Ebony, Ivory.


Why the obsession with white skin? One night in a friend’s bathroom I did a double take. The bottle of Vaseline sitting on top of her sink said “healthy white.” I groaned and wondered how many more women got suckered into the Caucasian version of fair and lovely. There now seems to be a clamour for women to get fairer. Whatever happened to celebrating natural beauty and loving the skin you were born with?

Must we now equate being dark with being unhealthy apart from being ugly? I shudder at the thought of what the young girls’ response would be.

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Go Without Fear


Photo courtesy of Slovakia Travel (grabbed from Google images)

When will we (ever) learn? People are not characters glorified in books and movies. They do not say the things that make you re-read sentences a hundred times in quick succession and memorize them by heart. Life is not structured like a beautiful story. Falling in love is often not as splendid a state as it seems in Hollywood-manufactured movies. There is no award-winning cinematography or musical scoring. Sometimes, things don’t just…work out. Or end well. Or resolve. Or triumph.

And romance novels can ruin you. Getting ensnared by them makes you unfit for real living.

When Washington Irving said “Love is never lost. If not reciprocated, it will flow back and soften and purify the heart,” he must have been experiencing one of those bouts of insanity people in love are prone to. Sure, it’s a nice idea, but, in the end, it is exactlywhat we have all been conditioned to think is possible. So, at every opportunity available to us, we piece together this makeshift mockery of that ideal as though it is, in fact, present in our actual lives. As though it could be possible. Attainable even.

Wait. Let me first state for the record that there is NOTHING amiss in my relationship. No, nothing like that. We are, in fact, blissful and optimistic as any two people in love can be. This is just something that I have been thinking long and hard about, prior to meeting (and committing to) C.

Moving on, I really do believe that the heart ALWAYS knows when it has found home. At the risk of sounding like a bubble-headed romantic, I still believe deep inside that love can indeed make you feel all right. You see, I never wanted too much. I just want a cozy little home where when we close the front door, we play Scrabble or poker and perhaps argue about certain ideology, women’s so-called liberation and men’s so-called cheating hearts, eat too much rice meal and fat-laden adobo or sinigang and run like maniacs the next day, play an eclectic repertoire of music, read the Bible or whatever book we’re interested in at the moment, laugh at stupid inside jokes, do impressions of one another, snore in unison when both exhausted from a hard day’s work.

And maybe, when it feels right, try to make the world’s smartest, big-headed, precocious babies. Correction, twins.

Me. That’s right. Wanting mini MEs.

Guess I’m like every other woman who ever breathed oxygen. Wanting to build a life and make it work with the man she has voluntarily handed over the deed to her heart. Her life. Voluntarily though sometimes scared shitless of  life’s surprises.

Because really, once you learn, once you see what’s actually there, what else can you do but go without fear?

Love Symbiosis


I have a serious fascination with the symbiosis between and among lovers. I find it thoroughly charming when different personalities collide and try to accommodate each other’s uniqueness…giving birth to the exponential possibilities for richness, latitude and intensity of love. When lovers are not only different in many ways possible but they come from polarized scenes as well, that’s when I am most interested, more intrigued. When everything about them make it seem as though they should be in opposition with one another, every voyeuristic nerve in me twitches in anticipation to see how they will go about their quest for a powerful union. How they feed, for example, in both ways: feeding each other and feeding off each other.

Who’s That Girl? (Subtitled: Something from 2008)


Karma karma karma chameleon...you come and go...you come and gooooo!

You know some of them, these people we label as chameleons. People who lose their identity to become who they think people want them to be. Girls who rapidly metamorphose from personality to personality to suit their partners. Boys who mutate from club-hopping partymeisters searching out their latest statistic to looking ridiculously agitated as they jump off their seats to do their girlfriends’ stern bidding. Put them together and you have two people buying into each other’s preferences — from music to books to food to clothes and all the way down to sport and recreational activities. They complete each other’s sentences; develop fondness for something they used to despise; and are just togetherallthetime24/7noroomforanyoneelse. If you’re friends with a chameleon couple, I’m afraid you will have to get used to the idea of having lunch, coffee, dinner or after-dinner drinks with the two of them – even when you really just need to be with one of them.

I confess I used to be a chameleon. I used to change personalities faster than my outfits. With Editor Ex, I was a party accessory. I went to most of the parties he went to, I hung prettily off his arm, and sometimes I’d chat with the other girls there while the guys went to get us drinks from the bar. Sometimes, (and this embarrasses me) I’d watch his weekend basketball game with friends or whatever, the perfect image of a groupie girlfriend, with the long curly tresses running down the back of my cute little tanktop which he says he likes over any other outfits I own because it doesn’t make him look terribly under-dressed standing next to me – only without the nicotine stick lodged between my fingers because I gave up smoking soon after we started going out. I quit smoking mainly because he didn’t smoke and since I’ve always planned to quit anyway, I thought ‘what an impeccable timing!’ I still haven’t snuck a puff (not even out of curiosity) since going cold turkey and if there’s one good thing that came out of that little episode that would’ve been it. That and my heightened appreciation for Formula One and 80’s music.

With Architect Ex from years ago, he was the chameleon. He started drinking because then I had just started my affair with Red Horse and wasn’t quite ready to cut loose, beginning with taking a swig from my bottle to finally buying his own drinks. My friends became his friends, the movies I loved were the movies he loved, the food I salivated for were the food he’d bring and eat with me while we pop in disc after disc on my DVD player at home. Did it get on my nerves? No, because I thought it was sweet and beautiful that he had the same pursuits, that he liked my friends and they liked him, that we were such a postcard couple.

In his book High Maintenance Relationships, Dr. Les Parrot described chameleons as the most deceptive of all the high-maintenance personalities because they seem to be low-maintenance at first. And because they are so agreeable, they seem to be very easy to get along with. But underneath the pleasant façade is a “complex web of distorted perceptions and insatiable longings.”

Chameleons need a lot of attention and they create a false sense of compatibility. And while compatibility feels superb because it makes us feel safe, understood, appreciated and comfortable, too much of it can also be stifling and suffocating.

 

HOW TO SPOT A CHAMELEON:

Chameleons live to please others. No matter the situation, they will always be wearing a smile. They hate the idea of hurting someone’s feelings as much as they hate feeling rejected. But chameleons are such experts in camouflaging themselves, making it a bit difficult for anyone to see through the rapid colour-changing. If you haven’t been with a chameleon I suggest you watch out for these unconventional behaviours:

  • Overly Agreeable – Chameleons agree with anyone they are with. They don’t openly share their opinions for fear of being contradicted.
  • Pushovers – She relies on you to make all the decisions or if she seems set to do one thing, it takes so little to talk her out of it.
  • Conflict-dodger – Chameleons can’t stand arguments or confrontations.
  • Guilt-prone – They blame themselves for everything that goes wrong.
  • Narrowly-focused – They get obsessed with the seemingly insignificant details.
  • Phoney – Chameleons always worry what everyone else thinks, so they look and act differently from how they really are.

 

HOW TO DEAL WITH A CHAMELEON:

Stuck with a chameleon? Well here’s some good news for you: Chameleons are the easiest to help change their ways so that you can both enjoy a more honest and fulfilling relationship.

  • See and Own Up to Your Own Chameleon Ways. Let’s face it. We all have our little chameleon in us.  At some point, we have had our own wishes hidden, fake-smiled and compromised just to make that someone like us more.  If you remember what it was like to worry about other people’s approval, then you might begin to understand her.
  • Find Out What She Really Likes. You like her, don’t you? Then take a personal interest in your chameleon. Ask how she’s doing and really listen. Like the rest of us, she becomes more genuine when she feels listened to, accepted, and understood.
  • Give Little Reassurances. Chameleons people-please their way through life and always defer to others because they are convinced their choices would be unpopular and people will like them less for it. Your girl needs little reassurances that her opinions are safe with you. Encourage her to share them, and show your appreciation for it when she does.
  • Ask for Honesty. We already know that she needs a lot of gentle prodding and encouragement before she will voice out her honest opinions on anything. But once you’ve coaxed it out of her, whatever you do, don’t show disapproval or disappointment if you don’t share her opinion. The more often you invite her honesty, the more genuine she will become around you.

 

Going back to the postcard episode Editor Ex and I briefly starred in, well, the show got cancelled shortly after the pilot and my friends all went like “Oh you don’t need him to fill your voids.” Or, “Honestly, we’re sick of seeing the two of you constantly together that we hardly get to spend time with you. Don’t you ever do anything without each other?” There were a few times too when I could almost swear they ignored me and my whining and who can blame them? I guess me as a chameleon is too much to handle even for my friends. Other times too, they’d scoff at me saying “Just wait till you start dating again, you’ll never even want to have anything to do with that guy or that silly little connection you imagined you had with him.” And once again, I admit, they were right on the money.

Personally though, I will never be a chameleon again. Though I think my case was mild and trifle compared to what others might have, I almost lost my identity once or twice in my past relationships and I’m scared if I let someone else swallow it up again I will never know who I am. Singlehood, I believe, is the road less travelled to self-discovery. It is knowing that one and one make TWO and NOT putting two halves together to make one whole or any of that. Do the math. I resolve to stay independent as a cat, mildly-opinionated, eccentric and fun. The only time I will ever be a chameleon would be in the privacy of my bedroom for some off-the-charts adult role-playing games. But that’s an entirely different story.

Total Fitness: Build Up Your Diet With Antioxidant-rich Foods


Total Fitness Magazine January-February 2011

Antioxidants are substances or nutrients in our foods that prevent or slow the damage to our body caused by what is known as ‘free radicals’ which are thought to be damaging to cells and tissues.  Health problems such as heart disease, macular degeneration, diabetes, cancer are among those said to be  contributed by the oxidative damage that occurs during energy conversion from molecules to fuel. In a recent study conducted by health researchers in London , it has been proven that five (5) servings of fruits and vegetables actually reduce the risk of stroke by a whopping 25 percent!  Aside from this, antioxidants are also said to slow down the process of aging. This is why antioxidants have also found their way in various over-the-counter health and beauty products .

But why depend solely on manufactured health supplements when you can obtain antioxidants from a healthy combination of whole, real foods?

To start off, here are some fruits and vegetables proven to have healthy doses of antioxidants:

  • Berries. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cranberries and blackberries are all antioxidant-rich foods. Berries are full of fibre, minerals and vitamins, and loaded with healing antioxidants. Blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are rich in antioxidants that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. Strawberries, raspberries and blackberries contain ellagic acid, a plant compound that combats carcinogens . Additional antioxidant-rich choices include apples, cherries, pears, plums, tomatoes, kiwi, mango and papaya. The antioxidants found in these fruits include vitamin C, beta-carotene, and lycopene among others.

          Yummy food tips: Add raspberries to your bowl of cereals or stir into your favourite vanilla              yogurt. You may also add whole blueberries to salads with a little honey, balsamic vinegar and              black pepper to taste.

  • Whole grains. Make sure your favourite morning bowl of cereal is made from whole-grain as this particular variety is an excellent source of Vitamin E – a potent antioxidant that plays a role in preventing cancer. In addition, the antioxidants present in grains can boost immunity, slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, treat and possibly prevent arthritis, prevent sunburn and treat male infertility.

         Yummy food tips: Try adding chopped parsley and scallions to a serving of cooked bulgur                 wheat or add raisins, dried apricots and minced basil to a serving of brown rice.

  • Tea. One of the world’s most favourite beverages has been shown to prevent a number of degenerative diseases  and significantly reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. Good news to all black tea lovers:  Though it was originally thought that green tea had more antioxidants than your favourite black, recent studies suggest that they are equally beneficial.

         Yummy food tips: Try poach salmon in an infusion of green tea and ginger or boil soba                       noodles in green tea and toss with sesame seeds and a dash of toasted sesame oil.

  • Greens. According to a research done by the Cleveland Clinic, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens contain antioxidants called carotenoids.  Broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, sweet potatoes, artichokes and red and white potatoes with peels are also high in antioxidants. Legumes such as kidney beans, lentils, black beans and red beans are all high in antioxidant vitamin E.

Lastly, and this may come as a surprise to most, dark chocolate is also said be rich in antioxidants, containing more of the protective substances per serving than most fruits and vegetables, according to the Mayo Clinic.

**For full stories, grab a copy of Total Fitness January to February 2011 issue in bookstores and newsstands near you.

Wanna Keep Fit in 2011? Make Your Resolutions Stick!


Since becoming somewhat of a health and fitness freak at the beginning of 2009, one of the few things I’m really looking forward to as the new year approaches is my laundry list of fitness resolutions.  In order to have a more targeted fitness gameplan for 2011, I thought of revisiting my fitness goals in 2010 and discovered, much to my delight, that  not only have I accomplished most of my goals, I have also added a few milestones which never even crossed my mind at the time of writing. Like ultrarunning, for example, and logging a total of three podium finishes just after I celebrated my first anniversary in running.  It’s little surprises like these that inspire me to keep pushing and finding more adventurous and fun ways of keeping fit and healthy.

Not to say that I have been good through and through.  Truth be told, I have not exactly been very successful in casting off unhealthy indulgences such as bingeing on junk food and sweets  and drinking soda or iced tea with meals instead of water.  But even though I have been delinquent with my diet on several occasions, my BMI (Body Mass Index) and fat percentage results paint an entirely different picture of my fitness status. At 18.4 BMI and 22.7 fat percentage, I am well within the desirable range and that would not have been possible if it weren’t for the level of commitment I have given to my fitness goals last year.

Statistically, it has been shown that most people fail at keeping their resolutions. In fact, research say that only 20% of us can be considered a success in making our resolutions stick. Case in point, immediately after the frivolity and gastronomic indulgence of the Christmas and New Year seasons, the volume of people signing up for gym memberships and those actually going there for workout increase by double digit percentage. But within 12 weeks or so, over 80% of those people quit for various reasons. However, you don’t have to be just another statistic by failing at your own resolutions. Make yours stick by following these steps:

  • Write down an obtainable goal. Your ultimate fitness goal should be something achievable like maybe becoming fit enough to join an international marathon or a locally-organized triathlon.  At the end of the day, not all of us can be super athletes or supermodels no matter how hard we try, but by working on what’s realistic for you is already one step to feeling good and looking good.
  • Create a game plan. Deciding on a health and fitness goal is a start BUT you need to have a workable plan to reach that goal. Different fitness goals require different approaches. For example, weight loss requires you to regularly burn more than you consume.
  • Break it down and make it less intimidating. In coming up with your ultimate fitness goal avoid knee-jerk statements like ‘I plan to lose 30lbs in 6 months’. While this may not be entirely an impossibility, you also have to consider your body and its response level and capacity. Do some research or speak with a qualified fitness professional. You want to lose weight, yes, but you should never put your body and overall health at risk in order to fit into a size 0 or 1.
  • Get your friends and family members involved so you have that extra motivation to keep your eyes glued on your goals. Give them trespass to give you the nudge when you’re slacking off, as well as, gently remind you when you start talking and behaving negatively.
  • Celebrate your progress. NOT by eating back the fats you lost but maybe by getting a new pair of jeans  or dress that’ll flatter your new figure.
  • Measure your progress in concrete ways. For example, if you are exercising to lose weight, keep track of your weight loss preferably on a weekly basis.
  • Find as many different ways to monitor your progress as you can. For example, if you are on a weight loss program, you might like to record your exercise sessions, daily diet and weekly measurements. Include achievements such as feeling more energetic or fitting into a smaller pair of jeans. Give yourself plenty of ways to succeed.

And lastly, make sure that the goals you have set are those that are meaningful and important to you, not to anybody else. Remember, this is YOUR fitness goal so if for example, your partner wants you to shed more weight but you’re happy as you are, it may be difficult for you to commit to an exercise routine that you can sustain in the long term.

***

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Total Fitness: You Know It’s LOVE When…


Total Fitness January-February 2011

Romantic relationships have always been the chink in my armor. Unlike my often impeccable taste for shoes and clothes, I do not possess the ability to distinguish between what I want and what is actually good for me in a relationship. My romantic escapades have almost always been a dramatic build up from sitting on cloud nine one moment, to that time when I’m curled up in a corner of my room, tears streaming down my puffy cheeks, being force-fed with Jamaican pattie by my friend Noel, both of us dissecting what could have possibly gone wrong, replaying conversations and bitter looks and singing Joni Mitchell’s A Case of You over and over and over again in my head.

But for the last 18 months, I have had a constant in my life. Someone who I would not think twice about identifying as ‘family’ if I ever needed to. Someone who has proved to me, despite my neuroses, my stubborn attempts at proving my worst fears true, my self-destructive patterns of thinking, despite my impregnable silences, that he wants to be by my side. Someone who is convinced (more than I ever will be) that I’m the best person he knows, the only girl he loves.

It took me a very long time to see through the mist of infatuation which I have gotten quite used to in my past relationships, and acknowledge the fact that I am now, beyond the shadow of doubt, in love. It was tough to convince me at first. I simply couldn’t let go of my doubts and my inability to trust anyone. A lesser man would have quit a long time ago. A lesser man wouldn’t have had the patience, nor the understanding required to sit through the skepticism and infuriatingly taunting discussions that I have thrown his way. A lesser man would have walked out of the door the first time I said ‘I am in love with someone else’ and the few more times I would repeat that before I realized I have played the fool long enough and stopped completely. More than what seemed to be his unconditional love, more than his understanding, more than the overwhelming gestures of affection, the most important thing he has given me is my faith in myself. And for that, I will never know how to repay him. Not enough pairs of ALDO shoes and accessories and Haagen Dazs ice cream will make up for the effort it took for him to pull me out of my well of self-contained gloom and show me what I was missing.

Some people will have different thoughts on love and falling in love but I’m quite sure that one can find a lot of glaring commonalities. Tell-tale signs such as:

  • You think about how it must be like to spend the rest of your life with your partner and no, you don’t look at it as simply being stuck with just one person, but rather, as wonderful idea that you cannot wait to explore – together.
  • Even when surrounded by attractive people, your thoughts are always with your partner and how much premium you put on his happiness –  which you will not knowingly or deliberately crush by being thoughtless and unfaithful. That shows both commitment and devotion.
  • Passion and fireworks remain even after the ‘honeymoon’ stage has passed. They say that at this day and age, sustaining a relationship has become such an arduous task that only a few manage to keep it together. If after all the gloss, the novelty, and the initial jolt of excitement have waned yet you still find reasons to want to be with your partner everyday, then you are definitely on to something real…and lasting.
  • You make a lot of room in your life for your partner – and that includes both his strong and weak points, as well as, his peculiarities. There is also the desire to understand and compromise, both very clear indications of selflessness which will prove to be very valuable in the long run – especially when challenges start to crop up.

This is finally my adult relationship and I would die a happy woman if it were my last. In a way, it changed me by challenging me to stray away from the helix I had woven for myself. Now, it may seem to be way too early to tell (nearly two years into it and we’re still really getting to know each other) but so far, what we have is good. Oftentimes, pretty. And it does show a promise of even better things to come. Nevermind that we carry different passports, or that his skin is so much paler than mine, and how our accents don’t match up – as do some of our interests half the time. There will always be reservations, I’m pretty sure, but I have always believed that when you both want something to work and you want it bad enough, there can’t be a divide too large to bridge.