Dubai: At 28, Jonathan Rupert Balingit was diagnosed as obese. He had ballooned to 88 kilograms and was still piling on weight, putting his health at serious risk.
There was a lot of things he could blame it on: bad eating habits and his hectic work as a customer service representative in Dubai that left him little time to exercise.
On top of that, he was nursing a heartbreak and turned to comfort eating to deal with the stress. But the more he ate, the more he gained weight and the more he felt sorry for himself.
Keeping fit is perhaps one of the most important things on anybody’s to-do list. Unfortunately, it is also often one of our biggest frustrations. After all, it is much easier to find excuses why we’re unable to exercise or stick to our diet.
The dearth of food choices in the UAE doesn't help either, the food-loving Filipino from Quezon City tells #Pinoy.
Filipino social life revolves around food, and life for Filipinos in the UAE is no exception.
Balingit says it is easy to gain weight here since there are plenty of Filipino restaurants offering value meals and affordable buffets. Even an evening with friends at home can turn into one big food soiree.
Moving from fat to fit
Deciding that he wanted to lead a healthier life, Balingit joined 21 others in the recent Souqpinoy Slimdown Challenge: a six-week fitness contest for obese Filipinos in the UAE.
Balingit was hoping to make a healthy difference in his life, although he wasn’t sure if achieving a truly healthy lifestyle was something within reach.
Like his compatriots, he slugged through a gruelling fitness regimen that took up five days of his week, training for 45 minutes each day and completing a weekly feat.
He also had to drastically change his diet. That means saying goodbye to sugary or starchy food. And no more chips while binge-watching his favourite movies at home.
With dogged determination and a lot of sacrifices, he was able to bring down his weight to 73.6 kilos after the final round of the competition.
“Imagine six weeks without rice, without sugar. We just followed the advice of the coaches. And see now the improvement. We are so proud of ourselves,” he says.
Apart from hitting the ideal body mass, Balingit says the practical benefits of living a healthy lifestyle helped him appreciate life even more.
“Climbing up the stairs, I used to get tired easily. Now, it’s easy for me. I don't feel tired anymore. Every morning, when I wake up I jog. My body is looking for something to energise me and live a healthy lifestyle,” he says.
After six weeks, he had achieved a feat that was earlier on something he could only imagine: he shed nearly 15 kilos on the way to becoming the grand champion of the competition.
“My biggest motivation... was to gain my life back,” Balingit says. “During that time I was in the hardest part of my days."
Balingit says bringing down his weight to an optimum level within those six weeks was one of the best things he has done in his life, “because health is wealth”.
And in claiming the championship ahead of 21 other contestants, the customer service agent also proved that living a healthy lifestyle is not beyond reach.
'Our new us'
Kerwin Panganoron, a motion graphics designer from Bacoor, Cavite in the Philippines, and another winner in the competition, says his desire to bring a positive change to his life was what inspired him to take up the challenge.
“I was obese,” says Panganoron, 22, revealing that he was bullied for his weight. “I wanted to change myself."
After six weeks, his hardwork paid off: He dropped his weight from 115 kilos to 94.4 kilos.
Balingit and Panganoron say they are determined continue living a healthy lifestyle.
"We are not getting any younger. Health has a big impact in our lives," Panganoron says.
Balingit adds: “We don't want to go back to our old lifestyle. This is our new us, a new version of us.”
Additional reporting by Jobannie Tabada, Features Editor - Property Weekly