Three months ago, I was 40 lbs. overweight, addicted to chocolates and sweets, and hardly able to walk up 4 short flights of steps without running out of breath. I had just moved into a new job, and my medical test results showed that my cholesterol and triglycerides were high, and my blood sugar levels were above normal.
And don’t get me started on my body-mass index (BMI). At 5’2.5”, my highest recorded weight was 150 lbs., and my BMI category was “Obese I.” Although childless, I had been asked a few times if I was expecting or had already given birth, since I had gained 40 lbs. in 4 years.
No matter how my family and friends tried to reassure me that I still looked okay despite the overall roundness, I knew deep inside that this wasn’t how I was supposed to be.
Fast-forward to 12 weeks later, and I had lost exactly 21.5 lbs. without going on some fad “diet,” surgery, or anything extraordinary.
I did make the decision to completely change my routine, lifestyle, and overall outlook on my health and life. Here are some of the things that I did—and still do—to make that change happen for the long haul.*
1. Walk to work. When I moved into a new job, I also made the decision to move closer to my new office for two reasons: (1) to avoid the horrendous cross-city traffic that would waste so much time and money; and (2) to start walking to work every day. It was one of the best decisions I had ever made.
My daily walk takes around 20 minutes both ways, acting as my warm-up and cool-down for the day. It also jump-started my entire system to get moving again from what used to be a completely sedentary lifestyle.
2. Move, move, MOVE. Once I had gotten used to walking to and from work, I also made the decision to move about as much as I could. I followed expert advice to get up from my desk every 90 minutes—time that I also use when I need a writing break or when I need to talk to some colleagues on the other end of the office.
I’ve also tried editing material while standing up—just to keep myself awake and alert while reading otherwise sleep-inducing drafts.
I’m also fortunate enough to work in an office with a (free) gym just in the same floor, so I started out by doing some slow cycling on the exercise bike—while reading a work-related book—either during the lunch break or after work.
Once my body felt strong enough, I moved to the treadmill and did 30-minute power walk sessions after work. I have since “graduated” to running on the treadmill for 30 to 40 minutes per session, at least two times a week on weekdays.
On weekends, I make sure to wake up early enough to catch the morning sun and jog around the neighborhood by 8AM.
3. Get fit with friends. Thanks to a friend who invited me to check out a Zumba class, I now get to dance Zumba at least once a week—burning a lot of calories while getting fit, making new friends, and having fun.
I also realized in the process that I enjoy dancing even if I don’t have a dance background and am not even very good at it. So aside from Zumba, I’ve also started dancing salsa with friends—and taking every possible opportunity to just dance and move to good music.
Aside from that, I have a best friend who’s a yoga teacher and a cousin who used to be a personal trainer. Once I opened up to their guidance and support, I’ve been able to incorporate more balanced practices into my everyday routine and lifestyle.
4. Junk the (bad) carbs. This is important: No matter how much you move, you won’t get healthy enough unless you junk the bad carbs from your system. This includes such Filipino staples as white rice, white bread, white pasta, and all sorts of sweets, pastries, and merienda fare. For me, cutting the rice, bread, pasta, and pizza was easy—it’s cutting out the chocolates and the sweets that continues to be a challenge.
This is also where the conscious, active decision to be fit and healthy kicks in: I’ve realized that for our bodies to change, we first have to change our minds about “the way things have always been done.”
This has meant redefining what constitutes a “good meal”, as well as getting my family on board about healthier options during family get-togethers.
5. Train your taste buds. Substitute. So if you can’t eat white rice, white breads, and pasta, what can you eat? Some prefer eating red or brown rice, or whole grain bread and pasta, which contain more nutrients than their whiter, refined counterparts.
I, on the other hand, have decided to junk those altogether and instead use salads and vegetables for my everyday meals.
I love the fact that pre-washed salad packs are now readily available in supermarkets and convenience stores—it takes the guesswork out of my meals and makes it easier for me to eat healthy. For me, “lettuce is the new rice.” (It looks prettier on Instagram photos, too!)
Also, if you must absolutely use sweeteners for your drinks, go for stevia or agave instead of white sugar or even artificial sweeteners with aspartame. Both stevia and agave are plant-based, are sweeter, and have a lower glycemic index than white sugar, preventing a “sugar crash” and nasty cravings later on.
Other substitutions you can make: tea instead of coffee, dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) instead of milk chocolate, lemon water instead of fruit juices (which are also high on sugar, especially if they’re processed and artificial), vinaigrette instead of heavy dressings, clear soup instead of creamy soups, and herbs and spices instead of artificial flavors. All those little choices add up, and will contribute to a healthier you in the long run.
6. Redefine “happy meals.” Apologies to the big, corporate fast food chains out there, but my new idea of a “happy meal” is a meal that: (a) is good for me and my body; and (b) I’ve lovingly prepared for myself, right from my own kitchen.
I used to think that cooking my own baon was such a hassle—especially since I cook for just one. But once I realized that cooking for myself was an act of self-love and self-nurturing, I’ve come to enjoy preparing my own meals and see it as my way of taking care of myself. (If I don’t do it, who else will?)
7. Reimagine trips and buffets. My big test came when I had three consecutive weekends of out-of-town trips and access to buffets. Instead of enjoying the fluffy hotel linens and sleeping in like I used to do, I chose to enjoy early-morning beachside jogs, laps in the pool, and detoxing in the hotel sauna—aside from the off-site trips where I walked and moved around as much as I could.
I also used the buffets as opportunities to choose healthier dishes that I normally don’t get to prepare at home.That meant muesli and fresh fruits for breakfast, and different kinds of salad and seafood for lunch and dinner. The takeaways: more confidence to wear a bathing suit and a good, lasting tan.
8. Move on from a heartache. There truly is nothing like a major heartache to motivate you to lose weight, get fit, and take better care of yourself.
But instead of gorging on ice cream and chocolates while watching sappy rom-coms, I did the opposite: I went out there and rediscovered the things that truly meant so much to me but were just buried beneath a gazillion other obligations. I used the space left by the old to make way for the new, and I’m healthier and happier because of it.
A bonus: when someone new comes along to inspire you, you’re already a much better version of yourself—inside and out—than you used to be.
9. Set measurable goals. There’s a saying that goes, “What doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done.” At the start of the 12 weeks, I challenged myself to lose 40 lbs.—without spending on expensive diets and programs—in just four months. I set certain special occasions as milestones, and I’ve kept my eye on the ball since then.
I’ve also challenged myself to run a 3K race next month and a 5K race by December, with guidance from my trainer-cousin.
I obviously won’t be able to lose the extra 18.5 lbs. in just four more weeks, but I know that I’ll at least come close to my goal and will end up much healthier and happier than when I started out.
10. Cut yourself some slack. I admit—there were two weeks out of the 12 when I really indulged in a lot of dark chocolate goodies, some heavy red meats, and paella (my all-time favorite dish). I’ve also had the occasional pizza and (again, dark chocolate) cake slice for colleagues’ birthdays.
I still drink wine and craft beer when going out. But that’s the beauty of this new lifestyle I’m on: I am not on a “diet”, which means I’m not going to deprive myself of little indulgences when the occasion calls for it.
I’d like to believe that I’m on a more sustainable path to health and wellness—which means no feelings of deprivation, no mood swings, no hunger pangs, and no cravings. I’m eating well, taking better care of my body, but also listening to myself when I need a cup of hot cocoa.
I’m also enjoying life and the company of family and friends, and I’m not going to be the party pooper just because there are bad carbs on the table. Life is about balance, after all.
I’m pretty confident that, with a more loving attitude toward my body and soul and with the support of family and friends, I’m not only going to reach my ideal weight, I’ll also be able to keep it off and live healthier for the rest of my life. – Rappler.com
Note: The author is sharing the results of her own experience and is not a trained medical professional. Please consult a doctor before embarking on a drastic lifestyle shift as this one.
Niña Terol (@ninaterol) describes herself as a “communicator, connector, idea curator, and changemaker.” As the founder and “Chief Inspiration Officer” of Inspired.PH, she hopes to build a community of Filipinos who will live with creativity, passion, and authenticity.