Saturday, May 5, 2007

A set of three important words

I never thought I was capable of saying them. Several years ago, it would have been unheard of. From me, anyway.

"Tama na po!"

I bet you are thinking of what context these three words were used. I bet too that some of you might even been thinking of something naughty. Well, to set the records straight from the beginning, here is the story.

I was in West Covina, one late morning last week to purchase a balikbayan box. West Covina is now one of the hubs of Filipino activities in Southern California, with lots of big supermarkets, restaurants, bakeries, small stores, banks, and other remittances offices. I got hungry after I acquired the box, and Toto's Lechon was just around the corner. Time for an early lunch.

The array of trays of foods are mouth-watering, more so if you are hungry. The grill is right there behind the counter, so you can smell the delicious aroma of burning meat, like barbecued chicken and pork chops. The smoke goes up the vent, but some is left inside the store, to permeate to the unconscious mind the idea of a home-cooked meal.

The two-course combination lunch costs around five dollars. Before I made my selection, the lady scooped two heaping full ladles of rice on my plate, then added some more. Normally, I would have welcomed that generosity. I like rice. No, I love rice!

And that's when I said: "Tama na po." "Isang sandok lang."

Still reverberating in my mind were all the comments and greetings bestowed upon me by friends and relatives I had not seen for quite sometime during my last vacation in March to the Philippines.

"Ang taba mo!" Oh, there's another three words.

When I was growing up, it was a nice thing to say--a compliment really, because it meant you were not starving, or you were eating healthy. Being payat then was synonymous to a lack of healthy food, or just plain food. The rich people were mataba, the poor, payat.

But maybe not so anymore nowadays. Maybe I was just mataba. Period.

Well, probably so. I gained five more pounds while I was on vacation. So, one of the things I promised to do was lose a few pounds when I got back. I remembered when my first daughter got married, I went into a diet mode. Hundreds of pictures were going to be taken, not to mention the video of the ceremonies and reception. By simply eating less, with the same daily activities without joining any exercise facilities, I was able to get down to my desirable weight.

This time is a different story though. It's much harder to lose weight because of my age. My metabolism is down. I don't burn as many calories as before. And maybe, I am not as active as before too.

Anyway, the lady with the ladle gave herself a quiet smile. Or maybe it was a grin. I didn't ask why. I just assumed she had the idea that rice causes my weight problem. Or she was happy that there would be more rice for others. Or maybe she asked herself why I did not offer to cut down on the pork chop and lumpia. What? Sira ba ang ulo niya?

Anyway, in a span of six weeks, I lost ten pounds. I weigh myself everyday, sometimes morning, afternoon and evening. I eat more fruits and vegetables. More fish and chicken. Less rice and bread. I cut down also on soda. Eat the same amount of nuts. Consume the same amount of wine. But basically, I just eat less. No more second servings. No more evening snacks while watching TV. Sometimes, I can not believe my self. I found self-control!

Would it have something to do with my chest pains lately? Or the stories I heard about friends and relatives having strokes or heart attacks? Or the constant reminders from my better half? Or maybe both.

Today, while waiting for the doctor in the private waiting room for my three-month follow up- checkup, I noticed a poster on the wall. It gave the ideal weight for a person's height. Something that has to do with body fat ratio. Mine, at five feet seven inches, I should be 153 pounds at the heaviest. Wow, is that right? I have another thirteen pounds to go?

I had the urge to rip that poster off the wall right then and there. And when I calmed down and mellowed out, I thought of another way to combat this angry feeling. I took out my pen and wrote on one corner of the poster the initials ATM. And this I hope will be my rallying cry to succeed.

Wish me luck with my new ATM motto: "Ang Taba Mo."

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