Thank you Aubrey—my Master Yoda.

Aubrey worked with me through a difficult time in my life. I suffered from a condition called PCOS—Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome. I know, it sounds complicated and it is.

It’s a hormonal disorder that fucked my mood, gave me a beard, and made me gain weight despite hours of exercise. I felt awkward and unpretty for many years in my life. When I moved to the States, the condition and my confidence got worse.

You see, I never saw women with my color and body shape on billboards or on the streets. Yet, I was surrounded by fit bodies wherever I went. Unfortunately, I started doing to my body what no woman should ever do—compare!

Despite hours spent kickboxing, gyming, and running—the weight held me down. I took medication to balance the hormones everyday, but that couldn’t fix the problem, my doctor told me. Only exercise could cure it—if and only if I tried hard enough.

I tried hard—or may be I thought I did. But, the cysts were adamant. They stuck to my ovaries like a nasty disease. They grew larger and numerous every passing day. When things got real bad, I had painfully heavy periods for 15 days and sometimes a month. The hair on my skalp started thinning down and the skin on my face grew blotchy. If I didn’t arrest the problem soon enough, I could even lose fertility.

After some time it wasn’t about the weight alone—it was about feeling defeated. That’s when I met Aubrey.

 

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Even though he’s my trainer I think of him as Master Yoda. He knows when to push me and when to hold back. He trains my body but talks to my mind, telling it to never to give up. He’s one of the few trainers I’ve met who lets me feel confident in my own skin. He reminds me of my first trainer in Brooklyn, a badass woman who could overturn truck tires with her hands. America has given me one thing for sure—a healthy relationship with exercise.

What I love about Aubrey is that despite being a guy, he’s in so many ways a bigger feminist than I. One day, when I sent him vidoes of a fitness model doing a challenging routine, he told me I had done better.

“Don’t go by the way she looks. Go by what’s on the inside,” Aubrey scolded me. “Think about the classes we do together. Or record them for yourself and see.”
“I know what you mean, but I would love to look like her.” I protested.
“I like training people with real bodies, real lives, and real schedules. People like you. I don’t train people who have 5 hours in a day, only to exercise. If I think you can do it, trust me you can.”

Master Yoda had spoken and this time I didn’t have any excuses.

Aubrey and I worked together for 6 months before my routine ultrasound appointment with my gynaecologist. When I got my scans I was as shocked as she. The doctor couldn’t see a single cyst on the images. I had not only dropped weight but my body fat percentage was down by 2.

“Are you sure you have this condition?” My doctor teased.
“I’ve had it for 7 years now! You sure you didn’t get my scans mixed up?” I replied, happy with disbelief.
“Been doing this for more than 7 years. These are your ovaries alright and they look beautiful.”
“You mean I don’t have PCOS—for real?”
“Looks like you did it,” she congratulated me.

And yes—we had done it together. Aubrey had worked by my side, patiently, telling me that he believed that I was a warrior. That he had never seen a girl as motivated as I. That when he recorded our sessions for his Instagram page, his followers were inspired by my example.

Two years ago, my mother told me to make a vision board for my future. To use it as a tool to imagine my future self. And if I truly believed in the change—mind, body, and soul—the change would happen. I had trashed the idea right away, not believing in the rituals of magical thinking.

But, all along, without my realizing—Aubrey had secretly become my vision board. He had become that voice inside my head, cancelling the noise and telling me to never quit. He made me believe that thin or fat—I was beautiful the way I was because I was strong. And together we had kicked PCOS in the butt. I was finally a real woman with a real body.

I had got my power back!

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Where are you from?

My friend and I had just stepped out of the cinema hall. It had been a perfect evening—a good movie, wind in the hair, popcorn—lots of it.

We’d watched Crazy Rich Asians, starring Constance Wu, my latest crush. She’s featured in Time’s 100 Most Influential. I forget which year. But, they say she waited tables for many, while auditioning for roles she never got.

“When Eddie Huang’s book was made into a TV show called Fresh Off the Boat, Constance got famous.” I fill my friend in with Hollywood trivia as we look for a taxi in the middle of the night.

“So, she really waited tables?” My friend asks, surprised.

“Yep, for eight years!” I reply.

“She’s a brilliant actor. Funny how no one could see that?”

(I think my friend feels bad for her. I don’t.)

“May be, because she’s Asian?” I try and answer his question. “But that’s not what she likes to tell herself. She’s a proud woman, who hates making excuses.”

I admire the choices Constance has made in her life. She is fierce. She speaks her mind. And even though she’s a big star, she chooses every role to shine light on people forced to live in the shadows.

I have watched her every interview. Perhaps, in the hope that some of her magic will rub off on me.

Fresh Off the Boat—is it?” My friend interrupts my reverie. He is new to the States, full of many questions. He doesn’t get what the expression means.

A pedestrian standing right behind us butts in.

“How was the film?” The eavesdropper is curious.
“Good. I enjoyed it.” I give him a funny look. “Was just telling my friend here what ‘fresh off the….” I am quiet for a moment.

I am trying to explain the word used for people like me to a person who could’ve prolly used it. I don’t want to point fingers at the stranger. The situation is a comic paradox. I cannot help but laugh.

“Just telling him what I am,” I say with a wink. Then I look at the stranger’s face, trying to figure out where he’s from.

Before I can gather my thoughts, he breaks into laughter.

There are reasons why I love New York City. This is one of them. Everyone here is from someplace else. We are a city of FOBs—and proud of it.

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