A Filipina in Dubai managed to transform her way to a healthier lifestyle from mainly eating fast food towards more mindful, selective eating habits.
Julie Pearl Merlin who has been working in Dubai for over nine years, shared with The Filipino Times her impressive transformation from 128kg back in 2012 down to a mere 81.6 kg as of 2020.
She said that used not to think of the food she consumed, as long as she felt full. However, a life-changing incident back in 2012 gave her a wake-up call that sparked the beginning of a huge change in her consumption of food.
“I was still using the bus and metro that time and I had to literally drag my way out. It felt so heavy – I was heavy. I could not breathe and when I got out of the bus, I almost passed out. A good Samaritan helped me find my way to the nearest hospital,” recalled Merlin.
She revealed that the prognosis was that there she had a concerning amount of accumulated harmful fat around her heart, which is linked to increased risks for conditions contributing to heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes.
“Right there and then, I knew I had to start making changes. I did not want to die young as I have a lot of goals yet to achieve. I started with my diet and then slowly incorporated physical activities I enjoy a lot, i.e., swimming, dancing, and home workouts 3-4 times a week,” said Merlin.
Which diet worked?
Merlin said that over the course of several years, she has tried majority of the ‘fad’ diets including paleo, keto, low carb, low calorie, as well as juicing and cleansing. She even tried to resort to slimming coffee, teas and diet pills.
However, out of all the possible diet techniques, she found one that is effective for her body type and lifestyle.
“I mostly follow low carb and low-calorie diet, interchangeably – mostly eggs, salmon (healthy in omega 3), tuna, chicken, avocado, green and leafy veggies, lots of water! It is important to hydrate. By far, it is the most sustainable diet I have ever tried,” said Merlin.
She also revealed that she does intermittent fasting and has a very interesting take on eating during major holidays.
“Every post major holiday (birthday and Christmas/New Year), I do a reset/detox for 3 days. I do not consume solid food, just mostly liquid (orange/grapefruit juice, green juice, soups, green tea).
Treat days, instead of cheat days
Merlin also acknowledges that her diet wasn’t always smooth sailing, no thanks to the joys of eating out and coffee dates. However, she has transformed her perception of cheat days by choosing the word ‘treat’ to reward herself from the hard work on maintaining and keeping her weight down.
“I used to call them cheat day(s). Now I call them treat day(s), which could last a week max especially if it is major holiday. Word choice is important too. It is imperative to reward yourself for your hard work. All throughout my journey, I fell off the wagon one too many times too, but what matters most is having that relentless drive to get up and get back on track sooner rather than later,” said Merlin.
When asked about her favorite ‘treats’ she shares that she loves a mix of Filipino viand favorites and sweets here in the UAE: “I indulge with my favourites – fried chicken, pizza, Pralines and cream ice cream/ dark choco and vanilla gelato and pancit bihon (the best!). It is okay to treat yourself occasionally but in moderation pa rin or if I were in the mood, I would just make a low carb version of these favourites!”
Now on a low carb diet, she shares that one of the most important tips is to always stay hydrated throughout the day.
“Right now, I am mainly following low carb diet with intermittent fasting. I have this morning ritual of drinking a glass of water with 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (diluted). Again, try to consume 2L+ of water a day. Hydration is key. I switch my hot beverage between green tea and black coffee (no cream, no sugar),” explains Merlin.
She also said that while it’s important to avoid carbohydrates as much as you can, it’s okay to indulge – but only in moderation.
“When eating out, I try to eat mainly proteins and greens. As much as possible, umiwas sa high carbs but it’s okay to indulge from time to time. Indulge with limit,” said Merlin.
Set realistic goals
Merlin said that the most important thing when starting your diet is to pinpoint why you are doing it in the first place.
“Identify your why. You must know why you are doing this. Whether you want to be healthy, live longer, look good, embrace change and love yourself more – you must own it,” advised Merlin.
She also furthered that it’s important to check in with your doctor and to set realistic goals for you to follow through with your new lifestyle.
“Set realistic goals and be fully aware of your physical being first. It is always best to consult your doctor or a dietician before you begin any diet. Never resort to crash diet. Trust me – it does not work. There are no shortcuts. You have not gained the weight overnight so do not expect to lose a lot in a few days or so,” said Merlin.
Merlin said that the journey towards losing weight will not be easy, but it’s also not impossible as long as you rise up against temptations for you to have a healthier body and move forward towards a better life.
“Listen to your body, enjoy the journey, and love and forgive yourself. There are times you will struggle, and you will give in to temptations. And it is okay, what matters most is you get up and try again. You keep moving forward,” said Merlin.