WHO does not want to be fit and fabulous? When we look good, we feel damn good. Unfortunately, some of us are just not blessed with the genes that make us naturally slim. Most people have to sweat it out and eat a balanced diet in order to be lean and shapely. Typically, people are motivated to transform themselves via exercise and diet at the start of the year (like where we are now). But the reality is this kinda bod isn’t achieved via a one-time, instant thing; it has to be a lifestyle change.
No one knows this concept more than my fitspiration—my cousin-in-law, Yvette Roxas Payot. She is someone who takes fitness seriously, after going through a period where she battled obesity, along with her biggest battle: fighting for her own life. Obesity was a side effect brought on by steroid medication used to treat her lupus (the latter almost killed her).
She said: “Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks normal healthy tissue, resulting to inflammation, swelling, and damage to joints. Steroids were used to reduce my inflammation. Unfortunately, the side-effects are water retention and increase in appetite. I really ate a lot and weight just piled-up. There was a point where my waistline was 40 plus inches. And that was large for my petite height.”
Yvette had a pretty normal body size growing up and most of her adult life. But on August 18, 2009, after giving birth to her second child, PJ; she had massive hemorrhage and from the operating room where she had her c-section, she was sent directly to the ICU.
She narrated: “I don’t really know what happened. I had a very healthy pregnancy. Up until my due date, I was brining my older child to school. But somehow, after my caesarean, my body just shut down. Of course, at that time I was not aware of what was happening. I just sensed that they (the medical professionals in the OR) were in panic mode. As if all hell broke loose! Later on I found out that my platelet count dropped to 16,000; when the normal is between 150,000 to 450,000 units.”
Yvette ended up being in a coma for 2 days. All in all, she spent two weeks in the ICU and another two weeks in a regular room. She ended up receiving multiple bags of platelet concentrate and RBC (red blood cells). By the time she left the hospital, she found out that the culprit for her traumatic birthing episode was lupus. Unfortunately, this is a chronic disease that she has to deal with for the rest of her life.
“I will be honest,” she exclaimed. “I was barely functional when I left the hospital. I could hardly take care of my new baby. Thankfully, my mom is very supportive and she stepped-up to care for the kids, along with my husband, Jude. For awhile, I did not feel like me at all. Why did that happen to me? I was really depressed—I gained a lot of weight, none of my clothes fit, I couldn’t be there for my kids, I did not feel good about myself, and I did not want to see anyone. That went on for several years.”
Finally, the tipping point came when Yvette went to see her doctor again when PJ was already 3 years old. Her physician wanted to put her on anti-depressants because she had lost her zest for living. She couldn’t even get out of bed without any assistance. Having a nursing background, she knew the harsh side-effects of these drugs, and she did not want to bombard her already fragile body with these meds. She bargained with him and asked for a chance to turn her life around.
Yvette turned to walking and zumba. She said, “In the beginning, it felt weird because I was so big and I got tired easily. Grabe na hangos (labored-breathing). I prayed and asked God to bless me. That blessing came thru the people in the gym who were very supportive, so I just kept on doing it. I also enjoyed dancing because it didn’t feel like exercise. It was like a happy pill in itself. That got me motivated, and I told myself to choose healthier food. As time passed, the pounds just melted off.”
It took another three years of physical activity for her to shrink back to the fit body that she now possesses. So from being dependent on someone to get out of bed, she went from walking, to zumba, and now running 10km. She added: “I don’t deprive myself now. I don’t diet, but I eat in moderation. I am lucky that I don’t have a sweet tooth so I mostly indulge on sud-an (viands). And of course, I can no longer live without exercise.”
Yvette explained further: “I love zumba, and if there’s a fun run, I really join. These small things make me happy. It feels good to be able to sweat because it takes away my stress. With lupus, I really have to manage my health well because if I feel anxious, that’s when my symptoms flare up. And I don’t want to be sick anymore because I have my two children who depend on me.”
Five months ago, her doctors informed her she has a line fracture on her lumbar5 (one of the bones in the spine). They suspect it has a lot to do with steroid use because it weakens the bones. Yvette was a bit sad for awhile because she had to rest from zumba and she had to stop weight lifting; but she never stopped walking. After 3 months of rest, she got permission to join zumba, and she’s having the time of her life dancing again.
“Exercise really adds to the quality of my life. If someone like me who has this disease and who’s in my second life can have the time and the energy for exercise, anyone can!” she encouraged with a smile. Fitness is really not just a goal but a way of life. Every single day is another chance for each one of us to be stronger, eat healthier, and live better. Let’s always choose to be the best version of ourselves.
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Published in the SunStar Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 11, 2018.