My struggle with body image

After I writing about my recent fitness journey, I figured I’d talk about my struggle with body image and share that with others.  Throughout my fitness journey I was trying to figure out why I would constantly start and stop working out.  Unfortunately, my answer is a bit sad.

Here I am at 5 years old

I was the tiny girl growing up, short and average built.  Come puberty (11ish), which came earlier for me than my friends, my chest area grew quickly and I started putting on weight.  Looking back it wasn’t a lot of weight but my parents along with other relatives and family friends started pointing it out.  I wasn’t the typical skinny Filipino girl, which caused me to be self-conscious about curves.  I was the one with the chest and badonkadonk.  Add to the fact that my relatives and family friends would say “Oh when I came to America at 23, I was 100 pounds.  I had 2 kids already.” “Oh when I was your age I was 85 pounds.”  At the time, I’d tell myself (instead of responding to my aunt’s comment) well she lived in the Philippines where it’s hot and while family wasn’t struggling, they didn’t eat all the food we do here.  But their words still haunted me. I was defined by a number.  FYI – I teetered around the 108 – 115 pounds, throughout my adolescent years.   I was definitely in awkward phase and had that baby fat in my face going for me.  Also, my parents always made me feel beautiful and never made me feel ugly; however, my weight was always mention, making me conscious.

In middle school to look like everyone else, I purposely skipped lunch for a month or two in an effort to lose weight.  It didn’t help.  When my mom found out she yelled at me for not eating.  She has worked in the medical industry and was concerned that I was causing myself more harm internally.  But bless my mom, as much as she is concerned, she is an instigator too.  She, until this day, will point out if my gut is big or I’m gaining weight and tell me to workout.  She says that she’s concerned about my sugar intake as diabetes runs in our family.  Maybe she is concerned.  Maybe it’s vanity.  As I was slowly gaining weight, my parents tried to get me to run (dad was a runner) or do aerobics (mom kept me busy with her 90’s aerobic workouts on VHS.  oh boy!) with them during the summers or after school.

172439_10100307682453716_5584659_o (1)

Freshman year of HS.  Baby fat cheeks.  Awkward phase for sure.  Average built right?

But it wasn’t just my family or family friends saying it.  In 9th grade, I was setting up for a school dance and as I was walking away from my group of friends, I heard a boy whisper to my friends that my ass looked like a basketball.  My friends all snickered.  And I?  Well I continued walking and made my way to the bathroom and cried in a stall.  How could my friends laugh too?  High school is cruel!  My friends never said anything to my face, they may have behind my back, but surprisingly it wasn’t as painful as my family or family friends.  I wasn’t lazy.  I was active playing volleyball and soccer and busy with student council and show choir (glee clubish).  I was so upset and convinced that I was cursed with my dad’s booty and my mom’s chest.  Why couldn’t I be skinny like everyone else?  (side note:  This was obviously before J.Lo or Beyonce.  Could you imagine if this was 2002 – 2005?  Amongst my peers, I may have been #bootygoals.  JK, but I don’t think I would’ve been ridiculed as much as I was back in the late 90s.)

HS Senior.

Fast forward to senior year, I moved back to the states and J. Lo and Beyonce were embracing their ass-ets (ha! pun-ny!).  I started feeling confident, but my relatives kept trying to pigeon hole me into this skinny mold of what a Filipino girl should look like.  I started working out in the mornings and was making some progress, but that didn’t stop them for teasing me.  Then I started my freshman year of college.  I had a boyfriend at the time who didn’t mind my curves.  BUT my family poked at my weight at times.  Then that summer of my freshman year, due to heartbreak, I lost 20 pounds within a matter of weeks. It was the skinniest I had been in years.  My family then said I was too skinny.  Too curvy?  Too skinny?  WTH do you want from me?  I gained the weight back, only to lose it again the next summer due to heartbreak (yes same guy).  Then my future husband walked into my life and filled my heart with so much laughter and my stomach with Wendy’s.  😛  (We were poor college students!)

1927734_507504679727_9009_n (1)

Freshman year of college.  At my skinniest… not healthy at all.

I gained the weight back, graduated, and off I went into the real world.  Everyday, I commuted into DC, worked 9-6, commuted home, made dinner, ate around 8:30ish and went to sleep by 10 – 11ish.  Wash rinse repeat.  I had gained weight because of the late night eating, chained to a desk all day, and eating all the scrumptious food DC had to offer.  After a month of adulting, I went home to visit my family for my sister’s birthday.  During my sister’s birthday, my uncle said “What’s up with your belly? Are you pregnant? Your belly looks like buddha.”  I was shocked, hurt and quickly walked away.  My aunts yelled at him and he tried to apologize but the damage was done.  My mom and my aunts said “oh don’t pain no mind to him.  He’s like that with everyone.”  … So I’m just supposed to be OK with it because that’s how he is?  I went back to DC and started bringing lunches to work and started going out for walks at lunch.

I lost the weight, but I can’t say that it stuck.  I switched jobs and was on the road quite a bit.  Eating on the company dime was great but its a vicious thing because you figure why not eat the most decadent meals.  I ate somewhat healthy but not really.  Sometimes I’d leave the office late, so I’d eat dinner late.  Lots of booze (I was in my early to mid 20s).  Sometimes working out.  If I did workout, I’d do it for a few weeks, but due to the travel and my oddball hours it was difficult to sustain (all excuses now that I think about it).  If I saw my weight fluctuating, I’d workout to lose a few pounds because I didn’t want my family to say something when I visited them.  As soon as I did lose weight, I’d stop.  The ‘let’s get fit, but forget it’ cycle was a trend up until the hubs proposed.  I lost weight for the wedding, but after it, the cycle continued.  I was decent about walking when I was pregnant, but nothing consistent.  I lost weight after Eva was born due to breastfeeding and moderate working out.  After I stopped breastfeeding, I started gaining weight again and I didn’t care.  I’d try to workout but I was a busy working mom.  My excuse was I was too busy to workout.  Until I saw that picture last year and said something needed to change.

29205_396458501518_2968373_n (1)

In Miami for my bachelorette party.  Somewhat fit/healthy skinny, but not really.

Truth be told, halfway through my first TIU 8 week challenge I thought I would give up.  I was used to seeing results and stopping.  It felt like enough instant gratification to keep the comments at bay.  So after I completed the challenge, I was impressed with myself but was scared I’d revert back to my old ways due to travel.  But I kept at it and I’m glad I’m here.  As a result, I’ve reflected and figured out why I never maintained the fit lifestyle.

Conclusion?  I wasn’t working out for me.  I wasn’t working out for my physical and mental health.I was working out because of vanity.  Because I wanted to fit in the mold that everyone, and that I, put myself in.  The image that was engrained in me culturally, as well as by media and society.  Filipino/Asian girls all are skinny, so that’s what you should look like.  Especially if you haven’t had a child.  They see models or actors on TV, skinny to average built, and say that’s what you should look like. This so prevalent in my culture.  I’m not the only one.  My cousins, my sister, my friends have all said at one point in time their relatives have done this to them.  And as I sit here it’s so hard to swallow.  Because I can’t help but think it’s a form of body shaming from your family.  I know it’s not just my culture.  It is a HUGE issue for everyone and the media doesn’t help as it is constantly painting the image of what a woman SHOULD look like.

To see all the campaigns about body shaming and body confidence is a breath of fresh air.  It’s inspiring, motivating and empowering and frankly, I’m so grateful that we are making strides in teaching positive body image to girls and boys.  Now that Eva is older, I’m more self conscious of how I portray myself in her eyes.  I do not want her to be concerned with how she looks or her weight.  Someone may tell her otherwise but I’m going to teach her not to give a damn.  She is beautiful inside and out and all that matters is what she thinks of herself.  I will ALWAYS tell her she is beautiful, inside and out, whatever shape or size and I love her for who she is not what she looks like.  I will continue to make an effort to not be self-destructive and show her my insecurities.  I will be confident and lead a good example of a leading a healthy lifestyle with fitness and a good relationship with food.  I will embrace myself past, present and future with whatever or however I look.  All of this for her… for me, as well as my mental and physical health.


Air Travel with a Toddler

We have done quite a bit of domestic travel with Eva within the last two years.  We’ve flown back home to Virginia on several occasions (birthdays, Christmas, weddings, etc.), flew to Seattle for weekend trip, drove down to LA multiple times to go to Disneyland, took weekend road trips to the Central Coast (Solvang, Pismo Beach, and San Luis Obispo) and Tahoe, and day trips to Monterey and Santa Cruz.  Road trips are quite different from air travel.  Each has their pro’s and con’s especially with a toddler.  Tips for a road trip with a toddler will be coming up.  But today let’s talk about how to make air travel with a toddler bearable.

Since Eva was born we’ve flown domestically with her anywhere from 2-4 times a year.  In the beginning, each trip was approximately every 5-6 months apart.  We have learned a few things about traveling with her.  Red eyes are not ideal.  We did it for her 1st birthday.  Big mistake.  Instead of being tired as we boarded the plane, she was quite energized.  It was a pretty painful flight and by far, our worst flight with her.  We did it again last summer and surprisingly she did fine.  She slept most of the time and slept again when we got to my mom’s house.  So perhaps the first flight was an anomaly?  We do find that she does well on early morning and afternoon flights because she’s tired from waking up so early or we’re taking off during her nap time.  We’re typically flying to Virginia, so we’re usually in the air for about 3.5 to 6 hours, depending if we have any layovers.  She’ll sleep for an hour and a half to two hours during the flight, either at the very beginning or the tail end.  So we have to keep her entertained for about 3 hours in hopes of no meltdowns before we land.  We haven’t really had any major meltdowns yet (except that 1st red eye).  Here are my tips on having a successful flight with a toddler.  These tips aren’t inclusive to a toddler but could be adapted for a baby or 5-10 year old.

1.  Pack a backpack or bag or diaper bag with the essentials.  You’ll probably be the one carrying this bag of fun-ness around depending how heavy it is.

  • Diapers or underwear (if your little one is potty trained) – ALWAYS double the amount you think you’ll need.  You never know if you’ll be delayed especially during the winter snowstorms or peak spring break/summer travel months.
  • Wipes – Again, double the amount you think you’ll need.  Wipes are so versatile, other than using them for diaper changing,  you can use them for possible vomit situations, wiping down the armchairs/windows/tray table for your toddler, sanitizing your hands, cleaning yourself or your toddler up for any messy food situations or any situations really, etc.
  • Changing mat – This is pretty self explanatory.
  • Disposable plastic diapers bags or reusable wet bag – See poop explosions or vomit situations above.  If you have a child that isn’t potty trained yet, I’d suggest having multiples on hand for dirty diapers and the other for dirty clothes.
  • 2-3 pairs of extra clothes for him/her – Again, see poop explosions or vomit situations above and lets not forget messy eating situations.  Also, if your destination is a different temperature than your departure city, it’s good to have extras layers (if cold).
  • Blanket and/or stuffed animal they like to sleep with – Eva loves to have a blanket when she naps.  She feels secure when she has it.  On one occasion I forgot her blanket, but thankfully my scarf was large enough to serve as a blanket for her (even though I ended being cold!  oh the things we do for our children). Try to make your tiny space relaxing for a nap (if they take naps).
  • Sippy cup or bottle – Because airline cups aren’t spill-proof for toddlers.  This is also good to have as the sucking motion can relieve ear pressure when taking off and landing.
  • Lollipops or sucky pouches – Again, this is to avoid any ear pressure during taking off and landing.
  • Snacks that they usually have on a day to day basis – This goes with the comfort thing.  Plus airline and airport food are just ridiculously expensive and not completely healthy.
  • Children’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen – Just in case.
  • Children’s Dramamine – Just in case they start getting motion sickness.
  • Extra shirt or two for you and another pair of pants – Again, see vomit or messy eating situations above.  You’ve cleaned up your toddler but you possibly have a sour smell lingering on  you for who knows how long.  It may not happen, but you never know.  I like to be prepared (probably a reason why I will NEVER go backpacking.  I need too many things just in case!).

This is her entertainment backpack.  I kept her diapers and the essentials in my bag.

2.  Pack their backpack or mini luggage (favorite character wins bonus points) with entertaining items they’ll enjoy.   I say their backpack or luggage because kids love having their own bag if they see everyone else carrying one around.  They feel like a big kid.  Plus it makes your bag less heavy, although you will still have to tote it around.  😉

  • Snacks or treats (that aren’t loaded in sugar!) they don’t normally have – Because special treats always keep toddlers quiet.  At least it keeps mine occupied.
  • Crayons or markers (preferably washable) – Next best thing to food to keep my toddler quiet.  Drawing.  The colors and the sensation of making something on her own keeps her quiet for a good 30 minutes to an hour.
  • Paper or coloring books – See crayons or markers above.
  • 2 mini toys (dollar store, value area at Target or Michael’s have been helpful for us) – Because drawing will only last for so long.  I suggest that they be new toys that they haven’t played with before to keep them occupied a little longer and giving it to them one at a time.  I made the mistake of showing Eva everything and she got tired of them within an hour.  I had nothing left to entertain her with that trip except my phone.
  • Charged up tablet or phone with movies or shows and educational games/apps loaded – Because Disney Junior/Nick Junior and games will keep them quiet for a good portion of the flight.  I’d suggest setting a limit on how long they can use the tablet or phone.  Also, consider trading time between watching shows or playing games on the tablet with drawing or eating or playing with the mini toys and back again.  Sometimes we let Eva watch for an hour but we don’t let her watch the rest of the flight since she can eat or draw.  Sometimes we’ll break that time up and distract her with food and then give it back to her after she’s done eating.
  • Toddler Headphones – Because not everyone wants to hear the “Hot Dog” song.  We use these, as pictured above, as they soften the sound for kids’ ears.
  • Mini books – In case your little one likes to “read.”

3.  If you’re traveling alone with a toddler less than two years old, pick a window seat when booking your seat.  If you’re traveling with someone, pick the window and aisle seat.  Usually travelers aren’t keen on selecting middle seats, hopefully leaving you with an open middle seat.  However, if the flight is packed this may not be an option.  If someone does take the middle seat, politely ask them if they’d like the aisle seat so your toddler doesn’t disturb them.  Chances are they won’t pass it up.  But why pick a window seat?  Why not the aisle so that your kid can walk up and down the aisle?  I found that Eva loves looking out the window and is mesmerized by what she sees outside.  Also, I’d prefer to not sit in the aisle with her on my lap because she knows she can get out.  She hasn’t but there is that possibility she can run up and down the aisle disturbing other passengers.  I’ve seen toddlers do this firsthand and oh the glares parents get.

Occupied with snacks while sitting next to the window

4.  I personally don’t like using a stroller at airports.  While they’re convenient and you don’t have to worry about toting the stroller and your luggage.  Plus it’s added time getting onto the plane or off since you have to gate check it.  Consider using a baby carrier, if you can, to get your toddler from the security checkpoint to your departure gate to baggage claim, quicker.  It makes it easier to have them on your back while you wheel your pilot bag and diaper bag on top.  No running after your toddler around the airport.  Well that is until you get to the gate and let them out.

Here’s Eva at a year and a half hanging out in the carrier at baggage claim.  

5.  Get to the airport early.  You never know when a toddler wants to take their time (Mine does when we’re in a hurry and is in a hurry when we’re not.  Oy vey!) especially walking around a new area.

6.  If you’re with a spouse or a friend or a family member, take turns.  When one is getting frustrated, pass them along to your spouse or friend or family member for a couple of minutes to gain your composure.  This goes along with sleeping on the plane.

7.  Meditate before hand to prepare yourself and take a few breaths to compose yourself.  Eva definitely lets out a little cry here and there, but nothing awful.  But my husband and I try to mentally prepare for those situations because with a toddler you never know.  There’s an unspoken agreement that we’ll take turns caring for her if it comes to that point because we both can’t be frustrated in an enclosed space 30,000 feet in the air with nowhere to go.  Toddlers have a mind of their own.  Do what you can to keep them pleasantly entertained.  If they have a meltdown, it’s fine.  Try to calm them down as soothingly as possible or distract them.  Use that bag of goodies to your advantage!  Maybe pack a couple more goodies in your carry on as backup.  If Eva knows something is for mommy or daddy, like chips or chocolate or cookies or our phones, and we give it to her to eat or play with, she gets so giddy and happy.  They want to be grown up like you!  Sure some passengers may be frustrated with you and your child.  Oh well!  As long as you’ve done what you can to best of your ability to keep your toddler happy and satisfied, there’s no need to say sorry for a little crying. If she whines for 5 minutes, I’ll call that a feat in itself, especially with a terrible two or trying three toddler.  This sounds awful of me but after reading this article, I refuse to be sorry.  I hate to be a “deal with us” type of family, but I’m trying to best of my ability to keep my toddler quiet.  Keywords are I TRY TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY.  I am guilty of judging other parents who aren’t prepared or appear to not give any effs and let their kids run wild on the plane.  I really don’t like that I do, and I try not to because they could be having a bad day or kids may have special needs or maybe their kid is in pain due to altitude pressure and can’t deal with it.

What are your air travel tips with a toddler?  Share below!  Happy travels!

my newest journey…

I’m baaaaack.  Let’s all have a moment and laugh at my last post, talking about posting weekly last year.

Ok.  That was a good one, but as they say… Life happens.

The beginning of last year through last summer was a bit bumpy.  I was so busy with work since we were understaffed.  Thereafter, I was busy training new staff on top of my own work.  Thankfully, things started settling down in the fall. Even though work was demanding, I wasn’t dreading it.  I kind of figured out the flexibility needed in work and in life (work-life balance is an overused word.  one day I’ll talk about how my senior manager, the partners, and the managing partner of my firm have changed my mind about this term) but I wasn’t feeling confident about my body image.

Since starting at the firm 2 years ago, which coincidentally was when I stopped breastfeeding Eva, I slowly started gaining weight.  I noticed I was gaining weight but it wasn’t until last summer where I was really conscious about it.  My suit pants that I had interviewed in did not fit.  The last two years, I would go through periods of working out but it was a few weeks here or there and then I would stop for several months.  It was a constant struggle to sustain the exercise momentum.  It didn’t help that I was pretty idle sitting in the office or a client’s office or my car.  In late winter/early spring, there were always treats in the office due to the busy tax season, which I hardly passed up.  I wasn’t eating unhealthily but the lack of moving my body, eating a good amount of simple carbs (I typically eat a good portion of vegetables) versus not eating enough lean protein and complex carbs was causing me to pack on the pounds.

I was so insecure about my body.  We had 2 weddings to go to last year and before each one I would try to cut out carbs for 2 weeks, which of course, didn’t work.  Before each wedding, I went dress shopping and got so frustrated with how the dresses looked on me. I’d find something with my body that I wasn’t happy about and go on this downward spiral for a few days.  The one area that I would really scorn myself about was my tummy.  The mama pooch.  The same one that held my sweet baby for 9 months.  I found myself opting for loose fitting shirts to hide my tummy and would always tug on my shirts or put my arms in front of my stomach to hide it.  I hated shopping because I constantly felt like things didn’t look good on my frame.  I went to my friend’s July wedding and it was fine.  But I knew I had to whip myself back into shape.

Come late summer my sister introduced me to Kayla Itsines.  I tried it but again I tried and I stopped.  Then somehow months later, I don’t remember how I got there, I found Tone It Up.  Soon I found myself purchasing the nutritional plan.  For my cousin’s October wedding, I was trying to decide if I should to the 7 Day Slim Down or a juice cleanse.


Taken in October. When I saw this picture, I found myself going through an emotion of insecurities. Beginning with my tummy is big and my thighs look bigger.

Instead, I followed the general nutritional plan of Tone It Up and ate lean clean and green.  Focusing on leaner protein and a good amount of veggies.  I lost a few pounds prior to the wedding but nothing substantial.  Somehow between October and Christmas I dropped a few more pounds.  Perhaps it was eating well?  Perhaps it was because I was sick every other week for a month and a half (darn toddlers!)?  BUT even after I dropped those pounds I still felt insecure.  I was still pretty insecure about my tummy.

Then Tone it Up came out with their January 8 week challenge.  I figured, why not?  I didn’t follow the plan to a T, but I started seeing definition in my muscles.  My clothes felt a little looser and I felt a little more energetic.  But the scale didn’t move much and I was OK with that.  I was seeing progress.  I felt stronger.  I had setbacks and there were days I didn’t want to workout but I kept at it.  I worked out for 4-6 days a week.  After the challenge was over, I struggled a bit due to some unplanned traveling, sickness, etc., BUT I still worked out at least 3x a week, even if it was just yoga.  I would be a bit hard on myself because I wouldn’t do xyz workout or I didn’t workout 5x that week.  But then I took a step back and reflected.  I was still moving my body. I was still committed and kept that momentum going.  That in itself was something to be proud of.  I was still sustaining this healthy/fit/exercising lifestyle.  Clothes fitting loosely?  That was something to be proud of.  Am I completely comfortable with my tummy area at this point in time?  NOPE!  But I feel more confident than I did in July or October.  I’m proud of where I am and I hope to improve.  Sure there were setbacks, but I keep reminding myself to enjoy life and that slice of cake or glass of wine.  If there’s a miss-step, the next meal is around the corner and/or tomorrow is a new day!  There is no need to overthink and beat myself about it.  Choose to be positive.


The images in the same outfit are at taken in October and January.  Then February and then earlier this week.  Not a huge change but I’m making small strides!  It’s the journey not the race.

So I invite you to join me on my newest journey, my fitness journey!  Follow me here, my instagram account, @fitn3ssa.

Stay tuned here also for mommy, travel, and foodie posts.  It’s good to be back!