Congratulations, You’re Pregnant! So What’s Next?


So you’re having a baby. Isn’t that wonderful? I know exactly how unreal that feels! But once you and your husband or partner are done jumping up and down for joy, you may need to sit down and start the ‘family’ talk – if you haven’t done already. Being pregnant is just the beginning of a lifetime commitment to put someone else’s needs, wants, convenience, happiness well ahead of yours. As a first time soon-to-be parent like me, you may also be wondering what exactly needs to be done next. Well, besides getting your husband/partner involved every step of the way, here are some of the most important things to tick-off your pregnancy checklist.

Before Getting Pregnant

1. Get a comprehensive health insurance. Actually, this is something that you and your partner should have already planned for even before getting pregnant. If possible, get one that covers pre-natal, delivery, and post-natal in full – especially if you live in an expensive country like Singapore. Hubby and I decided to go for Bupa Health Coverage, on the advice of some friends, sometime in July/August last year. At that time, the holding period was only around 10 months and any pregnancy-related expenses, including delivery, and post-natal, after the 10th month will be covered 100%. Shortly after we took the policy, the maturity period was changed to 24 months, so it really was a good call when get insured at the time that we did. Bupa has an excellent health coverage program and even if you have to pay a slightly higher premium, you know that you will not be left out cold when you need it the most – especially when the bills start piling up during the course of your pregnancy.

2. Find a great OB-Gyne with whom you can entrust your body and your baby. Just like in number 1, it would have been ideal if you already have an OB for your regular non-pregnancy related check-ups even before getting pregnant. In my case, I had to find an OB shortly after moving to Singapore because of my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which needs to be monitored regularly. And once Hubby and I decided to get pregnant and I had to get off the hormonal pills I was taking, he was also the one we consulted about it.

During Pregnancy

3. Keep fit and healthy. If you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle even before deciding to get pregnant, then props to you! Making sure that your body is getting enough vitamins and minerals for yourself and your growing baby is a very important task. Start with having more vegetables, fruits and meat/fish in your diet. Also, ask your OB about prenatal multivitamin supplements as these can help fill in the nutritional gaps in your diet.

When it comes to fitness, continue with whatever workout regimen you already have prior to pregnancy, but make sure to adjust the intensity according to the stage of your pregnancy. Remember, we are not created equal – so whatever works for other pregnant women may not necessarily be your cup of tea. In my case, I was doing a lot of running and yoga before I got pregnant, but I had to stop running at some stage and I also switched to prenatal yoga when I entered the second month of my pregnancy. In large part due to my age-related paranoia that I might end up causing harm to my growing bub if I get too intense with any of my workouts. Instead of running, I have been doing a lot of walking these days, averaging about 8,000 steps daily.

4. Get a good anti-stretchmark cream. Trust me, your body will thank you later for it. I started using this product called Elancyl, which I discovered when I Googled “Top anti-stretchmark creams for pregnant women” days after I found out that I’m pregnant. I started applying the product on my 8th week, even before the bump became pronounced. It is essential to keep the skin around your tummy, thighs, buttocks and breasts supple and elastic especially when they start expanding and stretching to accommodate the growing baby in your belly.

An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.

An amazing product like Elancyl will help keep those stretchies at bay.

Another product that has mothers raving about is Bio Oil, which is a much cheaper alternative to the branded stretchmark creams available in the market. In order to stretch the life of the slightly pricey Elancyl, what I normally do is alternate the use of both. I apply a generous quantity of Bio Oil on prescribed areas at night before bed time, and use Elancyl during daytime, after my morning shower.

Another alternative is the ubiquitous Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula Anti-Stretchmarks Massage Cream. Slightly more expensive than Bio Oil but cheaper than Elancyl or Clarins, this product is also endorsed by a lot of pregnant women. I forgot to bring my Elancyl when we left for Bangkok and for some weird reason, we couldn’t find it in Boots or Watson’s so I bought Palmer’s instead. I love the buttery scent of the cream but I still prefer Elancyl. Will definitely stock up on the latter when we’re back in Singapore.

Palmer's Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Anti-stretchmarks cream

5. Get educated. Read up on pregnancy but try not to get so obsessive about it that it causes you to be super scared and paranoid about your condition. I tend to fall prey to Googling weird stuff about pregnancy that I sometimes get so scared of stepping out of the house for fear that I might harm my baby. There are books and resource materials aplenty but in my case, I have found some of the best tips and information from this book called What To Expect When You’re Expecting, which was loaned to me by Yats, and this goldmine of a novel by an American writer living in Paris called Bringing Up Bébé, which essentially extolls the virtues of raising your children the French way.

Expect the best and the worst.:)

Expect the best, prepare for the worst.:)

Explore the joys of French parenting

Explore the joys of French parenting.

6. Pamper Yourself. As our body goes through a plethora of hormonal changes, so does our mood. Pregnant women tend to become overly sensitive, not only about their surroundings but especially about their bodies. At the beginning, I was also a bit alarmed by the weight gain, the appearance of cellulites on my thighs, the thickening of my arms and thighs, etc. And if you are every bit as vain as the woman sitting next to you, it’s not very difficult to feel fat or unkempt. But it shouldn’t have to be that way. By all means, get a haircut, a Brazilian wax (a word of caution: Your skin actually becomes more sensitive especially around the pubic area so if you can’t take the pain of getting the hair pulled, then feel free to skip this), mani-pedi treatment, antenatal massage, etc. You may be losing your hourglass shape, but that doesn’t mean you need to let go completely.

First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment,  gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.

First thing I did when we arrived in Bangkok was to get a haircut, hair treatment, gel mani-pedi, and a foot massage.

7. Invest in fashionable yet durable maternity clothes. But don’t go on a rampage when you’re not even showing yet. I suggest you start buying only during your second trimester when your bump is already visible. And even then, go for pants or skirts that have elastic waistbands or those beautiful tunic dresses that you can keep until the the last trimester. Maternity clothes are not the easiest to find, I know, and are often more expensive than normal casual clothes, but with a little bit of patience in going through online shopping websites, you’ll soon be turning heads with your radiant pregnant look.

Can you believe that I found this dress online for only 20 SGD?!

Can you believe that I found this dress online for only sgd 20?!

8. Schedule maternity visits and pick your hospital (for delivery) soon. In a way, I feel very lucky to be living in Singapore for a multitude of reasons, including having so many great maternity hospitals to choose from. From Mount Elizabeth, Mount Alvernia, Thomson Medical, Gleneagles, KK Hospital, etc., you can have your pick of a great hospital to deliver your baby. Deciding on the hospital early is very important as it will also help you and your partner to figure out the finances. Having a baby in Singapore is such an expensive business which is why, I cannot emphasise more on the importance of securing a top-of-the-line insurance coverage earlier on.

9. Get your husband/partner involved. Always remember that it’s not only you who’s probably scared and overwhelmed about having a baby. Make it a point to have regular open and sincere discussions about the baby and starting a family as this will also bring both of you closer than ever. Discuss parenting decisions, religious faith, child education, etc. all throughout this magical journey so you are both on the same page and the foundation of marriage and family life is more fortified than ever before.

10. Embrace the journey. The next nine months and the years after that are going to change your life in ways that you’ve probably never imagined. My husband and I are still befuddled by the changes and the coming responsibilities but we both love where we are now and where we’re headed for. That, to me, is just as important as all the other tips I have shared. There must be, first and foremost, an overflowing supply of love and respect in the home for you wouldn’t want to bring forth a child in a chaotic, stressful environment. Make time, as a couple, to sit back, relax and just bask in the joys of pregnancy even as you get ready for the next phase of becoming les parents.

REVIEW: Wall Rope Yoga at Master’s Yoga Sadhan


For quite some time now, I have been harbouring illusions of becoming a yoga teacher someday. Not that I have really devoted a good amount of time to study and practice yoga in order for me to get anywhere near my dream, but I have been practicing on and off for a year or so now. And for a while I thought I was really getting somewhere with my home practice, then I became really bad at managing my own schedule and before long, it was back to square one for me. Whatever flexibility I may have gained in the last few months of consistent yoga practice, was quickly reversed by just a few weeks of inactivity. Don’t we all just loathe it when something like that happens?

Thankfully, Mae pulled me back in to the amazing world of yoga by introducing me to wall rope yoga at Master’s Sadhan. Strictly based on the late great B.K.S Iyengar‘s strong focus on alignment, rope wall yoga helps you achieve proper alignment, strength and ease in postures. This is also good especially for beginners who struggle with their fear of inversions and holding balancing poses.

Location: 88A, TANJONG PAGAR ROAD

Welcome to Master’s Yoga Sadhan.

I looked up the studio on the internet and my curiosity was instantly piqued. I signed up for their ‘3 classes for $20’ promo, just to try it out before deciding to commit to more classes. I went for my first trial class and got magically roped in.

First of all, Master’s Yoga Sadhan is my kind of intimate yoga environment where the teacher – in this case, Teacher Shree – has more time, patience and dedication to look after the students and correct postures when necessary. I have been to big commercial yoga studios and frankly, I thought I grew more as a yogi wannabe by following YouTube videos. But when I entered Master’s Yoga Sadhan’s sanctuary for the first time and caught the tail-end of the previous class, where I saw the students suspended on ropes and inverted against the wall, I felt right at home.

Teacher Shree hails from India and has worked as yoga instructor in the cities of Bangkok and Hong Kong before moving to Singapore where he eventually set up his own studio, three years ago.

Let Teacher Shree will show you the ropes

Let Teacher Shree show you the ropes

In Wall Rope Yoga each student is assigned to two sets of ropes (top and bottom) which will be used in the asanas that typically include standing postures, twists, forward folds, inversions and arm balances.

These ropes are considered effective props in helping students, particularly beginners, to open up their bodies and slowly release tension in key areas by allowing the body to stretch and align properly without going beyond its range of natural and assisted range of motion.

Inversion junkies.

Inversion junkies.

Wall Rope Yoga offers a multitude of benefits, and if you ask me, these are the three things that I have come to really appreciate when it comes to my practice:

1. Wall rope yoga lengthens your spine and brings flexibility to your joints. With the use of ropes, I am able to extend my spine much further than in normal (unassisted) yoga poses, thus allowing me to go deeper in other poses like backbends and sidebends. I have mild scoliosis and prone to having lower back pains as a result of sitting in front of my laptop for hours on end everyday, and a good session of wall rope yoga gives me nothing but sweet relief down the length of my spine.

Working on my full split, rope-assisted.

Working on my full split, rope-assisted.

2. Wall rope yoga strengthens hard-to-build muscles. I have always lacked upper body strength which makes pull-ups and push-ups such a difficult task for me. But since I started working with the ropes, I began to notice the amount of strength that’s required of my arms and core in every pose, which helps me to distribute my energy and focus where they’re needed.

Post-yoga class playtime with Mae.

Post-yoga class playtime with Mae.

3. Wall rope yoga helps improve inversions. While I had already been able to execute headstands well before attending wall rope yoga, I still am terrified of doing variations such as tripod and my greatest fear, pincha mayurasana. But with much-improved arm strength which i am hoping to gain out of wall rope yoga, I have no doubt that I will be able to do pincha in a few months. *fingers crossed*

***

Master’s Yoga Sadhan is located at 88A Tanjong Pagar, Singapore.

Fermented Foods For Good Health


If 2014 is the year of gluten-free (some may call it ‘fad’) diet, 2015 will be the year of fermented foods, according to an article by Phil Lempert discussing next year’s food trends. Meaning, most fermented foods that we already know such as yogurt and sauerkraut are about to get more attention and most likely appear on our dining tables more often. Fermented foods contain live or active cultures that are considered effective bacteria-boosting agents.

Not to undermine the health benefits of farm-to-table foods, but these fermented foods with their pungent probiotic ingredients have been proven to boost the good bacteria in our digestive tract, which can help correct and prevent digestive issues, promote weight loss, improve skin conditions, and boost overall immune system.

Here are some traditional fermented foods you should incorporate in your daily meals to give the good bacteria in your digestive system a lovely boost. Keep in mind that as in all things good, you must only enjoy these fermented foods in moderation, with one or two meals a day.

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Homemade Yoghurt with strawberries (from Pinterest)

Yoghurt. Greek and regular yogurt are the most common fermented yogurt, but you can also make your own. Try this delicious home-made coconut yoghurt and get all the beneficial bacteria your body needs to strengthen your gut health and improve your immunity.

sauerkraut

Sauerkraut. Also known as fermented cabbage, sauerkraut is said to have positive impact on good digestion as well as, brain health. According to Dr. Drew Ramsey, M.D., author of The Happiness Diet and 50 Shades of Kale, there “exists a correlation between gut and brain health”. You can either buy sauerkraut from the supermarket or make your own. Here’s an easy home-made sauerkraut recipe.

Miso Soup goodness

Miso. Here’s something that miso soup lovers probably already know: The paste made from fermented soybeans and grains is packed with essential minerals including potassium and also microorganisms that promote good health and stamina. And it’s also pretty easy to make! Simply add a small portion of miso paste to boiling water together with spring onions and bok choy.

Kimchi

Kimchi. Considered a staple in Korea, kimchi is a spicy dish that is made typically from fermented cabbage and is regarded as a beauty food and an energy-booster. Why? Because as you improve your digestion, you will notice a significant improvement in your skin as well.

Wine and Beer

Wine & Beer. Now this is probably where most of us are getting our fermented food quota. Go ahead, no one’s judging. Just keep in mind that the ideal quantity is just a glass and anything beyond that may bring your body more harm than good.

REVIEW: Singapore School of Meditation and Yoga (SSMY)


But first, something we all need to know from the get-go: Yoga is NOT a religion.

What it does is to promote certain steps for guidance in leading a meaningful life here on earth. Stuff like moral discipline, self-discipline and meditation are taught and practised in traditional yoga, but there are no religious obligations (like attending services) attached to it. Some even do it purely out of fitness pursuit and that’s okay, nobody’s hating on anybody, because that is simply un-yoga-like.

Like me, for example. I have been practicing yoga on and off for about a year or so and to be honest, I do it mostly for the asanas. I have not fully embraced the yoga way of life because my self-discipline is still far from the level that it’s supposed to be at, for me to be able to truly live the yogi life. But I know one day it will come.

I like yoga because each practice gives me a more positive outlook on life and if you know me, you would know that I sometimes have the predilection to be too pessimistic about certain situations, people included. It also allows me to be stronger and more flexible, not just physically but also mentally. In fact, I like yoga so much that I am planning on taking a yoga teaching course sometime next year. Hopefully, after I pop one out.:)

Fast forward to Saturday night, when Hubs and I attended the opening of Singapore School of Meditation and Yoga located at Tras Street in Singapore. At the event, invited guests were treated to a one-hour session of group meditation, followed by another hour of Vinyasa. Both sessions were led by SSMY Founder Japadas Bismark, whose entire life is a living testimony to the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga.

Embrace yoga beyond the asanas.

Embrace yoga beyond the asanas.

The Singapore School of Meditation & Yoga is dedicated to improving the well-being of every individuals through its teaching of Bhakti yoga. Like most people who are not as knowledgeable about yoga and its origins and teachings, I turned to Google and this is what I found: (http://www.zentofitness.com/yoga-eastern-western-philosophy/)
Yoga is actually represented as four “ways.” The way of harmony, or Raja Yoga (of which hatha is one), is the physical component. The way of unity is known as Jnana Yoga (the intellectual approach to yoga). Bhakti Yoga is the way of devotion (the religious orientation). Karma Yoga is the journey of works (the path of cause and effect). They each fit different yoga practitioner’s temperaments and form much of the comprehensiveness of yoga.
According to Japadas, SSMY’s purpose is to reinstitute the real meaning and purpose of yoga and mantra meditation by imparting to the community the true ancient knowledge and practices of yoga and mantra meditation that have been handed down through generations of bonafide gurus. So for people who are looking to deepen their appreciation and practice of yoga, beyond the asanas, SSMY is where you will find solace after a gruelling day at work or at home.
SSMY, from an aesthetic point of view, has been designed to really showcase the serenity and peace of the senses that one hopes to achieve during practice. It may be small in space but it does pack a lot of positive energy, clearly evident in the pristine white walls, the cushions on the floor of the small receiving area before it opens to the asana room with a floor-to-ceiling mirror on one side and big beautiful windows typical of traditional shophouses, and the custom-made yoga mats and yoga blocks for the students’ use. The asana area can accommodate up to 12 people.
The SSMY asana room

The SSMY asana room

Hubs and I practicing yoga together.

Hubs and I practicing yoga together.

Meanwhile, the meditation room located upstairs was designed differently from the asana area. Up here, the mood is more soothing and tranquil with less noise piercing through the walls and windows. The meditation room can accommodate a maximum of 15 people, all seating comfortably on plush cushions placed on the carpeted floor.
The SSMY meditation room

The SSMY meditation room

The studio also comes equipped with lockers and changing rooms and a nice clean toilet for everyone’s convenience.
The Singapore School of Meditation is offering free meditation classes on Mondays at 7pm beginning on the 17th of November. Meanwhile, the asana classes are available every morning for now but will accommodate evening classes soon enough. Founder Japadas’ vision is for SSMY to launch yoga retreats outside of Singapore beginning 2015. For the full schedule and other queries, you may visit SSMY’s Facebook fanpage.

IMMUVIT Fearless Challenge: I think, therefore, I AM fearless.


I haven’t done that many trail races (as of writing, I have only done five trail adventure races: the 2009 Men’s Health All-Terrain Race at Sta. Elena, the first Merrell Trail Adventure in 2010, Mt. Pinatubo 50k Trail Ultramarathon in 2010, 65k Frontrunner Valley Trail Challenge in which I DNF’d much to my chagrin, and the 3rd Merrell Adventure Run last June) but there is no denying that I love trail running more than I could ever love road races mainly because of the amount of air and noise pollution I get exposed to when running in the Metro. Besides that, I don’t think road races can and will ever be able to give me the peace and, at the same time, the exhilaration I feel out there in the woods. Make that a muddy, slippery trail and I have just gone way above the happiest mark in the happy-o-meter!

I like filth. No, not that kind of filth but the mud-caking-on-my-face-and-body-oh-my-god-I-look-like-a-homeless-person-with-my-lifeless-hair-plastered-all-over-my-face-like-that kind. Never mind if I get bruises and scrapes, too, as bonus. I like my scars. I think they give me some sort of character. I have accumulated tons of them over the years – from falling down mango trees; falling off bikes; getting scratched by cats or getting bitten by dogs (I was bitten twice when I was a kid) and all sorts of accidents I always seem to conveniently get into.

It’s no wonder then that I fell mighty in love with yesterday’s IMMUVIT Fearless Challenge where I got to do all sorts of stunts including but, of course, not limited to getting sticky and squishy mud on my person.

Before this, I was pretty convinced Merrell Trail Adventure held at Timberland last June would be tough to beat in my all-time favorite races category. But now, I am sorry to say that IMMUVIT Fearless Challenge has officially taken over the top spot.

Without Limits certainly pulled all the stops in bringing 500 runners (number of runners was only kept at a maximum of 500, by the way) all the obstacle fun their adventurous hearts can handle. If you ask me, they had me at the first obstacle – the fire wall.

Fight fire with fire…

Obstacle course no. 1: Check!

From there, it was soaring, muddy hills challenging my legs, until I reached the second obstacle – the mud pit, where I had to crawl real low before hitting the trail running, again. By this time, I was already on fire – totally unperturbed by my state of disarray (hair ugly, face muddy, etc)!

Then came the log walls where I had to leap over logs of varying height – some of them as high as my chest, making it almost impossible for my short legs to jump over! For this, I had to step on the proffered hand by the marshall, haul my body off the ground, hug the log like a friggin’ monkey and jump over to the other side. That, too, was a lot of fun!

After covering more ground – or mud – I finally reached the military wall where I caught up with a few more runners from Wave 5, of which I was part of. It was here that my gloves first found its purpose because I had to climb up the nylon rope to get to the platform on top before sliding on my backside down to the other side of the wall. I could not have been more G.I. Jane-ish than this!

Slip sliding away… Also, I don’t think G.I. Jane ever looked this ugly!

In which my flat backside got flattened on impact again, they might as well be called pancakes! LOL.

From there, it was all running again until I reached the next obstacle course which involved  running across tire set – supposed to be good in testing one’s balance and agility – and it scared me a little bit because I’m usually very clumsy and uncoordinated with these things! Thankfully, I didn’t misstep and fall flat on my face or that would have been extremely painful and embarrassing.

Trees and mud — what’s not to love?

And then came my most favorite part of the obstacle series, the mud wall! To get to the mud wall, I had to go down the stream and wade in knee-deep waters. But alas, I slipped on the rocks and I ended up getting submerged chest-deep! Have I mentioned I’m clumsy?! At the foot of the wall, there were already a few men standing in line, waiting for the helmets to be passed to them and for the nylon ropes to be lowered so they can start with their ascent. Finally it was my turn and surprisingly, I kind of just breezed through it!

There was one more log crossing – and again, I looked like a drenched monkey clinging on to the highest of the logs – and one more fire wall before I finally crossed the finish line with the broadest smile ever seen on my face!

Sometimes I fancy myself a superhero.

I wonder how much fun I will have in the next leg of the IMMUVIT Fearless Challenge series? Can’t wait!

Thank you Benj Termulo for my compression sleeves! Finally got to wear them!

Here are more photos post-race. Enjoy!

Fearless Team REEBOK

With WITHOUT LIMITS PHILS. Race Director Ian Alacar

Team REEBOK With Jay Em of Pro Active Sports

Fearless, fierce, and all-female.

TOTAL FITNESS: Why LOVE is good for your health


NOTE: Published in this month’s TOTAL FITNESS Magazine. Grab a copy today!

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Love, it seems, has immense therapeutic potential that inspires professionals to continue exploring ways in which to channel its benefits in promoting good health, longevity, and a fulfilled life. Where there is love, intimacy cannot be too far behind. And these two, put together, often bring healing, joy, and meaning to human lives.

1.  Being in a healthy relationship keeps you fit. Literally.

But before that, a caveat: Just because you consider yourself (finally) off-the-market on account of a relationship, it doesn’t mean that you have earned the right to let go as some men/women tend to do. Being in a healthy relationship means looking after each other’s needs and in doses that are non-detrimental. Keeping it to the physical aspect of romantic relationship: Did you know that the simple act of kissing can burn up to 28 calories, while up to 30 minutes of sexual activity can burn 85 calories – the equivalent of a small glass of red wine. This might not sound like much but a vigorous session can burn up to 200 calories, which is about the same as running for 15 minutes. Sex also works the core muscles in your legs, pelvis, bottom and abdomen and can boost levels of testosterone, which leads to stronger bones and muscles. So, next time you feel like opening that bag of Cheetos, grab your beau instead.

2.  Love is a potent stress-buster

Relationships – and especially marriages – might traditionally be seen as sources of stress but supportive, long-term relationship brings mental health and physical health benefits to both the man and the woman.  To prove this point, a study published recently by researchers at the University of Chicago found that men and women in happy relationships or marriage had lower levels of stress hormone cortisol in their bodies, indicating they had reacted less to the stress. In addition, happy and fulfilling relationships have also been linked to improvements in mental and physical health and longer life expectancy.

3.  Healthy relationships promote better immune system and can help reduce pain

It has been found that optimism and positive attitude boost immunity and people who are in love and cared for in return are naturally optimistic. Going further, some studies indicate that having (safe) sex once or twice a week lead to higher levels of an infection-fighting antibody called immunoglobulin A, or IgA. Having physical contact with another person, whether kissing, cuddling or having sex, promotes the release of the hormone called oxytocin – dubbed the “love hormone”. Aside from its relaxing effect on the body, oxytocin can also reduce anxiety and help numb pain by releasing endorphins.  To demonstrate this, scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine, launched a trial whereby patients suffering from chronic headaches were given a dose of oxytocin in the form of a nasal spray. Around half of the patients administered oxytocin said their headache pain had been reduced by half and a further 27% reported no pain after four hours.

4.  Healthy sexual relationships promote longevity

On the subject of longevity, many scientists believe that good sex and orgasm may be linked to higher life expectancy. In 1997 British Medical Journal, there was a study published which reported that men who had at least two orgasms a week had less than half the risk of dying from various causes over 10 years of follow-up than those with a lower frequency of orgasm. Meanwhile, other studies have suggested that sexual dissatisfaction is a predictor of the onset of cardiovascular disease.

5.  Love and marriage alleviate depression

It’s quite common to hear people complain about their significant others driving them crazy on many occasions, but what most people don’t know is that companionship actually tends to be good for mental health—especially for women. This is particularly true when it comes to depression, which is roughly twice as common in women. According to experts, depression is a very female expression of psychological distress and the benefit of marriage shows up in women in lower levels of depression. Marriage also appears to be a stabilizing force in women with bipolar disorder. Married bipolar women have fewer and milder depressive episodes than their never-married counterparts, but the same trend is somehow absent in bipolar men.

6. Financial Stability and insurance

Believe it or not, married people are more financially stable than their single counterparts.  By recognizing the fact that they now form part of a partnership, couples tend to become more conscious of their expenses, savings, and the pursuit of a comprehensive insurance for their family in the future. While worrying less about money certainly helps reduce stress and anxiety, financial stability also impacts health in a more concrete way, via access to health care. Marriage is associated with a hearty increase in the likelihood of having health insurance for both parties.

So, are love, relationship, and marriage good for your health? In general, as research and studies suggest, YES. People who are in happy and fulfilling relationships tend to live longer, have better access to insurance and health care, enjoy a more satisfying and exciting sex life, experience less stress, live a healthier lifestyle, and have lower rates of serious illnesses and depression compared to their single counterparts. Now, if you happen to be in a relationship and you don’t see or feel any of these, then it’s time to evaluate the situation and work on changing the course.

SPEED Magazine: Wanna get FIT? There’s an app for that!


Like a lot of people who have crossed the 30-year mark and are beginning to experience increasingly slowing metabolism, I am under a lot of pressure to keep fit – both for aesthetics and health reasons. But when you have a job that requires you to work beyond 9 hours and travel frequently abroad, not to mention, one or two extra curricular activities you dabble in outside of work, it becomes a major challenge to slot-in a sustainable fitness regimen.

But thanks to great discoveries in fitness technology, people like me who barely have time to visit fitness clubs (I enrolled for a one-year program at 360 and have only visited the club less than 10 times in four months), now have access to games such as Xbox 360 Kinect add-on or Nintendo Wii Fit and do workout at home instead. I don’t own either of these two but what I do have and I must say I am quite hooked on these days are mobile apps that let me share my accomplishments with online friends and fellow fitness freaks.  The latest crop of fitness technology –pumped up with gaming and social networking features – certainly add a deeper level of fun to the usual sweat and burn.

Currently, there is an onslaught of apps that are downloadable for free or for a minimal download fee. When it comes to health and fitness, here are some of the ones that I have on my iPad, which I try to update as often as my schedule permits me.

1. MyFitnessPal. Before getting started with this program, make sure to key in basic information about your current weight, height, activity level, goal weight etc. MyFitnessPal app allows you to set goals for yourself make suggestions on how much calories you should be consuming everyday in order to reach your goal according to the timeline you have set. You can log in the food you eat and this app will tell you how many calories that food contains. Furthermore, it also helps you monitor and keep track of your exercise and the amount of calories you burn for each workout session. The app shows your weight loss over time in a graph format, which you can share with your friends anytime.

2. Fitness Pro. With Fitness pro you can easily create your own workout plan. It has 450+ exercise photos of real people that help you find the right exercise routines for you. Fitness Pro 2.0 contains an advanced logging system that can assist you in tracking your progress. Just start logging your exercises during training so you can track your progress in detail.

3. LoseIt. Get closer to success when it comes to weight loss with LoseIt! Set goals and establish a daily calorie budget that enables you to meet them. Stay on track each day by recording your food and exercise and being conscious of your allowable calorie consumption. This app has a track record of helping the average active Lose It! lose more than 12lbs .  Now who needs lipsosuction when you have this app to help you shed excess weight?

To ensure that you keep to your health and fitness goals as the year continues to get busier for you, here are simple ways you can follow:

1. Make your goals visible.

I’m sure you’re just as tired of making resolutions that don’t get fulfilled just like the next person but probably one of the reasons why you have a hard time seeing your goals through is because they are not visible. I recommend that you put “I WILL…” and your resolution on the homepage of your computer, your mobile device, and your monitor at work so that your goals are in your face every time you power up your machine, make a phone call, or check your email.

2. Go on social media.

Self-pandering or not, you gotta admit that social media is a great tool to help support your resolution. Start out by announcing a measurable, attainable goal with a deadline (ideally the first quarter of 2012) and invite your Facebook and Twitter friends who can help support your initiative by training with you, sharing healthy recipes, providing you with extra motivation at work, or simply not tempting you with treats along the way.

3. Keep track of your performance.

Use an online workout tracker like Dailymile or download mobile device apps such as MyFitnessPal to help you keep track of your performance and identify trends to help you better succeed. Core Performance tracking and reporting tools allow you to track your weight, energy levels, quality of sleep, pain and soreness, productivity, overall mood, impact on others, and willingness to train. Fill in your trackers daily and see your progress charted over time in your Reports section.

On All Things Brave and Sexy.


It being a Sunday and F1 Race Day at that, I will keep my post as concise and straightforward as possible. At least, I will try.

How many of you have seen the movie Hunger Games? Show of hands! One, two, 300. Good for you. I haven’t. Yet. Now, how many of you have read the book – at least the first installment of the trilogy – before making a beeline for the cinema? I see a few hands raised, good! Now I’m probably one of the many who crammed reading The Hunger Games in anticipation of the global premiere last Thursday – except that I haven’t made a trip to the cinema just yet.

In which my 'hunger' turned out to be just transitory.

I have read The Hunger Games, yes. In fact, I finished the book in less than 12 hours – totally sacrificing some precious hours of sleep – first, because I didn’t want to be the only person on the planet who’s clueless about the book that has the whole world raving about Suzanne Collins and second, well, because I found it riveting enough not to put it down until I’ve read it from cover to cover.

I think Katniss Everdeen is all things brave and sexy…at the beginning and all the way to her emergence as one of the victors of the 75th Hunger Games and even farther down the intricate labyrinth of gore and brutality of the Quarterly Quell in Catching Fire (Book 2) – where she was ‘conveniently’ thrown back into the death arena along with the living victors of the previous hunger games.

But when Mockingjay, the final installment of the trilogy, opened to our favorite heroine’s pained ambivalence and annoying ‘uncooperative’ spirit just when the wheels of the revolution against the evil dictatorship of President Snow and the Capitol, have already been set in motion – I couldn’t help but feel pangs of disappointment. I thought – and not that Katniss cared about what my thoughts are – she was being fickle-minded and selfish by hesitating to see the revolution down the wire. But then again, perhaps, I, too, am being unfair by denying her the right to be human and therefore be susceptible to feelings of doubt, self-loathing, and vulnerability. After all, I was not the one who was forced to kill and watch other tributes die in the most brutal way possible in order to save the people I love.

It turns out, I’m not alone in this. My friend Gail was just as disappointed with Mockingjay and having my feelings validated like that has officially killed whatever little excitement I still harbor for the once-anticipated climax.  But since I got the box set, I feel it would be doing my hard-earned money a disservice by not finishing the book – however long it would take me to read it because frankly, I am no longer psyched. Katniss and her emotional outbursts have become excruciatingly boring.

***

You know what else is brave and sexy? Having tested for HIV.  I hope all of you reading this post right now are not viewing my declaration with myopic eyes. Take away your predilection for sanctimonious behavior and self-righteousness just for a moment and instead, think of the staggering number of Filipinos now confirmed to have been infected by the virus and are consequently reeling  – if not dying – from its full-blown effect. The last thing they need is your coldhearted judgment or worse, apathy.

We live in dangerous times and the sooner we accept that, the smarter and more vigilant we will be in handling certain situations we still have control over. Like staying HIV and STI-free, for example.

Sexy and I know it!

Late last year, my dear friend Noel and I signed up for the HIV/AIDS seminar, after which, we got certified by the Department of Health (DOH) as peer educators or volunteers whose main vocation is to help spread knowledge and information about this dreaded virus and hopefully, prevent it from spreading far and wide. Sadly, if you go by statistics shared by the DOH and independent parties, the number of confirmed HIV cases is rising.  However, that can also be viewed positively (no pun intended) as perhaps having the shroud of ignorance and denial being lifted, little by little, which has resulted to more people getting tested and myths getting busted, i.e., AIDS is a gay disease (IT IS NOT!) – thanks to the small number of social-medical workers and volunteers who make it their mission to drum-up support for a vigilant HIV-prevention strategy coming from all sectors of the society.

With photographer and dear friend Noel Abelardo.

As volunteers, we share our two best and readily available resources: time and talent, for the purpose of advancing this noble mission. Take Noel, for example, who makes use of his great photography skills by conducting an open ‘themed’ photoshoot and sharing chunk of the proceeds with Take The Test and its various programs including free testing/screening, counseling, seminar, and certification.

In which Ian tries to make me look presentable for the lens. Napagod yata siya dun.

I just came from the second Official Take The Test Open photo shoot session and I am simply in awe of the volunteers who share so much of themselves, and selflessly at that. I am especially in awe of Atche and his commitment to this cause.

Remember, you aren’t brave or sexy enough if you don’t take responsibility for your sexual behavior.  Whatever you do, remember these five letters: A, B, C, D, and E.

A = Abstinence

B = Be Faithful

C = Consistent and Correct way of using condoms and other protection

D = Don’t do Drugs or drink alcohol

E = Early detection

Be guided by this 5-point rule book and save your own life and that of your loved ones.

***

In other (BREAKING!!!) news, FERNANDO ALONSO claims victory at the 2012 F1 Malaysia Grand Prix against all odds – especially Sergio Perez’s relentless pursuit of his Ferrari! This has got to be one of the best races I have ever seen and one I prayed hard for. So hard, in fact, that I almost reached for my bible and just clutch it really close to my heart. I know it sounds ridiculous but I’m really hoping this would be a Ferrari year. Okay, fine, an Alonso year. I really think he’s the best driver in F1 today and it’s unfortunate that his car is taking a while to adjust to levels where it can be considered worthy of going wheel-to-wheel with the McLaren and Mercedes cars.

Even today in Sepang, he had a bit of a tough time shaking off the relentless Sergio Perez who, by the way, is rumored to be on top of Ferrari’s shopping list for a Massa replacement. A long time coming for Massa, I would say. I can imagine his self-esteem taking a wild beating each and every time Alonso would outperform him – which happens to be all the time. Maybe it’s really time for him to pack his bags and let someone else take the Ferrari wheel. It’s painful to watch him being relegated merely as a charity case.

Oh would you look at that! Over a thousand words already and I did say I wanted to keep this short! Si Fernando Alonso kasi eh!  Anyway, I hope you guys had a fantastic weekend. Mine is superb on so many levels and not just because of today’s Take The Test activity and Alonso’s F1 victory.  If you would allow these few words of sharing: I am happy because finally, I can see God’s hand at work in my life and I am happy to finally be in a state of genuine gratitude and need for His presence.

Race Event: Kick The Habit 2 (Run and Love A Healthy Lifestyle)


I used to smoke. In fact, I started quite early – just a few months after I started college. It was, plain and simple, peer pressure at work. I didn’t want to be left out and so I did what I thought was the wisest thing to do at that time – I conformed. Though I wouldn’t really consider myself a heavy smoker back in those days, I took the nasty nicotine habit with me until the time I started building my career.

I remember making one or two attempts in the past to kick the habit and I may have succeeded for maybe a couple of months before I would get lured back in. Until the day I turned 28 and decided it was time for me to chuck the stick and embrace a healthier, fitter lifestyle – so I went cold turkey. Now it has been almost five years since and I am proud to say that I have never snuck a single puff. Neither do I intend to sneak one – EVER.

In fact, I did more than just kick the smoking habit; I also turned my back on alcohol – now only limiting myself to just a glass or two of wine with my fiance, and only when we are celebrating certain occasions.

Shorty after going cold turkey on both nicotine and alcohol, I took up running. When I did my first 5k race, incidentally my first race ever, I realized just how badly I had compromised my lung’s health condition with all those years of unhealthy lifestyle – compounded by poor diet, lack of sleep, and smoking/drinking. Though I finished the 5k course in 30 minutes and a few seconds, I was gasping for breath and in a very bad way by the time I crossed the finish line.

So now, I am an anti-smoking advocate. It is for this reason that I am giving my all-out support to the upcoming race event called KICK THE HABIT, which is now on its second year. Ask the people behind this advocacy and they will tell you this:

Stop smoking and start running.

I kicked the habit five years ago. Don't you think it's time you do so, too?

Kick the Habit fun run was started in November 14, 2010 at the Newport City in Pasay where Department of Health’s Dr. Eric Tayag, celebrities Arnel Ignacio and Bearwin Meily led 1,200 anti- smoking advocates and running enthusiasts in the first-ever anti-smoking campaign thru running.

Because of the success of the first Kick The Habit fun run, bigger groups have pitched-in, realizing the potential of the project as a continuing program and advocacy for future generations.

This time, non- smoking advocates, lead by actor/director Cesar Montano, stage actress/ singer Jamie Rivera, PBA/NBA star player Billy Ray Bates, actor /host Alvin Anson, actress/singer/endorser Roxanne Barcelo, dancer/ singer Young JV, social enterpreneur, Jay Lizarondo, lay missionary, Clarke Nebrao, actor and TV personality Victor Aliwalas, businessman Alven Torres, multiple car racer winner Alvin Ng, model Ariane Esperas, celebrity endorser Lana Roi, songwriter Jojo Toledo and civic club officer Ely Fenger in cooperation with the Pasig and Mandaluyong City government, Philippine Sports Commission, MMDA, Healthway Medical, Chris Sports and GWorld Inc., have joined efforts in putting up the 2nd “Kick the Habit Campaign: Run & Love a Healthy Lifestyle” on February 26, 2012 5:00a.m. at the ULTRA, Pasig City.

Runner-Bloggers against Smoking

Now bigger, the Fun Run with distances of 1K, 3K, 5K and 10K aims to gather 2,000 to 5,000 participants (mostly students who are next in line to carry the campaign) who shall continually embrace “the Healthy and Active Lifestyle.”

Proceeds of the project will go to the Helping Overcome Poverty Thru Education (HOP- E Foundation).

Other activities the Kick the Habit team has lined up are concerts, health seminars, running clinics and various events in Visayas, Mindanao and overseas.

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Interested parties can register at any Healthway Medical and Chris Sports clinics within Metro Manila or they can contact GWorld Inc. at 719-0184, 215-0512 or email: gworldeventspecialists@gmail.com  and Visions in Action Enterprises, Inc.at 740-7074 or email: runproudpinoy@yahoo.com.

Take The Test!


So last Monday, in a move to drum up support for sexual health advocacies and increase awareness for HIV/AIDS and its perils, I invited my dear friend and social worker, Tony B., to give a 30-minute talk to the staff on the subject matter. He dished out hard truths and statistical data concerning the current state of sexual health in the country and they were truly sobering. And I mean sobering, even I had to do several double-takes.

Thank you Tony!

For example, did you know that the number of HIV cases in the country has reached astronomical levels, chances are, you know someone who has the virus without having to go all the way through six degrees of separation? That we are now inching closer to Thailand’s HIV record and that is in no way helping us given the many other socio-political challenges we are currently facing? That – and for this you may need to sit down, I think – women are, now more than ever, more promiscuous than men and the only difference is that they do NOT talk about it like men do?

The only silver lining we see here is that somehow, according to Tony, Philippines has better HIV support system (as) compared with neighboring countries battling the same problem. HIV-positive people can actually gain access to free medicine and other support systems just as long as (1.) They are AWARE, and (b.) They KNOW where to go. So you see, AWARENESS is crucial. Knowing is already winning half the battle. And mind you, having HIV is no longer synonymous to a death sentence in this day and age. But of course, that does NOT in any way, justify you carrying on with your risky and indiscriminate sexual behavior.

What’s the first step? Take the test – TODAY! Kudos to those who have taken a proactive and vigilant stance on this and actually submit themselves to HIV testing on a regular basis. For highly sexually active people, it is recommended that you get tested once a year, or more, if you have been rather naughty. I have had myself tested twice this year and there is NO shame in that. Like some people, I happen to like being in the know and this is where I want to be two steps ahead in the health game, no ifs and buts. Monogamy seems to have taken on a whole new twisted dimension, or so I’ve been told. Most of you may still be of a different opinion when it comes to the M word, but they say these days, when you are in a committed relationship and you have sex with another person BUT used protection, that still qualifies as monogamy. Pretty sad, huh? Imagine the unpretty, unpalatable scenarios now playing in my head, thanks to my overactive imagination and absolute lack of trust and faith in people. So, yeah, it’s not you, it’s definitely me – and my trust issues.:)

Here at work, we believe that knowledge, indeed, is power.:)

Going back to the talk, we are thankful to Tony for taking time out of his very busy social work schedule to drive home some very basic yet excessively serious points on sexual health and being responsible adults that unfortunately, we all tend to disregard or treat with a great deal of disinterest, sometimes.

At the end of his talk, 11 of us from work submitted ourselves for HIV rapid test (95.something percent accurate) and the test results came back non-reactive for all of us! Yey! Except for Noel and I, it was the first time for the rest of them to take the test and I’m just happy that they volunteered. Besides, HIV testing is not covered by our HMO and I heard it costs around 400 to 600 pesos to have it done in clinics – we only donated 100 each. Tipid, di ba?

11 out of 11 Passed!

On a serious note (as if the last 300 words or so were some form of jest, haha), I’m really encouraging you guys out there to take the  test. I mean, sure, you may be 110% confident about your monogamous ways BUT you can never be too trusting of your partner’s. You don’t know where that merchandise has been dipped into before coming home to your eager arms. Am I being too harsh and judgmental here? Maybe, maybe not. But whatever, trust your own instincts and protect yourself – at all times – because believe me, if there is one test you would want to pass with flying colors, HIV test would be it.

Lastly, glove up and lube up! There is no shame in that either.

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Note: EDITED to add this.

If you want to join the crusade for ZERO HIV infections; ZERO Discrimination; ZERO AIDS-related deaths, sign up for this race and visit the website here for a dose of fact and figures concerning HIV/AIDS.

Act NOW!