She Wants to Move

'Banksy Hiphop' by Duncan Cumming, on Flickr I’ve been trying to lose some excess weight since… um, I guess, ever. I’ve always been on the full-figured side for people in my age group, so I’m no stranger to calisthenics and aerobics and basically anything that gets me to move my “humps” (or “jelly,” if you prefer the Destiny’s Child term). I used to work out using home videos, particularly the MTV “The Grind” workout series. The “Grind” workouts featured dance moves that were fun to execute even as I all too easily broke into a sweat.

When Marielle and I received our gym memberships at Gold’s Gym last July, I started using the treadmill and elliptical trainer machines for my cardio workouts. I didn’t get to bust a move much in the ten or so months that followed; the Gold’s branch we went to did have some aerobics and dance classes, but they were always scheduled during times we had to be elsewhere.

Our parents are enrolled with Fitness First, so when a promo came up, they grabbed Passport memberships for Marielle and me beginning last May. Since then, we’ve been exploring the group exercise opportunities that the Fitness First gyms have. I love the Les Mills BodyJam workouts they’re offering because the choreography is fresh (changed every three months), and after one or two tries on the dance floor I pick it up easily. I also attend a hiphop class where the choreography is more technical and changes weekly, but the challenge is what gets me out of bed on Monday mornings.

Let me tell you a little bit about my instructors, though I won’t name names. Let’s talk about my first BodyJam instructor. He’s this guy who’d show a new move twice or thrice, and then kick off into a full-speed rendition of it. This is great for people who’d already been through the choreography once before (say, a previous class), but I incidentally had started going to his class three weeks before new choreography was to be released. Thankfully I was able to keep up, but he liked to show off more complex moves on stage.

When BodyJam’s new choreography was released last week, I took a BodyJam class where he was the substitute instructor. Amazingly, he was focused on the workout at hand; there was no grandstanding this time, except at one point in the workout he came down off the stage and danced with me. Heh. Maybe I was feelin’ it too much? Ü He’s going to be away for two months. Guess who his sub is? My hiphop class instructor. This guy can really move, but he just can’t help himself and tends to yell his instructions when he’s really pumped up. I guess it’s his way of energizing himself. After all, it’s pretty hard to stay motivated for a 6:30am class, and he had to do that twice in a row this week for the hiphop and BodyJam classes.

If there’s one thing I don’t want to do in a dance class, it’s to draw attention to myself. When that happens, thoughts start coming into my head, like “Am I trying too hard? Do I look like I’m from the Pretty Fly (for a White Guy) video?” I suppose these instructors take note of people who look like they’re enjoying themselves, though. Two weeks ago I was attending a BodyJam class and the female instructor set up a dance-off, and she put me on the front lines. After a bout of stage fright where I messed up mightily, I really got into the groove and left class with a big smile on my face. Or maybe that was the endorphins. Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands!

One thing I can say: this isn’t me working out in my living room with the shades drawn anymore. With my videos the instructors couldn’t see me and I didn’t have people shaking booty alongside me. In dance class, I get feedback and encouragement from the instructors, and when I mess up a move there are other people who can see. Thankfully they’re usually also messing up and don’t notice.

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I Am Poisoned!

While we may not all fall victim to a maliciously poisoned cup (like the Queen in Hamlet), eating out has risks of its own. I’m talking about food poisoning, of course; I’ve just recovered from a bout of Salmonellosis and I’ve got to say, it was not pretty.

Last Saturday, my family and I were at Megamall and decided to have some hot chocolate at Cafe Xocolat for our afternoon snack. Since the taza de xocolat we had all ordered is an extremely rich and heavy drink, my mom asked my dad to purchase some salty food from a nearby Chicharon Espesyal stall. He bought a small paper bag of pork chicharon (rind crisps) and another bag of chicken skin crisps. While Mama and Marielle indulged in the chicken skin crisps, Papa and I ate the pork chicharon. I was able to snatch only three pieces from the bag before my dad finished the whole thing.

Sick Kid, by Bob Reck on Flickr I started feeling weird around 9pm that night, while Marielle and I were at Sugarnot having a late dinner with friends. The nausea only worsened as the night progressed, and I begged to go home two hours later.

The next morning, I felt feverish and had no desire to eat. At breakfast, I found that my dad had spent the rest of the previous day in the bathroom. I didn’t feel much better than that, and after breakfast I had to go lie down and sleep, or else I felt I would start vomiting. I slept most of the day away, didn’t eat lunch, and had a piddling dinner before tottering off to bed at 8pm.

We figured it must have been the pork chicharon that did us in, because both my mom and Marielle had felt no ill effects — and they had the chicken crisps, not the chicharon. My dad and I were both knocked down by the food-borne illness, but our symptoms were different in intensity. While I only experienced nausea, fever, a bad headache, and loss of appetite, my dad ran almost the whole gamut of symptoms representative of salmonella poisoning: fever, abdominal pain, headache, nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite.

This morning, my dad still couldn’t get out of bed. I awoke feeling much better and raced off to hiphop class at the gym with my sister. My appetite still hasn’t returned to normal, but that’s to be expected for a few days more.

In any case, I lost two whole pounds, which makes me feel just a teensy bit better about the whole ordeal. Just a teensy bit.

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Search String Salvo

I enjoy looking at my visitor stats just because it gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling to know that people actually do read what I have to say in this little pocket of the Internet. Ü Some come in through direct links from fellow bloggers, while others stumble in through search engine results that may or may not give them what they were looking for. While the search strings I get generally aren’t as cringe-worthy as Ade’s, I do get some interesting hits.

Despite some creepy search hits, I like knowing who’s reading. So, how did you get here?

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Sugar-free Sweetness

Being my bum self, I spent quite a few hours at the gym earlier today. There is some point to going to the gym (aside from helping me kill time): it helps me fit into my pants every day without them bursting a button or a zipper. Given my family’s predilection for food, every little bit of calorie-shaving counts.

Some of you may know that my family has practically sworn off sugar as part of our everyday lifestyle. No, we’re not diabetic, but we’re simply trying to lighten the caloric load our bodies have to process. Also, sugar = carbohydrates. There’s scientific evidence that shows cutting down on carbs results in faster short-term weight loss because you eat less.

With last Sunday being Father’s Day, my family felt it our duty to treat our dad to all his favorite foods. After lunch at Italianni’s, we were looking for a sweet dessert. Of course, it had to be sugar-free.

Sugarnot! storefront

For that, we went to Sugarnot! Cafe at Podium Mall in Ortigas. My mom had spotted the small store with the intriguing name when she had dinner with some colleagues at Pagliacci, and she’d brought home some creampuffs, walnut rolls, and ensaymada for us to sample. We liked them so much that we couldn’t wait to try the other choices they offered.

Sugarnot’s selling point is simple: everything is sugar-free, low-fat, and low-carb. According to the helpful and informative staff behind the counter, the owner suffers from diabetes. He set up the cafe so that people who couldn’t have sugar could still indulge in sweets.

In place of sugar, the cafe uses Isomalt in its products. Isomalt is a sweetener made from sugar beet processed by an enzyme. This renders it only partially digestible and thus reduces its caloric content and glycemic impact — a boon for dieters and diabetics alike. Some local bakers, most notably Uncle George (you can find their products in Greenhills Tiangge) have already been using it as a sugar substitute with great success.

Sugarnot!: cake view As we entered Sugarnot to place our orders, we gravitated toward the pastries on display. There was tiramisu, a chocolate cake called the Last Temptation, and a New York cheesecake. Sugarnot!: Isomalt We ended up ordering a piece of each of these choices along with a fist-sized chocolate chip cookie. My parents also ordered cappuccino, while Marielle ordered an iced guilt-free caramel blended drink.

The coffee drinks complimented the cheesecake, the tiramisu, and the chocolate chip cookie. The Last Temptation cake was especially good; I can say with conviction that it was the best chocolate cake I’d ever tasted. It was moist and had just the right amount of sweetness.

Need I say we found the entire experience extremely satisfying? We’ll definitely be back for more. Of course, food of any kind should be taken in moderation. It’s just comforting to know that trying to lose weight doesn’t necessarily mean depriving oneself of the joys of sweets.

UPDATE: DessertFirst and ShopCrazy review Sugarnot! Ü

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Tales from Coco Beach: We Be Burning

This is part three of a series of posts about my stay at Coco Beach Resort in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro, from June 10-12, 2006.

grilled skin! The problem with holidays involving sun and swimming is neglecting to replenish one’s sunblock. Before going swimming, I dutifully and liberally apply sunblock lotion on my skin. Unfortunately, I don’t reapply often enough, especially after towelling off. Between us sisters, I’m the one who tans deeply and almost never burns, and I thought it would be the case on this trip.

On our first day at Coco Beach, we managed to miss most of the midday rays because we had a late lunch. I didn’t get burned then. However, on the second day I don’t know what possessed me to use suntan lotion. That’s SPF 4, folks: for the fair-skinned, only four minutes of protection before skin starts to burn. We were out snorkeling at the coral gardens at Long Beach for three hours, then came back to the resort for two hours more swimming and poolside lounging under the sun. You know what happened next: sunburn. My skin was red, warm to the touch, but wasn’t painful. However, there was some discomfort since it felt like my skin was too tight.

kicking my heels up The next day, however, the redness had faded and I felt more like a human than a lobster. Because it was our last day at the resort, I decided to make the most of it by going swimming again. Since the pool opened at 9am and our checkout time was at 11am, I only spent an hour in the water before heading back to our cottage and packing up.

Even though I hadn’t bought anything extra to carry, my sunburned shoulders took the brunt of my luggage’s weight, and my already-raw skin rasped against the rough canvas fabric of my backpack. It didn’t help that the path from our cottage back to the reception desk had virtually no shade at midday, and to add insult to (my self-inflicted) injury we had to wait on the beach for our boat. Aside from a few palm trees, there wasn’t a patch of shade sizeable enough to accommodate three potential boatloads of people.

that's a hot beach! The first boat approached the beach and was immediately met by a rush of people desperate to get out of the sun. Among them were the Rotarian women and the Indian family with whom we had arrived at the resort. Nobody paid attention to the clipboard-holding guy shouting out instructions like, “Pakihintay lang pong tawagin ko ang inyong numero! (Please wait for me to call out your number!)”

My companions and I decided to wait for the next boat. While standing there, we noticed several boxes full of eggs and other miscellaneous goods piled on the beach. Initially I thought these were things that had been brought for the resort’s use, but as the minutes ticked by and nobody was evacuating them from the beach, I realized that these things were to be shipped off the island.

The next boat came in, a thirty-seater, and the resort’s porters jumped into action and scrambled to carry the luggage of a group of fifteen Europeans towards it. We approached the clipboard guy and asked if we could get on this boat. He replied, “Hindi po, magkakasama po ang mga Pilipino. (No, all Filipinos will be riding together.)” We were to be loaded onto the third boat, and since the pile of boxes weren’t being carried on board the second boat, we realized we’d be riding with the boxes.

It must have been the sunburn or the heat. More probably, it was the racial segregation I was experiencing from my own countryman. I snapped. “At bakit kailangan magkakasama ang mga Pilipino? (And why do all the Filipinos have to ride together?)” I said to the clipboard guy, who even seemed pleased that he was cramming all the Filipinos into one boat. He asked me how many were in my group, and I informed him that there were five of us. He waved us onto the boat with a shrug. Aside from us, seven other Filipinos were able to get on the boat, and we were on our way home.

I’m not sure if the people who run these tourist spots (like hotels and resorts) know this, but Filipinos can be tourists, too. Shakespeare’s Shylock said, “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” Filipino tourists are perfectly capable of choosing where to spend hard-earned money on luxury items like vacations, and we will talk about whether something was worth it.

Coco Beach was a mixed bag of experiences, but I still enjoyed myself. You really can’t go wrong with sun, sand, and a refreshing drink in the hand. How interesting, though, that this trip was peppered with instances of colonial mentality as memorable as a bad sunburn.

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