Still fighting the fat

I lost the genetic lottery, being born in a family predisposed to obesity and all the ailments of fat people. Weight has been a constant battle for me but I’ve been fat for most of my life.

I can only remember five times when my body mass index was within normal for my height – childhood until Grade 3 (before I had to puff steroids for my asthma), a brief month-long stretch after a bout of dengue fever when I was 14, three years in college, a brief spell around my graduation from master’s, and during my wedding.

It was a battle getting my weight down (and I have succeeded most times) but I am too darn lax/stressed/depressed to keep it down for longer stretches. And it’s pretty tough to beat science without effort (something to do with the body being used to having that many big fat cells). Body type’s a bitch too, being a pudgy endomorph.

Now that I’ve breached the damn 3-oh mark, I don’t need a doctor to tell me that I should be taking care of myself a tad more. But despite the big scare earlier this year, I chomped my way to being 20 lbs overweight just more than a month. Just around that time, my wife and I were starting to get excited with the prospect of getting our own place and investing to fund our travel plans.

That’s when the proverbial moment of clarity struck: I got to live to enjoy that.

And one thing that would help me reach that is to get myself healthy. So on to my hopefully final effort to get my weight down. In previous efforts, I had to rely mainly on dieting mainly through calorie counting. I did stretches of taking in less than 1,300 calories a day and that helped me drop pounds quick. It was tough, constantly minding what I can and can’t eat.

Now, however, I decided that diet wouldn’t be my way to go anymore. I’ll stick to my allowable 1,700 daily calorie (which meant I could eat five small meals a day without fussing too much about how many calories eat bite would pack) but introduce myself to a daily workout regimen. Besides, science has proven that physical activity is better than dieting alone. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) helps remedy heart and blood chemistry issues.

It’s been a bit over a month since I’ve started doing circuit training and low-impact HIIT and I haven’t really lost much weight. I was only able to lose half-a-pound a week on average. I was able to lose 1 to 2 lbs a week doing the diet thing. So weight-wise and shape-wise, it seems that I’m not getting results. It’s now a matter of convincing myself that this is for the long haul and that I shouldn’t be it for instant results.

The good thing is that I do feel myself getting stronger and that my cardio has improved as I’ve finally gotten my legs back to power my three-point shots during our weekly basketball games and that sprinting up and down the court’s not that big a deal anymore.

I’m glad that I’m able to keep it up for this long despite work-life balance being perennially wrecked by work. Hopefully, I can power on through.

Premature

up-basketball-bonfire-joker-meme

A sigh of relief as UP’s Men’s Basketball Team finally notched a win after two years and 27 losses? No. Talk about going all out to celebrate the losing-streak breaking win with a bonfire. It’s the first time in my existence as a maroon that I remember UP holding one.

And for what? To celebrate one win.

I do appear to be cynical by saying that but holding a bonfire is a reaction that is way out of proportion to the reality. If UP is all about honor and excellence, then the bonfire is an ugly misinterpretation of those ideals.

Defining honor. I’m all about creating a winning culture and that entails staying grounded after breaking a pathetic losing streak. The bonfire’s like throwing a pie in the face of Adamson after knocking them down. I think the bonfire would’ve been palatable for me if we won over some stronger team and not the other weakest in the yard. What gives us the right to start walking as if we had the biggest swinging dicks in the yard? Until that win, we were the other whipping boy. I expected UP to have been more humble victors given the context.

Defining excellence. So is ending losing streaks now our benchmark for bonfire-worthy achievements? UP boasts of a long line of champions from other sports (and from other disciplines) but when did we ever give them such a fan fare? When did we ever glorify not-being-last? In sports, premature celebrations get laughed at and yet here we are enabling one. If holding a bonfire after one win in the middle of a season isn’t premature celebration then I don’t know what is.

Anyway, so all of this has happened and many had their thrill with the win and the bonfire and all. The monkey’s off the back. What now? I’d say get a grip and get over it.

This should be the first real step towards excellence for the MBT. Build on the high and use this win as a springboard to more victories. In football, the most dangerous minutes for a team are the ones after the team has scored a goal.

And for the management and the admin, maybe it’s time to start addressing underlying issues rather than going mental after resolving one symptom. Start building a true winning culture.

For your viewing pleasure, here’s a list of embarrassing premature celebrations in sports. Learn from these, damnit.

Tossed in the blend

Despite the hopes of creating a blended learning environment, real limitations exist in how technology can be made available inside and outside the Philippine classroom. As such, bulk of learning experiences still rely on brick and mortar methods.

Having worked in e-learning. I know how it has been a challenge for schools to even implement blended learning strategies and methods. One key challenge is the comfort level of teachers (especially the more senior ones) to adopt technology.

Being digital migrants (compared to learners who are digital natives), some simply view the use of technology in education as simply using projectors and computers. PowerPoint often becomes the pinnacle of educational technology, never mind if students are not at all impressed with bullet-laden slideshows accentuated by dizzying (and cheesy) animation.

It is critical to expose teachers to new ways of doing things. The problem is, many teachers aren’t even exposed to the new philosophies and approaches to teaching that are proven to be more effective in today’s environment. For example, in teaching English, it is proven that using the communicative language teaching (CLT) approach is more suitable for second language learners like us. And yet, many English teachers still go by traditional methods hooked up on grammaticality. It is in part because of the tendency to teach in the manner through which they were previously taught, in part because they aren’t even aware that there is CLT.

The cost of infrastructure is another. It is a major investment for schools to provide a 1:1 ratio laptops/projectors per classroom. Computer labs (hardware + software + networking + maintenance) remain to be a blows to schools’ budgets. Having competent and sustainable IT support is also a challenge. Many have made a killing by offering overpriced IT services to tech unsavvy school administrators.

Internet speed and cost also remains dismal. How can we use the wealth of information already made available if a single class of 30 using a connection throws back the whole school infrastructure to dial up speeds on a per user basis. Good luck loading educational videos with that.

Now there will be much buzz about flipped classrooms. Flipped classrooms are where the fact parts of learning is taken out of the classroom (goodbye, boring lectures). Instead, students get to learn these things prior to classroom engagement thanks to internet and digital resources. Classroom learning now becomes an opportunity for mentoring, collaboration, and accomplishment of performance tasks that enhance, re-align, and elaborate on the information the students have discovered online.

It all appears to be quite nice. It’s the “in” thing in international education conferences an soon, in local conferences. It would be quite tragic to see how it would be spun by many an “expert” as the panacea educators are waiting for without having to discuss the real issues that need to be addressed.

Getting paid

Funny thing. I was working on the yearly performance evaluation and appraisal forms of staff (and mine) when this article (on “Why You Can’t Rely on a Salary to Get Rich“) from Business Insider popped up. Talk about the Internet gods doing their inception thing.

It’s not really a unique concept to me. Ever since I got a bit smart about how capitalism works, I’ve known that being employed (particularly if you’re not a C-level executive for a large firm) is simply being a cog to the machine and that no matter how well you perform, you’re still just making others’ dreams come true.

Sure some employees have also grown with their companies. Let’s take Google’s first employees for example. They got stock options and many were able to cash them in for millions. But still, that’s chump change compared to the founders’ billions. Never mind if it only ever works if the company made it big.

Employers can be quite generous but not everyone. If there’s an employer that values their people more than their bottom line, then that’s more likely an exception rather than the rule. I know some business owners who talk big when it comes to mission statements and corporate values and yet elects to reward themselves first over their people who have made sacrifices to build someone else’s business.

So why aren’t many Filipinos ditch employment and go on to become business owners?

Putting up a business is a challenge. The Philippines hates small businesses. Take out the inherent challenges of the market and you’re still left with the miles and miles of red tape you have to navigate just to legally set it up. There’s also  the issue of capital where you do need a substantial war chest to fund your business through its growth phases.

Plenty of young Filipinos have done it, but it’s usually with the help of “investors” in the form of rich parents. Probably why I simply carry more respect for entrepreneurs who built their business with grit over those who had generous benefactors to kickstart their efforts.

Now, it’s quite tempting to launch into a rant about how the system is totally anti-development and that the status quo is inherently a hegemonic ploy to keep the electorate dumb and middle class few and antsy. They are.

That said, I think that owning a business is the way to go for me. Helping others build theirs can get pretty tiring. I’d like to think that I’m taking time to learn and build a war chest but that little goblin at the back of my mind is screaming, “No better time than the present!” I am just acknowledging the challenges of building one and contextualize why employment remains to be a popular and quite secure way of earning a living.

The big fundamentals

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Fundamentals. Ever since I developed the maturity to self-learn, I always insisted on getting the fundamentals right early on. Bad habits are hard to break and simply winging it can impede progress later on.

For some reason, the PBA doesn’t quite sit well with me. I was a fan of the old Alaska team with Johnny Abarrientos and Tim Cone’s triangle but I lost interest after that when the league regressed into all that personality-driven “Baranggay” Ginebra fanfare.

Whenever I stray into watching PBA games, it really strikes me how fundamentally unsound many PBA players are. Just take a look at stats. We consider someone who shoots field goals at 40% and threes at 30% a good shooter. That’s poor in the NBA. And how unfit players can be. Just take a look at Beau Belga. I don’t think any decent team would let their players remain 70 lbs overweight for his entire career.

Perhaps because I’m spoiled by NBA-level basketball where being fundamentally unsound is the exception. There’s also a certain aesthetic with how great teams like the Spurs play. Sure there’s the individual talent. But there’s also that certain something with the kind of basketball they play for fans and students of the game.

This got me into thinking whether or not it’s a Pinoy thing.

The problem with this is, if you hadn’t had any proper coaching, you’d probably carried over some pretty bad habits growing up with the game. Many Pinoys just pick up the game on the streets and in neighborhood/baranggay courts. Personally, I never had any formal basketball training and coaching growing up. I picked up the game through neighborhood play and studying in an all-boys school. And knowing how I play, I know how crappy my movements are on the court.

Just take shooting mechanics as an example. We play with guys who have nasty looking jumpers . Some end up like Shawn Marion who had a f*ck-ugly shot. We’ve seen those tambay sa laruan manongs who are just “good shooters” because they’ve memorized their shot for that particular rim. Never mind if they have a nasty hitch their shot.

It wasn’t only about three years ago when I lived by myself and had access to a court in the mornings was I able to practice a proper jump shot form. While I don’t lapse into my old form, I still am inconsistent especially without regular practice.

We only play pickup games with people at the office so there’s no real pressure in being a stud on the court. There are no titles to be won. Not even a bottle of Coke for pustahan. Still, it was pretty satisfying if you know you did a few things well. I forget to keep scrimmage scores at times, but my mental counter logs my box score stats.

We’ve been playing basketball on a weekly basis now and we’ve converted Mark (one of our software developers) to the sport. Amazingly, he’s a bit outside the norm in terms of growing up and not picking up the sport.  Mark’s a pretty good student as shown his coachability at work.

He’s shown the same in basketball where he’s always asking for pointers, tips, and tricks. We taught him some shooting fundamentals and with his height (he’s about 6 inches taller than me) and soft touch, I’d say he’s starting to be a more consistent shooter. Better than guys who had more than 10 years of basketball “experience” than him.

I guess it’s not even about starting  young. Michael Jordan delved into this in one of his interviews. That it’s more important to let young kids love the game first then teach them about the technical things later.

The thing is, many of us never “grew up.” We stuck to our playground routines and convinced ourselves that all that herky-jerky style of play we got from watching young Kobe would carry over 10 or 20 years down the line. For us, not that it matters now. No one really cares in our office pick up games. We play for fun and exercise.

But how about our future kids? Maybe when it’s time for us to share our love for the game knowing the right thing would mean we’ll get to teach them the right thing. never mind if they’d end up playing varsity or even professionally.

As for the PBA or Philippine basketball, that’s a different thing. I’m quite excited with the upcoming FIBA world championships. Team Gilas would be there and I’d be interested in how they’d be able to stack up especially against the fundamentally sound Europeans.