How I Lost 105 Pounds in 12 Months: From Fat Nerd to Buff Nerd

[HUGE Disclaimer: This blog post was meant to tell MY story of how I lost weight and in no way is it a form of recommendation as to what you should be doing. Get an expert/ coach to help you with your fitness goals for next year. OH and MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for those who haven’t watched The Last Jedi – I tend to use some of the lessons I’ve got in the movie for some of the points in this here blog post.]

I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately involving my “weight-loss” journey and how I did it, like I was some sort of expert in the matter. In response, I’d answer those questions with just a broken-toothed grin and say, “diet and regular work out routines” and people would nod and ask for me to elaborate.

They’d ask what workout routines I follow, what kind of diet do I have, etc etc, like there was some sort of magic formula that can magically bring you to a more slender constitution. To be honest, much like the answers to many of society’s most complicated problems, my actual answer would be simple: Just follow a diet and workout routine – just do it.

But just as history has shown, not many people will get that and, even if they did, I doubt they’d even do it. After all, it’s simple but definitely difficult (but definitely worth it if it aligns with your life goals). So here’s a list of things I did over the past year that helped me transition from a fat nerd that no other girl outside of his family would love to a (relatively) buff nerd no other girl outside of his family (or his multisports team) would love.

Have Goals

In a nutshell, I made goals for myself. I’m not just talking about a checklist of things I ought to do, I mean specific, measurable, action-based, relevant and time-bound (SMART) goals.

I guess it helped for me to have some semblance of direction, a target to hit, this past year. After all, goals help define your strategy, which, in turn define your milestones and action points. In this case, my goal was to be 165 pounds at the end of the year. How that played out? Read on.

Diet (Obviously)

Truth be told, I think adjusting my diet a little bit made the most difference in my weight loss journey. It sure as hell wasn’t easy, but it was worth trying it out anyway. Here’s a little break down of what I did (and the tiny little failures I had in between).

Q1 [First half, anyway] was when I just took in small portions of everything. What used to be 5 cups of rice gets reduced to one and after finding out that I had high cholesterol content in my blood (not a doctor, sorry), I cut down on pork and other fatty food consumption. It was one helluva task, one that I, admittedly, had trouble being consistent with. I did lose some semblance of weight (roughly 15 pounds from 285) and then shifted to a new one.

In the second half of the first quarter (up to the end of the 2nd quarter), I decided to change things up a bit because I stopped losing weight. I went on a Kamote (sweet potato) diet and resolved to have nothing other than the delicious root crop steamed. Of course, I ate fish and other vegetables to sustain the rest of my nutritional needs but ultimately, my base food would be sweet potato. My mindset at the time was, “Hell, since I’m putting myself through all this might as well go full HAM”. Lost 20 pounds from 270 and then I plateau’d again.

Near the end of Q3, I decided to revise my diet strategy again. Every single day, I would eat one chicken breast with a side of vegetables (beans, cabbage/ lettuce, tomatoes) for breakfast and then have a fruit or vegetable snack every 2 hours. Come dinner time (which is roughly 6PM, end of my work shift), I have either an apple or a banana and a nice glass of milk and then I go to sleep. Rinse, repeat.

At this point, everyone was noticing the change. Everyone wanted to know what was going on, what diet I’ve been taking and how the hell did I manage. It was a maddening experience starting out but once you’ve gotten some semblance of control, it gets easier.

Looking back, I probably should have consulted a dietitian so I can properly lose weight. But overall, if this whole diet thing has taught me anything, it’s that I have to be super honest to myself. Otherwise, all that cheating and secret snack sessions would eventually mess up all that hard work.

Next year, I’ll definitely have a schedule a session with a dietitian.

Swim

Long story short, I started swimming two years ago and while it didn’t necessarily make me lose the most weight, it did the most in terms of rehabilitating my mind. Other than that, for someone as heavy as me, swimming was my option for developing cardio-vascular endurance since it was a low-impact sport. In any case, here’s that story:

Two years ago, I was afraid and getting over some emotional turmoil (actually, this stands true up to now lol) so I said, why not? I’ll try it out. A friend from work had me enrolled at the Bert Lozada Swim School and, from there, my whole life changed (for the better).

 

I started entertaining the idea of dieting and fixing my schedule to accommodate my swim sessions. I met new people, I got new and better hobbies and, most of all, I garnered the courage to look fear in the eyes and casually flip it off. I was scared of swimming, even more so, I was scared of the open water. Enrolling in this school and joining open water races (the first one I joined was 4k lol I’m an idiot) was me being brave and accepting of the things I have to do to meet my goal.

Do Something Physical That I Love (Bike)

In a triathlon, my favorite part is definitely the bike leg. The same is true in training – I love to bike. I guess a good metric that you can base that on is that it doesn’t matter what kind of bike you put me on and how fast or how painful that ride would be – I’d still smile like a giddy little kid afterwards. If it has a pair of wheels, a group set and pedals, I’ll ride that thing to oblivion!

A year ago today, I crashed against dirt and concrete in an attempt to outpedal a (stupid) motorcycle. A part of me died in that crash – hubris, a speed demon that influences young (stupid) people like me, burned in the fiery remains of my folly (I’d like to imagine myself as an overweight meteor sometimes). I rose again, broken, scarred but ultimately wiser (debatable) and more cautious than before. Perhaps so I can teach other young people like myself to be more careful, or what is the price to pay for such misplaced pride. Whatever the reason is, I’m thankful I’m still alive and as I find what other lessons I must teach others (purpose), I am happy I have people around me to teach me. 📷 by @benfrancia #TriathlonGoals #KutisKahoy #TibayKamagong #BLSSMultisports #Cycling #StiffRingPH #BuffBois

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In training, I’ve literally just had two  instances of a bad biking experience: the first being the fabled crash of December 24, 2016 when I crashed into the dirt and ruined my right Ultegra STI and the second involved me being really immature (and it’s not even because of the biking itself; it had a more emotional root). The rest of them were GREAT! Even that one time when we went to Tagaytay via Amadeo and I was on a folding bike – it still put a (tired) smile on my face unlike the many instances I ran.

Maybe it’s a reflection of my being mentally still a kid or just my fixation of riding with the Rohirrim of Tolkien lore but when I’m on a bike, I feel free. And this is what helped me lose weight – doing the (physical) thing I love most.

I’m ALWAYS eager for the next bike ride and training session, always looking forward to biking with friends from my multisports team and from other groups, always on the lookout for the opportunity to fly like an ancient red dragon unencumbered by the stresses of mundane life. When I love doing something, it doesn’t feel like a chore and I tend to be more consistent with it.

Do Something Physical That I Do NOT Love (Run)

If the thing I love doing most makes me more consistent in doing it (and makes me happy, mostly), doing the thing I HATE most teaches me the value of commitment and, ironically, learning how to love something you didn’t think you’d love (Gawd, I wish they’d all run). Where swimming helps me fulfill my power fantasy of being a Kaiju and biking helps me feel free and happy like an ancient dragon, running makes me feel like a Dungeons and Dragons Player Character… at tier one with low constitution scores (that means I felt like a really weak human being prone to shuffling off his mortal coil).

 

But eventually, I grew to first accept it. I was like, “F*ck this. Why is this even in here? What kind of idiot runs 5k or 10k?!” and as time passed it shifted into “Okay, Carlo. This is part of the deal, nut up or shut up.” Eventually, I grew to love something I never thought I would and have an actually deeper experience with it too. Swimming and biking, admittedly, is mostly a social thing for me because I’d usually hang out with my group of crazy people (which I will get into in a sec), but with running, I saw a special kind of connection. I experience the same kind when biking to be honest, but I guess I prefer to run alone.

My pathetic attempt at staving off the inevitable holiday weight gain.

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Maybe my relationship with running is a reflection of my relationship with myself. I used to hate it and then, as time passes, I’m starting to accept it for what it is, for who I am. I’m friggin’ slow and I often get out of pace to take a walk, but while it irks me to do that (be like that) every now and then, I’ve managed to get over it. The value I saw in this endeavor is acceptance and there’s really not much to say other than that.

Get a Support Group

When you’re in a sport that consistently pits you against the toughest of the tough, drives you to the edge of your sanity and shows you your deepest, darkest self from the abyss, it helps to have people to share the torment with. It also helps if you have them to inspire you to become as strong as you can be (particularly too if you have someone in the group that you’re very fond of and inspires you in more ways than one – again, no names).

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my group of crazy people bent on challenging themselves and going beyond their respective limits but goddamn it, are they insane.

We’re still pretty goddamned charming post-battle/ triathlon.

The Instagram caption post-25k run says it all. Heart/Hate this people to bits.

And then we bike sometimes.

We do normal things sometimes but, you know, whatever.

But nothing beats the outdoors (shout out to Sibakeros Tri, Ash and the TriMates!)

They show you the true meaning of being a man.

And they show you how to be a gentleman (and build up your ego a little bit). And then destroy it with a hammer if it gets way out of hand. (Because shout out to our beloved team manager who is at the right-most of my anime harem, errr, Instagram picture). What can I say? I love these ladies to bits and if anyone breaks their hearts I would see to it that those at fault gets their faces broken (of course, if they don’t break it first, after which I will snarl beside them and pretend to look intimidating and dangerous).

I can’t say too much about them because it’ll take another blog post (or two) for me to do that, but I guess, since I’m feeling a tad bit sentimental right now, all I can say is that they’ve helped me through a lot. They’ve taught me many things about the many facets of life and not only in the sport we’re all in.

They’re MY Vox Machina and I’m pretty friggin’ honored to be a part of them.

Invest in a Coach

Another thing I did in the past that helped me lose weight was that I invested in the services of a coach. It goes without saying that I didn’t figure this all out on my own – I had some help from three GREAT coaches.

My BLSS swim coach was no other than the legendary Elleigh Catalig. If there’s anyone that taught me what a drill sergeant was like, it was him – I can hear his voice underwater, imagine that? But other than that, he pushed me well outside of my comfort zone (and out of my zone 1 when swimming, obviously) and it felt good to do something you never thought you could.

As a team, we had triathlon training with Coach Anthony Lozada (of BLSS as well) and the best thing I learned from him is the value of being “scientific” with training. Having structured triathlon training helps you not only manage your time and schedule, it also helps you know your weaknesses and strengths and where you should focus on.

Coach PJ also helped me in my running journey by providing not only technical insights on how to run properly but also nuggets of wisdom. Like how I shouldn’t really push myself too much if my mind is starting to falter or how to “back off” when I reach a level where I might damage my knees or muscles. He taught me something a lot of triathletes admittedly have trouble doing: taking the time to chill and training right. He also works magic with his hands as an Active Release Techniques professional so if you’re having muscle scar tissues, you might want to check him out in his website and Facebook Page.

The value I got in investing in coaches is that I got proper guidance, I got just the right amount of push (and pull) and, really, I got to work with different kinds of people.

Stick to the Schedule

It goes without saying: COMMITMENT IS A THING. And while it’s not really that hard to understand this relatively simple concept, it’s not exactly always easy to perform. I’ve had to adjust my schedules in terms of work and play in order to get my workouts done but, once you’ve established priorities things get easier. In a nutshell, these were what I was able to achieve:

1. Put most of my tri-workouts in the morning (base building can happen during the afternoon). I’ve discovered that if I prioritize my training in the morning, I don’t have to fix things up at work and, therefore, I get to focus on it throughout the rest of the day.

2. Whenever possible, limit working hours to (at most) 12 hours. Because, really, my work involves a lot of research and writing that might take longer than your standard 8 hours.

3. In case of an emergency (or if I really f*ck up my schedule), move on, make up for it and try again. These things happen, the point is to try again.

Essentially, I now wake up earlier, I get more things done and, overall, I feel happier for it. Sure, there’s the occasional surprise work task or dungeon crawl that leads up to 12 midnight but I still wake up fresh at around 5 to 6AM.

Sign up for Races

You know what helped in my dieting journey? Not having too much money to spend on food and other junk (My figurines are NOT junk! Admittedly, I didn’t have enough money to buy them anymore anyway).

Signing up for many races has helped me manage my budget in the past year not only in terms of achieving my #TriathlonGoals, but also really helped set my mind that it’s a lifestyle now. I don’t only train to lose weight (although, admittedly, it was my main charge), I train to be more fit and have a more structured life.

I did a lot of races too that aren’t necessarily triathlons. Runs and Cycling events are GREAT tuneups for major triathon races.

 

Our team manager helped me endure this grueling run.

Of course, you can’t take away the nerd in me. I (might) still spend ungodly amounts of money on action figures, Dungeons and Dragons books and the like but I will always ALWAYS prioritize my triathlon training.

Quit Unhealthy Habits

In my case, my unhealty habits include smoking, doing ANYTHING (drinking, eating) in excess and pondering on what might’ve beens too much. Here’s a quick run down:

Quitting smoking was surprisingly easy – I just decided that enough was enough and I cold turkey’d my way to nonsmokership. Of course, what lead to that decision was that friggin’ 4k swim my beloved team mates made me do and, well, it doesn’t help that you have unhealthy lungs when you’re swimming that far.

Obviously, eating or drinking too much was something I already had in the bag because of my diet. It also helps that my being resolve to wake up early for my morning workouts curbed my ability to jump at drinking opportunities that present themselves.

What I’m currently having trouble with however is pondering on what might’ve beens. Admittedly, this journey (more than anything) has aided me in getting over that emotional turmoil from 2015. I’ll probably discuss this in-depth on another blog post (or maybe never at all because it’s a dull story of a boy who meets a girl after a very long time and builds a relationship with her only to be smote upon the mountainside called the friendzone; it’s actually more complicated than that but whatever).

Sure, let’s put this in here to rub some salt on that wound.

In a nutshell, this journey, just like all the legs in the triathlon has helped me keep moving. Moving forward has been the theme for this year for me and, while there’s been a lot of ups and downs, I’ve realized that staying put – staying stuck – doesn’t only not help you, it doesn’t help those that you treasure most in life (family, friends, crazy team who’ll tell you to do crazy sh*t like a 4k swim race in your first time).

So I sucked it up, wiped my tears away and resolved to get over this and move forward. I’m not sure how but after watching The Last Jedi, I learned that there are two ways to move forward:

One is by letting the past die – that, if I have to, I might need to kill it. It’s pretty straight-forward: block people, numbers and burn the bridges you once thought were wonderful landmarks of human experience. By doing this, you’re given that wonderful opportunity to start with a blank slate or a smoldering canvass of what you would call your “future”.

Another is by moving forward but honoring those which you’re about to leave behind. A perfect example would be learning from the mistakes the past has taught me and treasuring those that have taught me or those that might have learned these lessons in my place.

 

It was a long (and relatively arduous) year. But 2017 wasn’t all suffering from self-induced diets and “someone-else’s-proposal-to-the-girl-of-your-dreams” heartbreaks. In this year alone, I’ve managed to lose roughly 100 pounds (blog post coming up) and participate in at least 2 standard distance #triathlons (being brave is actually a thing, guys – it’s good for you). I’ve managed to become (some semblance of) an adult and started to make sense of my work-life balance. I’ve managed to be closer to my family, friends and teammates; and I’ve learned (at least roughly), how to take care of the relationships that matter most to me (Family, Friends and Teammates, lovers, etc). More importantly, I’ve managed to learn more about myself in both fair and trying times – I’ve managed to accept who I am (honestly, still working on this), broken teeth and all. I can improve but, at least for now, I’m pretty chill with who I am. For these, I’m pretty effing #blessed and I’m definitely looking forward to next year! Let’s do this, 2018! #LetsDoThis #TriathlonGoals #FranciaIM #YearOfTheBrave #2018

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In this case, I’m opting for both options. And that about wraps it up for that.

Did I reach my goal?

I gave myself the goal of being 165 pounds by the end of the year. I weighed in at 170 from a base of 275 pounds. Essentially, I failed. but just like any other person who wants to better himself, I’ll try again. Master Yoda, in response to Luke Skywalker’s “failure” to teach his nephew, “Greatest teacher, failure is.”

Now I know what I must do and what I must not do in this upcoming journey called 2018. From a triathlete’s point of view, it’s pretty fixed – follow the training regimen, be consistent, follow your diet plan. From a personal point of view, it’s more complex but hey, life’s fun that way I guess. I welcome failure because I welcome the lessons it brings, regardless what context it is.

So now we move forward.

Oh, here’s a song for that because a friend requested I put it in my blog post. It actually fits the whole moving forward thing. Here’s to a happy breakup with 2017! And hello, 2018!

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