August 25, 2011


Three of the top causes of mortality among Filipinos are (according to the Philippine’s Department of Health 2007 report): heart diseases (no. 1), vascular system diseases that affect the circulatory system (no. 2), and diabetes (no.9). Possible contributing factors to all three can be an unbalanced diet and lack of exercise.

A number of medical studies have logically concluded that if ever there is a magic bullet to most diet-related diseases; it is having the right weight for one’s height and body type.

For most adults, the goal is to lose weight. The problem doing so is that there are innumerable “scientific studies” coupled with conflicting counsel. From watching out your carbohydrates, the bad fats versus the good fats, fiber, cholesterol, sugars, to paying attention to glycemic index, the list of weight gain and loss factors goes on and on. We have heard time after time the merits of consuming more vegetables and fruits, but how many people can be disciplined about this fare? Unless you are an Ilocano and kudos to them. What about those weight loss programs advertised in the media by celebrities? Some did it but gained their pounds back, only to feel like a failure.

In my desire to go back to my college size I worked out religiously in the gym, reduced my carbohydrates (based on an Atkins diet), and woke up most mornings to jog for 20 minutes before breakfast (as advised in the book Body For Life). Although I made some progress, I was getting discouraged at not making enough after years of diligence. A few months ago, to my shock, I saw in the mirror a bloated belly like a beer drinker, when I’m not.

A Ridiculous Idea

Then I began to hear about losing weight through a change in lifestyle, a new way of thinking. If you really look at most weight-loss programs, there is one simple commonality: eat just the right amount to nourish the body and its activities and no more. This is a declaration of war. As we grow older, the body does not need the same mass of food and volume of sweet drinks when we were growing younger. But our sensory desires remain high.

The reason most weight-loss diets fail is they address the hunger pangs and not the mind. One way of looking at a lifestyle of eating is to count your daily food and drink calories. I used to snicker at the very idea. The thought of counting calories was ridiculous but I gave it a try. Of course I took into account, as much as I can: protein, good carbs, good fats, nutrients and vitamins, exercise, adequate rest and sleep, and medical advice. A good site to find out how whether you are overweight or not (Body Mass Index) and how much calories you need to maintain or lose weight is

Calorie is the amount of energy we absorb from ingesting food and drinks - which we burn away (metabolism) with bodily activity and if not store as fat. In simplistic terms, we will lose or gain pounds depending if we eat under or over our calorie limit to maintain our current weight, taking into consideration our rate of activity. Although exercise is very critical, what is unspoken in health magazines, but have heard among young men in gyms, is that the type and amount of food taken in is at least 70 per cent of the equation in losing weight.

Filipino Food and Drink Calorie Value

There are no diet books pertaining on Filipino food and drinks that I know of. If there are, please tell me. But there are websites and online articles that talk about Filipino food such as or or You can also google “Filipino food calorie count” or “value” to find related articles.

Low calorie Filipino foods include Adobong Kangkong, Sardines, Lumpiang Sariwa, Paksiw Na Isda, Bagoong, Tinapa, and Pinakbet, and of course tropical fruits, just to name a few. Nutritionists recommend lowering the calorie value of meals like meat Adobo and Sinigang by discarding the fatty layers and skin.

Wherever you are in the world, anything fried or sweet can be extremely high in calories. Somewhat surprising is the extreme calorie value of Buko Fruit Salad. Regardless of type of menu, a good web site that will help you estimate your calorie intake is

It would be a sin not to mention the Philippines’ fabled San Miguel Beer. Offer one to a non-Filipino beer connoisseur and they will be hooked for life. The standard 320 ml San Miguel Beer has only 140 calories. But what makes beer potent in shaping your waist to a spare tire is alcohol’s two-in-one shot prowess of slowing down your fat-burning metabolism, and increasing your appetite – all those “pulutan” (finger foods or tapas).

Helpful Tips

A basic step in lowering calorie value is lessening the use of oil or butter. Try grilling, steaming, or baking instead of frying. Have you tasted baked eggs out of the shell?

Avoid the skin of most meat products.

Look at your plate. The vegetable should be the main dish and the meat and rice the side dishes.

If you are adventurous, did you know escargot and frog legs have low calorie count and high nutritional value?

Low fat does not mean low weight gain. As Doctor Gerry Tan puts it, “Weight gain is due to calorie gain” – see

Abandon soft drinks and beer for good H2O – zero calorie.

Remember the Following

You do not want to lose weight too fast or your skin will sag.

You must also realize that because of water your weight will go up and down a bit. Do not weigh yourself every day, but rather once a week before breakfast.

If you fail to count calories for one or two days or weeks, start again – nothing will be lost.

Weight loss is not immediate – each body has its own metabolic rate.

You cannot diet alone and have no physical activity. Walk to the supermarket if that means 30 minutes to one hour and then take the bus on the way back.

To counter hunger pangs, have in hand food items that are low in calories but high in nutrients and the web has a lot of sites on this subject.


After a while, you do not have to mentally calculate your calories. You just know, and it becomes a lifestyle. I have been making good progress, lowered my cholesterol levels, and I can now fit into a size 32 pants (down from 38). High calorie foods are tasty but being at the right weight is more delicious.

Before following any of the advice in this column, make sure you consult your doctor or a nutritionist especially if you have other physiological and emotional issues.

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