Passions and Obsessions

‘Peg ko si Jennifer Aniston’: Diary of a (nearly) middle-aged woman

In the first of four-part series, the author's no-filter account of her pursuit of wellness

The author in May 2023

Part 1: Inching closer to 50

So, we’re done with the first two months of the new year. How’s our resolution to be healthy and fit going?

In the last hours of 2023, my Instagram feed was flooded with so many programs swearing to help one get back in shape to welcome the new year. It brought me back to June last year, when the reality of ageing hit me. I decided, as I inch closer to 50, that it’s time for me to be healthy and physically fit.

I’ve always had a scale obsession, and the desire to be thinner is my Roman empire. I’ve always wanted to be able to confidently wear a white shirt and jeans. God knows how much I had spent on gym memberships and class fees all these years. But getting the actual work done has always—always—been a struggle for me.

In early 2022, I experienced sudden weight gain. My joint pains, triggered by a bout with chikungunya in 2016, recurred. I had trouble sleeping. The symptoms bothered me.

I realized that instead of getting thin, to be in a physically good condition should be my goal. I knew I had to do something. How do I do this? How do I begin?

By chance, I came across my friend Chelie Arabelo’s posts on Instagram about leading a healthy lifestyle. She’s a functional medicine certified health coach and a professional chef.

I reached out to Chelie and told her my symptoms. She told me she could get me into her program, which could lead to an improvement of my overall well-being. It sounded exciting and promising. I signed up with her care team because I felt I needed help to improve.

The care team, from left: Ken Rioveros, Chelie Arabelo, Dr. Aisa Yamamoto, Ayer Ayo

When I met with Chelie, Dr. Aisa Yamamoto, a general and functional medicine practitioner, functional nutritionist-dietitian Ayer Ayo, and fitness coach Ken Rioveros to discuss my health and fitness goals, I told them, “Peg ko si Jennifer Aniston.” The Hollywood star is turning 55 this year, and she’s as gorgeous as ever.

I didn’t mean I wanted to be as gorgeous as Jennifer Aniston, because that’s a shot even farther than the moon. What I meant was, I was inspired by the actress’ new fitness philosophy, which she had talked about in an interview last year.

Aniston said while she used to punish herself with grueling workouts, she’s now focused on “functional exercise” that involves “mindfulness” and “small movements.” Her ultimate goal is to be healthy, strong, and independent even in her twilight years. I’d like that, too.

Unlike Aniston, however, I have never committed myself to a daily workout regimen, despite having signed up with so many different gyms through the years and having tried different exercises like swimming, barre3, yoga, even adult ballet.

The author, second from left, as a skinny child.

I was a skinny child, but when I hit puberty, I started packing on the weight. I loved to eat, and my metabolism began to slow down like a three-toed sloth.

I was at my heaviest when I graduated from college. I hit almost 150 lbs—and I’m only 5’1 ½”. I never liked looking at my graduation photos because I looked like a blob.

Many years ago, a good friend of mine casually asked me if I didn’t feel insecure being with my friends who were all slender. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. So, I signed up at a gym with him. Thought that was enough motivation for me to lose the extra pounds? Naah. I rarely showed up for our workouts.

The author at her thinnest as an adult. Year 2008.

In 2008, I underwent body sculpting, which was actually a full-body liposuction. It was a bit daring, I know, but I never regreted that decision because it helped me achieve the physique I’ve always wanted. At some point, I even went down to 112 lbs.

I did gain weight through the years, but they were easy to lose. There were years when I struggled with the extra pounds, but always, somehow I managed to shed them off.

The last time I felt healthy and satisfied with the way I looked was in December 2021. That was the last time I got to wear the cute 10-year-old pink dress I’ve always worn when I felt “thin.”

In early 2022, I knew I wasn’t overeating, though I admittedly lacked exercise, but I wondered why I suddenly gained weight, and there were days when I felt bloated.

By May of that year, I signed up for one-on-one boxing classes, inspired by BTS’ Jungkook, who always makes exercising look thrilling. I needed to get rid of the excess pounds, and I also wanted to punch away the anger and disappointment over the results of the presidential elections.

In my first session, the exercise knocked the wind out of me. I thought I would improve in the next sessions, but it only became worse. I also started waking up in the middle of the night, and had a hard time going back to bed. I felt lethargic in the mornings. All these, on top of my joint and muscle pains.

I have a high threshold for pain, but the exhaustion and lethargy were new. I had no clue what was happening to me.

(Part 2: What’s with the fatigue and joint pain?)

About author


Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama.

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