Monday, January 24, 2011

Father's Day

This was my column on the date indicated above. This post is antedated.

Snicker away all you want, but I have a strong feeling Sharon Cuneta will meet her target of losing gazillion pounds and become svelte all over again.

No, I am not a fan of the megastar. It is difficult not to notice Cuneta’s determined battle to lose the bulges though because it is a very, very public battle. She talks about it endlessly in her television shows. What is more, we see huge billboards all over Metro Manila documenting and proclaiming to all and sundry every single pound that she is shedding.

It’s not just mindless, intrusive showbiz drivel. It’s actually a business case. A major company engaged in the “slimming business” is behind it. And of course, it’s also propaganda for Cuneta’s upcoming television show, which is reportedly going to be a show about people shedding unwanted pounds.

When someone’s shrinking visage becomes a major business case, then we are clearly marking new territories in terms of how commercialism is affecting our lives.

But this piece is not really about Cuneta even if I salute her courage to be the poster girl for overweight people desperately trying to fit back into their college Levi’s 105. People like me.

Losing unwanted weight is a serious matter. It’s often a matter of life and death; although I am also aware that vanity and self-esteem are perceived as the more important motivators. Take it from someone who has been trying —unsuccessfully I must note—to lose weight in the last ten years for, ehem, health reasons.

Losing weight is big business and I think it is reasonable to expect that it will become even bigger in the future as more and more people become overweight because of a confluence of factors that also happen to feed on each other.

To begin with, there’s just too much unhealthy food out there and it seems everyone is in on a conspiracy to get people to ingest as much fat and cholesterol into their systems. Advertising has certainly made eating and fast food appetizing and trendy. Globalization has brought into the country more global brands in the fast food industry and most of them hawk food loaded with chock-full of calories. Sadly, it has become some kind of status symbol to be seen in these new places.

In addition, its been found that most people don’t really care about proper nutrition, or don’t care to know about healthy eating; they presume that eating loads of canned fruit salad is okay because it is fruit anyway. People are also becoming more sedentary as automation and the conveniences of modern living take the place of manual labor. And of course, there are people who are overweight because of some medical condition. I have a cousin who has a thyroid problem and this has resulted in her weight tripling in record time.

In my case, I think I became overweight as an inadvertent result of following all kinds of diets and supposedly healthy tips. My doctor disagrees with me vehemently, but I also have this theory that my recurring vertigo is a direct result of my brains inability to process the conflicting advice given to me by various well-meaning experts on weight management.

Based on my height, my ideal weight should be around 145 pounds. About two decades ago, I was overweight by about 15 pounds and therefore embarked on my first diet, which was based on a famous book that promised the benefit of being fit for life. I lost five pounds, probably from all that effort in carrying the book everywhere I went. That diet—excuse me, healthy lifestyle program—was based on conclusions drawn partly from observing animals in the wild. For example, the authors made a big to-do with the fact that lions in Africa immediately go for the innards of their catch, which contained organic leaves and vegetables. I lost five pounds, and immediately gained ten more in the succeeding months.

I did the famous South Beach diet for a while because, well, it was popular and lots of really beautiful and rich people were singing paeans to it. The problem was that most of those who endorsed the diet had their food catered by enterprising people who made a killing designing gourmet meals for a steep price. A friend insisted that if he were on the same diet, he’d probably lose weight as well from stress and endless worry about how to make ends meet. This particular diet debunked certain prescriptions held sacrosanct by others. For instance, this diet insisted that eating eggs is healthy! Theoretically, I don’t really find eggs distasteful except that I am allergic to them.

Even if an officemate fainted in the office in the middle of a deadline season because of severe malnutrition (that was the diagnosis of the doctor that attended to her), I also tried going on that cabbage soup diet. Yes, I was suckered into that one too. I don’t remember anymore the exact recipe that went into the soup but I remember it involved onions, leeks, tomatoes, and a truck full of cabbages. I remember cooking a whole kaldero of the stuff, which, of course, ended up in the refrigerator for weeks, untouched. To paraphrase a cliché, the spirit was willing but my digestion system was uncooperative.

Another friend swore by the Seven-day Diet prescribed by this famous socialite columnist in another paper. This particular diet allegedly worked wonders because the prescribed food, which could not be substituted and had to be ingested in the right quantities contained the right combination of chemicals that induced weight loss. The problem was that the diet required eating a whole pomelo for breakfast, which was a big no-no for someone like me with a bad case of hyperacidity. And to be perfectly honest, the prescribed portions were so small which only increased my cravings. I gave up after two days.

Atkins, Baby food, Big breakfast, Nothing-after-six, Dr. Phil’s Ultimate Weight Solution, Fruit Flush, Mayo Clinic, etc. I’ve done those. I drew the line at drinking protein shakes because I never developed a taste for liquid substitutes.

I am proud to report that all these diets worked for me. The problem was that I always gained more than what I originally lost so I always ended up heavier than before.

Oh I know. I was supposed to exercise as well, which I did. For a time, at least. I know this will come across as a cop-out but regular exercise is not prescribed for people with certain medical conditions. I have an inner ear problem which has affected my equilibrium – I’ve had major surgery to correct it but, well, I cannot exercise as often as I would like to.

I am now overweight by almost fifty pounds and my battle to shed the extra poundage is now reaching epic proportions. But I still am it. I am still in search of the perfect diet that would reverse the trend.

I know that the solution is actually quite simple—eat moderately and move around. But, alas, “simple” does not really mean doable.

Besides, there’s always a new diet or slimming program waiting to be discovered. If Cuneta can do it, so can anybody. At least for a time.

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