but knowing how these lifestyle changes helped improve my skin (that’s not even counting the benefits to the rest of my body) keeps me motivated to keep at it. After all, aches, pains, and even acne don’t show up without a reason!
Much like a lot of people that I know, I had a very unhealthy body image growing up. I had gained a significant amount of weight in my last year of high school and my body and brain rejected this so violently that for the entirety of my college life (and a year or two after that if I’m being honest), I put myself on very strict and unhealthy expectations to maintain a certain look and weight.
POTENTIAL TRIGGER: Sometimes I would have coffee and yogurt. Sometimes a banana. And that was all I would allow myself for the day, masking my poor eating habits by keeping myself incredibly busy. I was at class, there was no time to eat. I was at rehearsals, there was no time to eat. I was doing school requirements for my major and my minor, there was no time to eat. The truth is, I didn’t make time because I thought the less I ate, the better I would look, the better I would feel.
For a long time, my self-worth was tied to numbers on a scale. 112 lbs. Good. 107 lbs. Even better. What I didn’t know then was years of punishing my body for looking a certain way would take a decade (and a little bit more) to unlearn. Behaviors and thoughts I would have to actively censor and catch, even to this day.
It was only when I started playing tennis in 2016 that my ideal body became “strong not skinny.” Through my early morning tennis sessions – from hot summer mornings to playing in the rain – my relationship with my body, eating and working out changed. It was a slow transition from working out to look good, working out to take up less (physical) space, to working out to feel good, working out to be strong, to be healthy.
I have since stopped playing tennis (but do plan to get back to it post-pandemic!) but I’m happy to say that my relationship with my body and myself has significantly improved since. I no longer have to force myself to work out, if I’m too tired, then I’m too tired. I don’t punish myself for eating at midnight, and yes, I no longer live on coffee and yogurt. Coffee, yes, but with actual meals this time around. It’s been a decade-long journey of learning and unlearning toxic behaviors, but I would like to think that this time around, I am (for the most part) on the right path.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with exercise. In high school, I remember being really conscious of my weight, calorie intake, and amount of exercise I would do in a day. It was a really toxic time in my life, health-wise. It didn’t help that I was in a varsity team that constantly pressured me to lose weight. And then there’s the never-ending conversation about toxic body image expectations and standards in the Philippines, but that’s for a different and much longer conversation.
It wasn’t until I quit dancing and gymnastics in my latter years in university that I realized that I had conditioned myself to look at exercise as something that I was obligated to do to be able to lose weight, instead of looking at it as something that was actually enjoyable. Sure, I found activities here and there that I really liked to do, but it would soon turn into a numbers game, which led to a lot of resentment towards myself for lazy days or not being able to push harder.
It wasn’t until I attended my first yoga class (around junior year) that I was introduced to a world that looked at physical activity as a way to love myself and how my body is naturally built. Sure, there are yoga teachers and studios that adhere to the mentality that movement equals losing weight, but I’ve been lucky enough never to have gone to any of those places. I’ve also been blessed with a community (shout out to Move&Flow) that’s helped foster a healthier mentality towards fitness.
Needless to say, my relationship with fitness has been rocky at best. And it’s taken me a while to actually think about exercise as something that I do because I enjoy it. Nowadays, I practice yoga, barre, and cycling to keep me energized. I don’t force myself to get on the mat or bike or run like I used to. Rather, it’s become something that I go to when things in my life become overwhelming, even if it’s little things like a difficult meeting at work or something big like deciding whether or not to quit my job. I found myself gravitating to physical movement, to moving my body, in order to clear my head.
But exercise is not for everyone. I’ll be the first person to admit that. And even if we’re here celebrating nutrition month, I want anyone reading this to understand that what makes you feel good depends on you completely. It doesn’t have to be a workout, and even less a new diet. It can be something as simple as going out and soaking in the sun for a few minutes, or even lying in bed with a good book and coffee. At the end of the day, it’s about you and whatever it is that gives you that extra boost of energy or confidence or happiness in your day. That’s what we want this month’s theme to be about, not just for July but for every month afterward.