Dear my Filipino family,
I feel like there’s a misconception with fitness in our family, and the way we judge others, especially the ones we love. While families try to help each other, I feel as though in our own ignorance we become insensitive to the words that we say to one another.
For several months now, I’ve dieting and exercising 3-5 times a week. Now please, do not mistake that word “dieting” with the idea that I’m eating less and suffering – as it’s quite the opposite. Dieting is simply making healthier choices, making sure I get the right amount of fruits and vegetables, while exercising regularily. While this sounds positive, the majority of the comments I’ve had have been negative, and let me explain why.
Our Filipino family is culturally known to have large get-togethers where the number one thing we do is eat. Now, at these reunions, the comments I get usually get conflict each other. One aunt may say “wow you’re really skinny – you should eat more” while another family member can say “you’ve gotten really big” and my cousins significant other could say “common, it’s a celebration you should eat whatever you want”.
Now let me stop each of you right there to explain how I feel about this. If you currently look at our family, you see a reoccurring trend that happens once the majority of individuals hit 40-50 years of age. They start getting high blood pressure, high cholesterol, start gaining weight, having cardiovascular disease, the list goes on. And while some of these symptoms occur later in life, it’s all linked to two major things – lifestyle and nutrition.
They say a healthy lifestyle is the fountain of youth, but many of us forget to take care ourselves as we are brought up in the tradition and cultures that believe “bigger is better”, meaning the bigger you are, the healthier you should be. Seeing the nature of where we came from, this complete makes sense, as coming from poverty, food becomes the symbol of wealth.
But now, times have changed. I want each of you to understand that comments such as “why are you just eating salad” or “Why aren’t you eating more” can have a negative impact on what I’m trying to achieve. Lots of you are thinking I’m dieting because I want to lose weight – which is partially true. But the real reason is that I want to build muscle and build strength. I want the ability to show that a woman in our family is strong and independent – that I am able to carry boxes up the stairs, or push the car out of the snow. Even though these are simple tasks, these goals have become a lifestyle change for me and I hope that each of you can respect that.
All in all this is a way for me to say, please – don’t discourage me, don’t push me to eat more or less and please don’t make fun of me. I’m not asking you to change your ways, but rather help me achieve my goals in building a healthy lifestyle that is not temporary. This diet does not have an end date – it’s part of my life now. I want to live long and healthy. And I hope each of you understand this and give me positive words of encouragement.