Fit for the Right Reasons: How One Woman Transformed Body and Mind

Written by: Shin Kitane/Wednesday, Mar 07, 2018 09:01 AM

Barbie's story is unique, yet it is also universal. Her fitness journey, like most of ours, began with her getting in and out gym memberships and various fitness classes in a pursuit to look better, to feel better with her body. 

For nearly four years, Barbie has worked in the field of entertainment television and is part of the team that has brought us some of the best Kapamilya shows--Pasion de Amor, Wildflower, and Langit Lupa, to name a few. Barbie describes her work as fast-paced, stressful, and exciting. "My work involves planning, managing, and supervising matters involving pre-production, production, and post-production of my assigned program," she shares, and also mentions the unavoidable: "a lot of 18 hour shoots in remote areas and late nights in the office."

Only after there had been several reports of overwork-related deaths in her line of work did Barbie begin to realize that what she needed was a lifestyle change and not just a weekly fitness regimen. And so she tells us about how she got started, struggled, and eventually fell in love with fitness.

Today, she can lift heavy weights and train on a regular basis--she has even won awards in fitness competitions at her gym!



And yes, she still works in the same field, with the long work shifts and out-of-town shoots, but one thing has changed: she realized that to continue pursuing her passion for the art of TV entertainment, she first had to be healthy, happy, and strong. 



How did your fitness journey start?


I started getting into fitness when I was doing my thesis. I needed a way to relieve the stress and had really enjoyed my PE classes under one of my professors, so when I found out she was also a Zumba teacher, I followed her to what eventually became my gym. 

Before all that, although I would take dance classes every summer as a kid, I was totally unathletic and averse to sports. I tried to get away with not doing anything related to it as much as I could! Taking this prof’s PE classes back in college was what made me realize that exercise was, and could actually be fun. 



The gym had a group class membership, and I spent a few months making friends in my dance classes. Weights were beyond my imagination. I didn’t think that I needed them in my life to become healthy and fit. Because back then, you were only either of two things—fat or thin. That was the only way I viewed fitness then. When I started working, I began to have less and less time for myself. I couldn’t go to the classes anymore because my work schedule was erratic.

Eventually, I decided to enroll in the gym again. I was feeling sluggish and starting to feel unhappy with how I looked due to the unhealthy lifestyle we had at work-- minimal sleep, high stress, lots of junk food and fast food. During the initial assessment with the trainer, I learned for the first time about the importance of body composition. That more than the number on the scale, it was what was inside us, what we were made of, so to speak, that was more important. He told me that I had a very high body fat percentage and a really slow metabolism and the only way to bring that number down was to increase my muscle mass through weight training. Although cardio would help burn the fat, unless I gained muscle and improved my metabolism, it was just going to keep coming back to haunt me eventually. I immediately hired him and set to work. It didn’t last though. For one, my work schedule got in the way, and I guess the bottom line was that I wasn’t as committed as I thought I would be. Eventually, I reverted to my standard unhealthy lifestyle and felt the effects on my body as well. I got sick often and had low energy levels all the time.

A year later, towards the end of my show, there were several deaths in the industry--all in the span of the same month. They were all different cases, but hearing about them was a huge wake-up call for me. I didn’t know them personally, but people I knew did. And that made me realize that it could have been someone I knew. It could have been me. I had always known that the common lifestyle in our industry was unhealthy by default, but hearing about the deaths of people within just how many degrees of separation from me made me realize that I could actually die if I weren’t careful. If I died before achieving my dreams, then what was it all for?

After my show ended, my sister and I re-enrolled in the gym and started preparing our own food. We started with slowly easing out of processed food and junk food, focusing on eating more meat and vegetables, fewer carb-rich food (including fruits). We started to form new habits. Waking up earlier, eating cleaner, training regularly. Eventually, it became a lifestyle.

What helped me make it into a lifestyle was my mindset change the second time around. My reasons when I joined the gym before were more superficial, mostly about wanting to look good. When I found a deeper purpose for pursuing fitness, training became a more meaningful experience for me. It no longer became something I felt that I needed to do, but something I genuinely wanted to do. Wanting to become stronger, wanting to be better, wanting to grow more and more as I slowly saw the fruits of my labor made me excited to work towards my fitness goals.



Do you agree that working out is a great form of self-care, especially when one has a stressful job? 


Yes! Aside from the fact that working out is a great way to get endorphins, I’ve found that changing my lifestyle has helped keep me mentally and emotionally healthier as well. My work involves a lot of coordination and planning that often starts the minute I wake up and carries over to even when I’m asleep. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to wake up in the middle of the night to troubleshoot work problems. It’s not for everyone, but I’ve embraced these as part of the package. It’s easy to burn out. My workout time keeps me sane through all of this. I consider it the only truly selfish part of my day, the one hour where I lock my phone up for a while and focus on no one else but myself. Because in that moment, nothing else matters but me and the weight in front of me. The only thing I’m concerned about is my own progress and improvement.



I’ve also found preparing my meals to be another de-stressing activity. It’s a good way to slow down, bond with my sister, and nourish my body all at the same time. 



A typical day-off for me involves grocery shopping or going to Sunday markets with my sister to buy vegetables. On days I’m able to go home, we cook and meal prep together. These are simple joys we take for granted in this fast-paced world, and revisiting them helps remind me that even how bad things get at work, I’ll always have a warm home and nourishing food to return to.


What advice would you like to give to women who are struggling to love their bodies or be confident in their own skin?


You only have one body-- you can choose to hate it for all its flaws and weaknesses or learn to love it for being yours by working towards making it stronger. We have to stop punishing ourselves for the things we can’t do, the things that make us human. We should start celebrating the things we can do and feel because we are alive and well, human. 



The thing that got me into fitness was how empowering it made me feel. I was un-athletic growing up because I have asthma, so for many years, I believed that that was just how things were and were going to be. I never imagined that I could do the things I’m doing now—lifting things heavier than me, being able to run without feeling like dying (…sometimes), being able to do X number of burpees in X minutes. It made me realize just how little I had always thought of myself. It made me see how much my body can actually do and made me excited to discover what else my body is capable of doing. This mindset shift has helped me view my body in a more positive way, though it’s still something I’m working on, especially when facing challenges along the way.


What challenges did you experience during your fitness journey and how did you get through them?


Of course, sleep and stress management are always challenges for me. There are also the physical limitations (like not being strong or fast enough just yet, not being good at a certain movement, etc.), as well as mental and emotional.

One thing I had to learn the hard way was that progress isn’t linear. It’s so easy to get discouraged, especially when you start reaching plateaus, but you need to trust in the process. Fitness is a lifestyle and never-ending journey, so try not to dwell. You need to look at the bigger picture to see and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Stop looking at the little road bumps along the way, focus on the mountains you’ve conquered to get where you are.

It’s hard because in this day and age we are so used to instant gratification. Working out has taught me that you need to be kinder to yourself because our bodies aren’t machines.



What are your go-to workouts?


I do a mix of weight training, body weight training, and metabolical conditioning. My favorite exercises are back squats and burpees (but only on good days). I also enjoy going to dance classes, even though I’m not really a dancer. Once in a while, I join a yoga or pilates class if my schedule permits, but most of the time it’s me and the free weights. Find workouts that excite and challenge you so much that working out no longer becomes something you feel that you need to do, but rather something you simply want to do. I find that shifting to this mindset helped me stay committed to the lifestyle.   


Can you briefly share some fitness hacks that you find really helpful? 


The biggest fitness hack that I’ve learned is that a fitness is more mental than purely physical. There’s this thing called mind-muscle connection, where you can actually help activate and/or isolate certain muscle groups by focusing on the body part and feeling the contraction of the muscle. It’s not just about being able to do a movement, but feeling the movement—learning how to relax and activate muscle groups, helps make sure you work the parts that need to be working.




Lastly, do you believe that women can, and should, lift heavy weights? 


Can women lift heavy? Yes, of course! When it comes to the lower body, women can actually lift pound for pound at the same level as men, with the right training. Should women lift heavy? I do believe that if something doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you. Start at a weight that’s appropriate for your fitness level and work towards progressing to heavier loads. Given the right training and proper form, weightlifting has so many benefits for the body and the mind. It’s admittedly intimidating to say goodbye to the colored rubber-coated dumbells, but you never know what you are capable of unless you try. Much of what we want is right there outside our comfort zone—we just need to go out and grip it.



About Shin Kitane
Shin Kitane writes to remember and believes that words have the power to heal, inspire, and move others. She dreams of a world where men and women are treated equally, where race, gender, and religion are not measures of one's worth in society. She is also a book-hoarder and a firm believer in re-watching Mean Girls and Harry Potter multiple times a year. Follow her misadventures @shinkitane on social media.
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