Laughed Out Loud (Freewriting)

Note: Fiction =) (I previously got some question if my free writing exercises are personal ones. Nope. The whole freewriting exercise has a life of its own.)

I can still hear her laughter echoing in my mind. It’s not the innocent or pleasant peals of laughter that sound like a cherub’s. It’s that uninhibited glee that a girl can only belt out within the hearing range of another girl.

Sweat was dripping on the floor from our foreheads as we did the next set of the Youtube video exercise routine. The lady in the video was in an air-conditioned room, sported a six-pack and was doing all the push-ups with no sweat while talking non-stop with instructions for the rest of us mere digital mortals.

“You can do it! Come on!” She beckoned to us.

At that moment, she laughed. It was a laugh loaded with her post-baby weight gain, uncertainty of paying the rent next month, and making friends with a weirdo just to help cut rental costs in this standard condominium in the business district. She huffed and I wondered what it will be like when my laughter becomes loaded like hers in time.

I said “We can do this,” which I purposefully said to assuage her and myself about the exercise and about our unpaid rent.

“I don’t know,” she replied as we were told to lie in our exercise mats which are now a little damp with our sweat.

We bent in awkward positions to keep up with the video. I can see her huge butt. It felt weird to be doing it beside someone I have not known for more than a year. But it had to be done. We had our own reasons. The Nutella jar was lying somewhere in the eastern side of the 20 square-meter flat. The most fragile of us are the most prone to emotional eating sessions and this needs to be burnt one way or another.

I tried to make it natural. “Rent needs to be paid soon. Tough, huh?” It’s been two months and while I understood the extent of her needs, I can no longer keep on pretending that it’s not hurting my wallet to cover for her.

Suddenly, she looks like an undisturbed aerobics expert when I looked at her from the corner of my eye. All of a sudden she was catching on to the aerobics as if her life depended on it. After the third or fourth leg raise, she finally spoke. “Somebody needs to clean the balcony and the bathroom, too.”

I belched inwardly. It was my turn to concentrate on the next set of exercises, the Pilates scissors-like movement. It became an instant favorite. I lost my appetite for exercising and the Nutella jar seemed more inviting.

“This was not a good video. Highly inappropriate for our skill level, I think. Let’s call it a night” I muttered.

“Yeah,”  was all she said.

I looked at my tummy pooch. She looks at her milky breasts and giant butt. The exercise set ended. She laughed again with that loaded laugh. I laughed along with her. We were just the same. Lying in our mats, we laughed out loud and stayed that way for a while.

When she went inside the bathroom to clean up, I finished off the whole Nutella jar and made the check for the month’s rent with fingers crossed.

Freedom in Fitness

One of the misconceptions I had to debunk about becoming fit is this: it’s too expensive.

An old woman once told me to touch her tummy and ask her how it was possible to get rock-hard abs at her age (she is around 60, I think). She said: “You need to have a lot of money for surgery.”

For a while, I was really discouraged about what she said. When she told me this, I was suffering from 30+ inches of waistline that needed a lot of trimming. It’s as if she is already telling me that there is no way normally endowed people can aspire to have a good figure from natural methods.

Later, when I had the time to think about my life, I was challenged about what she showed me and I decided to find my own ways to be fit.

As a young professional, I had to wade my way through the mess. I got bombarded with gym membership offers, the latest dance craze that claims to burn 800 calories per hour, and the booming industry of herbal products that promise a miracle cure for everything. Oh, and you need to wear the right gear so you have to have these really expensive type of socks or whatnots to make it work.

Everything had a tag price in it; it was really inundating to the brain. Lahat na lang MAY BAYAD. Magastos.

Another thing perpetuating the “Fitness is expensive” myth is the proliferation of expensive organic or healthy food joints. There are also so many posh restaurants. While it is true that fast food is more convenient and cheaper compared to these organic or healthy food options, anyone can improvise with the right supply of vegetables and fruits.

The basics like garden salads can be kept fresh using palengke-bought ingredients. All you need is a good refrigerator or a nearby salad bar that you can visit daily if you do not have a fridge.

For dressings, you can make tiny decisions like using balsamic vinegar instead of the more calorie-laden mayonnaise dressing. It’s not a drastic lifestyle alteration that you switch on one day at whim. It’s really more of  a series of tiny decisions that accumulate over time.

Factoring in all the hospital trips I made from a very unhealthy lifestyle, I can really say that choosing to live a healthier lifestyle is actually at a bargain price.

You may be shelling out a few bucks here and there for the ingredients that feed you daily, but you are actually saving yourself from avoidable medical conditions or illnesses. 

Fitness is really a MAJOR LIFE DECISION. Other people cannot force you to be fit. It’s really your motivation that will set the difference between a mere ningas cogon fad or a lifetime commitment to becoming a healthier person. It becomes part of your mindset so that it will have a lasting effect. If you do not make efforts to improve your physique with this permanent mindset in place, you will end up slipping in your efforts. You can easily be swayed to give up your workout time or your food preferences.

One important fitness responsibility every woman must have is the genuine and unshakeable motivation that stems from the core of herself. For me, it worked that I made a solid decision to lose weight and shape up because I WANT TO DO IT FOR ME, not because my partner wants me to be sexy and definitely not because other people are pressuring me to stop looking a certain way. Other people’s insulting comments did not help me at all. Some people just think they are helping, but they are not. My very own decision propelled me to adjust my life to accommodate a fit lifestyle. It’s your own WILL being put to the test on a daily basis.

I made a decision out of genuine respect for my body. I can no longer feed myself too much garbage physically or mentally because I wanted to be the best version of myself at this moment. Not what they dictate as a perfect figure. But what is perfect FOR ME.

Getting so sick and going to the hospital too many times wore me out. I got tired of the drill. I asked myself: is this how I want to spend my money and my life, in and out of hospitals?

It reached a point where my negligence of my health affected my career. I told myself: THIS. ENDS. HERE. I need to make some real lifestyle changes to improve my life and my physical health.

Once that has been settled, I started moving in the direction of fitness. It became more natural, and eventually working became as necessary as brushing my teeth or sleeping 7 hours every night.

It is in these first steps that I learned a valuable lesson: you don’t have to spend a fortune to get fit or to have the right tools. You can improvise if you allow yourself to be a bit more resourceful and creative with your approach.

For example, recently I used a ruined stocking to create one of my workout outfits:


I threw that in with a basic Triumph black bra with good support and a blue hipskirt that my friend Lynne bought at a Greenhills tiangge for Php 350 in 2012.

All in all, I spent nothing because I had them in my cabinet this whole time. But if you are to buy this, it’s just Php 600, which is only equivalent to a one-hour Zumba session in a famous gym.

This is what I came up with for my day’s workout:

fitness-freedom-bellydancing-mirror-back1 fitness-freedom-bellydancing-mirror-back2

In the comfort of my home, I watched some basic bellydancing Youtube tutorials.I think I lost around 500 calories in 2 hours for this session. My money remained intact.

Precisely because I am enjoying the private workout moment at home, I did not have any inhibitions to move as I please even if I am not the world’s best dancer:

Fitness is FREEDOM.

Fitness is FREEDOM.

Forget that I was not wearing the latest sports brand or that I did not have a teacher to teach me everything. Later if I have the extra resources and the confidence to join a group in a gym, I’d probably take my hipskirt out of the house or add a piece here and there. For now, though, I just wanted to HAVE FUN with my workout because when you have fun, you tend to do it MORE OFTEN without dragging your butt. And I don’t let limited funds limit my options. 🙂

I was moving. I was lighter than I was months ago. I had no qualms in imitating the moves in the videos or assuming different body positions. In addition, I ate good food that did not cost an arm and a leg and it strengthened me. I slept a full 7 hours each night and I renew myself in time for my next workout.

I started to see results from the efforts that stemmed out of my decision to embrace fitness as a lifestyle. But it was not the main end of everything I have done these past few months.

Do not get me wrong. It is nice to have a smaller waistline and it’s one of the unmistakable benefits of my new lifestyle changes:

Belly Goooood

Belly Goooood

It was not easy to undo years of unhealthy living and unhealthy eating habits. I provide myself a lot of kindness, because I understood that I cannot contradict deeply ingrained habits too easily.

One more note: I do not deprive myself excessively. I still eat my favorite chocolates and sweets. But everything is now done in moderation. For certain food decisions, I made gradual changes for long lasting effects. I did not do a full deprivation. Two years ago, I tried the cabbage soup diet that aims to lose weight fast by isolating food groups in a 7-day regimen. I fell back on the fourth day. I was not able to last. And this is a key ingredient towards finding your own path to personal fitness. You need to know what works for you and what does not, and concentrate your energies on what works.

There is so much to be said because my decision to be fit won’t fit in a single blog post. But I will try to take it one step at a time. For this blog post, suffice it to say that deciding to nurture a proper fitness mindset and making room for fitness with any of your available resources is already half the battle won.


for Budget-Conscious
Brides and Beauties

It’s Easter time, so I guess it’s the perfect time to announce my latest series here in this blog. I informally call it the “Resurrect Your Alindog” project. But as stated in the title above, we formally and more completely call it the “Bilbil Busters for Budget-Conscious Brides and Beauties”

Board exam tips are for all types of board exam takers. This time, I am focusing on women who need to shed some excess pounds.

Years ago, I made some sets of blog posts for special topics, foremost of which is the board exam tips. (I tried making a series on love stories but it got hard to maintain because of internal pressure and information overload. I plan to continue that series sometime soon, I promise. )

In keeping with the spirit of providing really useful and helpful lifestyle content, I am making a new blog post series on health and weight loss for women.

In particular, I am writing this for the ultra-busy women who cannot see themselves going to the gym all the time. I especially wrote this for soon-to-be BRIDES who need to fit in their wedding gown without shelling out too much to do so. Wedding planning can be batshit crazy on some days and it can get really expensive, so practicality in other matters is a must.

Like the board exam tips, it’s based on my actual experience. The only gym equipment I have used so far is the elliptical trainer and the exercise bike. I will give options on what worked for me and give some alternatives in case you do not have the equipment that I used. As much as possible, I would refrain from dictating workouts because everyone has different body types and considerations.

During college, I was all of 95 pounds and I ate 3 cups of rice every meal without gaining weight. I ate SIX RICE MEALS per day. I felt invincible. Feeling ko it will last forever. At the time, I never thought I’d be writing a blog post series on weight loss 10 years down the line. But here I am now, writing about what worked for me.

Women like me are inclined to collect more calories since metabolism slows with age annually. Experts call it calorie creep phenomenon.

The maximum effects of my weight gain were in the years 2012 to 2013. I looked absolutely horrendous, figure-wise. Reality started slapping me in the face in 2012. In my case, the calories crept to my belly in a major way!

Here is proof, taken on my birthday last September 2013, around 7 months ago:

Helen in September 2013

Helen in September 2013

My waistline was around 32 or 33 inches, I think. I was NOT pregnant, by the way. I was just eating at a buffet for my birthday at the time. And I haven’t even started eating yet when they took this picture!

Grabe diba.

You can see the BIG problem there. It actually came to the point where the MRT guards and Trinoma guards give me priority in the queue for PREGNANT people. In fact, even my neighbors ASSUMED that there was a bun in the oven already. Parang gusto ko na lang magtago, sobrang laki talaga ng tinaba ko. 🙁

It’s quite offensive when people told me how fat I am. I have heard this sooooo many times!

It’s actually rude when you don’t see people for a long time and then they exclaim how big you became. It’s as if I do not have a mirror at home to make me painfully aware of my current predicament. Just so they know, I have a mirror, and I avoided it for many months. (T_T)

But we cannot expect everyone to be well-mannered, kind or considerate when it comes to our flaws. Sobrang harsh ng mga tao sa mga matataba or tumatabang babae.

In a way, it was my fault too because I let myself go like that for almost 3 years. The sad fact is that there are actually people who are happy that I became like a hippopotamus last year. Some people totally gossiped about my weight gain.

I know that my partner loves me no matter what shape I am in. I poked fun at myself too when people joke about it. But I think secretly, he also missed my slimmer days in 2011.

Even if I did not admit it openly last year, it really affected me. The more stressed I got about my weight gain, the more I resorted to STRESS EATING to comfort myself. It’s this sick cycle which also made me more physically sick and got me to countless hospital trips. It was a downward spiral. I thought I was hopeless, that I was not going to snap out of it.

Narrating everything in one blow is getting ahead of myself.

So let me just give a sneak peek of what happened after…

These photos were taken just last Maundy Thursday after my exercise routine.

Right now, I am nowhere near Marian Rivera’s 19 inches of waistline. But diminishing my waist from 33 inches to the 25.5 or 26 inches that it is now (without paying 50k for a Cohen diet or shelling out 55k for a lifetime gym membership) on a very shoestring budget is definitely an achievement.

I am posting these to ENCOURAGE anyone who thinks that shrinking 7 inches off their waistline is impossible. And that does not necessarily involve signing up for expensive things or buying expensive gear.

I am zooming it in so that you will see the work currently in progress:

Camera-Ready at Any Angle

Camera-Ready at Any Angle


Waistline: 26 inches (from 33 inches, 7 months ago)

There. I do not even have a sports bra brand to endorse to you while I show you all these. My outfit was just Php 100 from nearby tiangge booths in Ortigas. I was just wearing my pambahay.

Some people have lines in their abs and are often doing outdoor sports activities. It’s not the perfect waistline but it’s definitely better than my old waistline.

The focus of this series is not on how good you look with your workout clothes. Other websites will be more than happy to provide that kind of information for you. Like my board exam tips, it goes to the essentials that worked for me based on my experience in creating my own weight loss regimen. And in sharing these things, I hope that other people can benefit from my discoveries.

Disclaimer: I am no fitness expert and this blog series is not for elite people or celebrities who have their posse of fitness experts at their beck and call. If you have a nutritionist, that’s really awesome and you should continue your regimen. If you are enrolled in a gym, that’s great! You will have all the assistance you need and you should make the most of it. If you are wearing top-notch sports wear and attending great sports events, I am happy for you and you should continue that! 🙂 I am not sure what profit fitness buffs will have from this blog but it might provide some interesting insights for the open-minded.

This series I am making is more geared towards simple people who just want to get fit or improve their waistline without spending too much money.

It’s really for average people like me who need to lose a few inches here and there. This is for girls who ride buses or the MRT on their way to work. This is for working women who do not have the time or additional income to burn hours in the gym. This is for busy ladies who want to be fit, not necessarily sexy by Hollywood standards. This is for the bride who is running the risk of becoming bridezilla with all the wedding preparation stress and needs to pamper herself without paper bills flying out of her wallet. It’s for the fitness-hungry females who have been overtaxed, underpaid, and heavily stressed by life’s demands.

So if you think that this is your brand of becoming fit for 2014 and beyond, I invite you to this online series that I will be making in the coming days. 🙂

And like me, I hope you have a lot of fun as you try to make lifestyle changes and rediscover your fabulous physique without drilling a hole in your pocket:

Bilbil Busters for Budget-Conscious Brides and Beauties FTW!

Bilbil Busters for Budget-Conscious Brides and Beauties FTW!


Isa itong patunay na hindi mo kailangang magpaka-burgis sa mga bagay-bagay para maging bodylicious. 🙂 

In my next post for this series, I will discuss about your single biggest fitness responsibility and why it matters so much in your efforts to lose weight. 🙂  <3 <3 <3



1.) Start with the right mindset! >> Freedom in Fitness
2.) Get to know your brand of fitness >>  The Fitness-Owning Advantage
3.) Don’t forget to balance your fitness regimen with fairly distributed CHEAT DAYS and calorie estimations. >> Chillaxing Cheat Days and Calorie Counts
4.) Make fitness a part of your daily activities by incorporating it into your regular grind. >> Hulk Band Helena
.) Share your fitness, win a friend! >> Fitness Friendships



Day 15: #100HappyDays
Fit for Solitude

The one good advantage of not getting a ride home on Wednesday night is that I had to stay longer in Ortigas. Early this Thursday, I managed to go up to the gym to do a 40-minute workout. And it’s a surprising treat to find that for around 5-10 minutes, I had the gym all to myself:


Helena's Fave: The Elliptical Trainer

Helena’s Fave: The Elliptical Trainer

A few minutes later, a voluptuous middle-aged lady and a muscular long-haired guy entered the gym. But I had those moments of solitude where I was just running carefree on the elliptical trainer. I did three intense sets of 1.2 kilometers each. To balance the intensity between these sets, I used the hula hoops. 🙂



8 Hiking Tips: Guest Post from Nicole So

One of the things that I want to work on right now is to live healthier by making certain lifestyle choices. Now, I had been looking for ways to become more fit. I have learned the hard way that health is really wealth. Six emergency room trips from February to June showed me that I really need to make those changes if I want to make the most out of life.

Fortunately, I have been emailed by a very fit blogger who proposed to write this guest post containing hiking tips. I hope you find this online written gift from Nicole as useful as I did.  🙂


So you want to try hiking. I am assuming you are newbie, a first-timer, or maybe you’ve tried hiking before — and failed. Chances are, there are a few things you might have missed on your first try. This article will present tried-and-tested hiking tipsyou should and must pack along with you on your adventure.


1. Check yourself. Be honest. Just because you are lean doesn’t mean you are already fit to hike. Hiking is not your usual running and walking like how you do in your park or village or for fun with friends in Bonifacio High Street. Hiking means you have to deal with different kinds of terrain, meet some strange creature you didn’t know existed, and some other unworldly sense of fun and adventure you have to prepare yourself for. Can you endure long walks and slippery stones? Are you composed in times of emergency or are you easily rattled? It pays to check yourself and be honest with yourself about how you do in certain situations. Consider this as your starting point.

2. Research about your destination. Research about the area you are hoping to explore. Know about the terrain and thehike. Check out online forums about the destination and ask around about the best season to hike, the activities you should not miss, and the possible dangers you should prepare for. You always have to keep in mind that whenever there is an interaction with nature, there will always be the possibility of injury. Check out the plants and animals that should be avoided.

3. Be able to differentiate real life from fiction. Never go out hiking alone.  Planning to channel you inner- Bella Swan? Trying to prove yourself to your parents that you can do things on your own? Are you going to imitate Harry and Ron’s journey into the Forbidden Forest and in the hopes of finding unicorns? If at your present age, you are unable to identify fact from fiction, then you might want to postpone your adventure. Damsels like Bella may exist in the real world but immortals like Edward Cullen do not, although beasts like Victoria are out in the wild. If you are thinking of proving to your parents that you can take care of yourself alone out there, then you might want to try your luck some place else. This ain’t a place for faint-hearted. Apart from checking yourself whether you are fit to hike, maybe you should also check whether your purpose to hikeis also proper. You don’t want to be reprimanded in the hospital while a hoard of nurses are fixing your bones and listening to your mother’s litany.

Never under any circumstance, hike alone. Be sure that at least one person on the planet knows where exactly you are going, how long you will be away, and have at least a contact number of a companion.

4. Choose your company well. Most groups are formed through online forums where hikers and amateurs get to interact, sharing tips and techniques, and finding groups that they could most likely enjoy the same type and pace in hiking. Some groups are formed through friendships who wish to explore other things together. If you are going along a group diverse wants, you have to learn to be sensitive with other people’s needs in order to avoid getting annoyed or annoying someone. Place the slowest hiker in the front and let him/her lead the pace.

5. Backpacking. Sure the water in the lake looks clear and fresh but don’t be deceived. Just because it is clear doesn’t mean it’s clean. Bring your own water. Some people prefer hydration bars because they are easier to pack and lighter on the load. Choose whatever is comfortable with you. Keep food in tightly sealed containers because even small creatures can smell what’s in your bag. You don’t want them to get ahead of you for lunch, right? Be sure to bring a fire source. Being able to light a fire brings comfort to everyone. Everybody gets to eat warm meal and sleep cozily. Bring multi-toolgadgets and duct tape for emergency.

Be careful what you pack. You’re not going on a picnic, are you? Skip the iPod, DVD player, and extra rubber shoes. The lighter the load, the better. Just make sure you have everything you need — only the things you need.

6. Start small. An amateur runner shouldn’t run 25 KM on his first try and neither should you. Consider your first hiking trip as a short excursion and from there see if you enjoy it. If you do, aim to try a longer route next time.

Hiking Clothes

7. Wear proper clothing and footwear. Check the temperature and weather of your destination. It is better to be a little cool than be too hot. Layering is key so it would be easier for you to remove some articles of clothing when it gets hot. Pack a light jacket with you even if it’s hot out there or if there is no chance of raining. When cotton clothes are wet, they stay that way so choose to leave it at home. Wear comfortable rubber shoes or hiking boots that can provide ample support to your feet and ankles. And no, you can’t wear your flipflops.

8. Common Sense. Common sense is the most basic thing you have to bring with you on your trip, along with presence of mind. You have to be able to handle difficult situations well especial when one gets injured. Sometimes, getting excited over something overshadows a person’s judgment. You are going to get there soon, so in order to enjoy your trip, always be cautious and be mindful of everything you are going to do. You will never be penalized for thinking before acting.

Hiking is a great and fun adventure that not all people are privileged to experience. So if you are planning to do anytime soon, then consider yourself lucky. Just remember the golden rule on hiking: Leave it as you found it. Hikers are more likely to be nature lovers, and if you are a nature lover, you will help in the preservation of the environment. Share this privilege to other people who will want to visit the place, too. And remember, just like life, it is the journey that matters, and not just the destination.

Nicole So is a freelance writer, regular runner and a former backpacker. Her hobbies are writing, photography and traveling. She also writes for other blogs and for some clients. Follow her escapades in google+.