In 2012, Dubai-based OFW Julie Merlin learned that fats had accumulated in her arteries that supply blood to the heart.
Weighing around 128kg at that time, she would drag her body in and out of public transportation and had problems breathing.
These were just few reasons that pushed her to shift her perspective. She focused on creating an active lifestyle by sticking to a balanced diet and doing more physical activities.
“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, who gradually dropped 46 kilos over the past eight years. She is now down to a mere 81.6kg.
Merlin’s story is among the top trending stories of The Filipino Times in the past days that have inspired OFWs in the UAE to keep a tight watch on their health. Among today’s most popular weight loss regimen is the low-carb, low sugar diet wherein individuals control their consumption of food items such as rice, pasta, bread, root crops, as well as desserts including chocolates, ice cream, and selected fruits, to name a few.
Dr. Joey Villanueva, a doctor at Etihad Medical Center and recipient of The Filipino Times Awards 2015 Healthcare Professional of the year supports the low-carb, low sugar diet, with a few notes for those who are also planning to begin their journey to a healthier body.
“There’s nothing wrong with low carb, low sugar diet but it depends on your level of activity and health status. If you are overweight or obese, having diabetes and sedentary lifestyle, low carb and low sugar is best for you. However, the problem in most
of those who are on low carb and low sugar diet tends to starve their body which is not good for the health,” said Dr. Villanueva.
In Merlin’s case, she focuses more consuming meats and a healthy mix of vegetables. She also revealed that she engages in intermittent fasting, which restricts one’s food consumption within an eight-hour period, followed by a 16-hour fast.
“I mostly follow intermittent fasting, and incorporated 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.
DISCIPLINE IS KEY
However, there are also challenges especially for those who are easily tempted to cheat and break their own diet rules. In the case of “Maggie” from Sharjah, she shared that she initially lost as much as 5kg during her first two months from 90kg to 85kg, but felt worried when she easily gained back more than half of her weight one month, as she’s now around 88.5 kgs again.
“Nagsimula ito sa isang birthday party ng kaibigan. Syempre hindi mo matanggihan yung mga offer nilang ulam na sobrang sumasarap lalo na nung sinamahan ko ng kanin,” said Alexa who had initially trimmed down her consumption of high carb food items as well.
Experts explained that Alexa’s case is a classic example of the “Yoyo effect” that while the body might show satisfactory effects
during the initial phase of their diet plan, individuals might expect that it’s now okay to eat whatever they want, and regains whatever they have lost. When they realize that they have gained the weight back, they cut down on their consumption – and the ups and downs of the weighing scale begins its cycle.
Meanwhile, those who plan to abruptly begin their low-carb, low sugar diet also face risks of hypoglycemia, according to Dr. Sheena Tan Go, a general practicioner of Golden Sands Medical Centre. She stated that those who are starting out could experience
troubling symptoms when they begin their diet.
“Carbohydrates and simple sugars are the body’s main source of energy and are the nutrients used for the functions of cells that make up our organ systems. If not readily available, depending on how low the blood sugar level is, it can present as giddiness, sweating and cold clammy skin to as severe as confusion, loss of consciousness, seizure and coma. Although this commonly happens
in patients with diabetes who are on maintenance medications, this can also be seen in individuals who suddenly change their diet to low carb, low sugar. It will take time for the body to convert fats and proteins back to glucose to provide fuel for cellular functions,” warned Dr. Go.
REMEMBER YOUR ‘WHYS’
Merlin advised 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.
Dr. Go reminded individuals planning to begin their diet to first check their BMIs to know and gauge their weight loss goals.
“Start by getting your weight and height, compute your BMI to see where you are at currently and how much you need to lose to reach your goal. It will be prudent to consult with a General Practitioner to be worked up completely to rule out underlying conditions that needs to be addressed in order for you to achieve your desired weight. Have a clear goal in mind and set a time frame. Exercise at least 5 hours per week, drink enough water (1.5 to 2 liters per day) and sleep 6 to 8 hours per day. Stay focused and ask for help if you are having a hard time adjusting to your diet. Remember it has to be something that you can maintain, becomes your lifestyle and will make you feel good about yourself,” said Dr. Go.
Dr. Villanueva advises those who plan to start their diet to practice low-carb, low-sugar, and to consume food regularly with controlled portions along with regular exercise.
“I normally advise my patients who are obese or diabetes to start on low carb, low sugar but eating smaller quantities but more often and at the same time gradually increasing their physical activity with an aim of gradually shifting to a balanced diet without starving yourself and sustaining regular exercise and active lifestyle,” said Dr. Villanueva.
For Merlin, 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. 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,” advised Merlin.