With a myr­iad of diet plans and fit­ness tips to choose from, what does it really mean to be healthy?

F&B World - - TABLE OF CONTENTS - Text by CRISTINA TANTENGCO Pho­tos by CRU CA­MARA (Denise and Diane), PA­TRICK SE­GOVIA (Harvie) and JILSON TIU (Cover)

Is it the num­ber on the tape or the calo­riecounted meals? F&B Re­port in­ves­ti­gates what it means ex­actly to be in tip-top shape.

If you think you are healthy, think again. The av­er­age Filipino isn’t as healthy as he thinks, as many of us rely on fad di­ets and un­in­formed din­ing choices.

Be­fore you pop that sup­ple­men­tary pill or de­prive your­self of that ex­tra cup of rice, dis­cover what cred­i­ble ex­perts in the field of health and well­ness have to say.

It’s not about los­ing weight

Harvie de Baron, sports nu­tri­tion­ist and in­ven­tor of The Baron Method, is his own suc­cess story. Years ago, he was pack­ing on the pounds due to the steroid treat­ments he had to en­dure to com­bat ul­cer­a­tive col­i­tis, an in­flam­ma­tory bowel dis­ease he got from his un­healthy life­style and poor diet. He woke up one day and re­al­ized that he couldn’t live an­other day bat­tling the bulge, so he did his home­work, re­searched about his con­di­tion, and re­lied on nat­u­ral reme­dies and food as medicine. Con­se­quently, the Baron Method was born, which works around the idea of con­sum­ing the right kinds and amounts of nu­tri­ents. “If the body doesn’t have enough raw ma­te­ri­als, then it can­not speed up your me­tab­o­lism. It doesn’t have nu­tri­ents to [help it­self ] heal; it doesn’t have nu­tri­ents to have your hair nice and lush, or your skin nice and glow­ing,” he ex­plains.

Be­cause of the Baron Method, de Baron has lost 60 pounds—and has kept them off. And he did so by in­creas­ing his rice in­take. Peo­ple some­times think that eat­ing less rice will help them trim off ex­tra pounds, but it, in fact, works against them as they may be tak­ing in calo­ries in amounts less ideal than what their bod­ies need.

He’s the first to say that the weight loss shouldn’t al­ways be the end goal.“I work with this lady, and she has lit­er­ally put on 15 pounds but her dress size never changed,” he shares. “She went from 110 to about 127 pounds. But if you look at her body, her waist is small, and her hips are nice, and she looks really fit and strong.

“Any­one can lose weight, but to be able to keep pro­gress­ing to a sus­tain­able, health­ier you is much harder than it is,” de Baron says. What mat­ters more is body com­po­si­tion, or the ra­tio of fat to mus­cle. “Health, I think, is about be­ing able to sus­tain some­thing that you can do for a long pe­riod of time.”

It’s not about be­ing dis­ease-free

The young pop­u­lace is more likely to equate health with their phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance. “[ Celebrity cul­ture] puts too much pres­sure among the younger gen­er­a­tion,” says Diane Men­doza, nu­tri­tion­ist- di­eti­tian, re­searcher, and pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Santo To­mas. She cites fad di­ets, detox juices, and di­etary sup­ple­ments as some meth­ods that young Filipinos rely on with­out un­der­stand­ing how they work in the first place. Older Filipinos, on the other hand, per­ceive be­ing healthy as merely hav­ing an ab­sence of diseases. “As long as they don’t have med­i­cal con­di­tions, they see them­selves as healthy— even if they don’t have nor­mal weight for their height, do not prac­tice healthy eat­ing habits, and are not phys­i­cally ac­tive.”

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion ( WHO) de­scribes good health as a state of com­plete phys­i­cal, so­cial, and men­tal well-be­ing. Think of it as a long-term in­vest­ment: by main­tain­ing a bal­anced diet, set­ting aside time for reg­u­lar phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, and keep­ing a good out­look in life, we’re lay­ing the foun­da­tions for a func­tional body even as we age.

Ad­just­ing one’s life­style starts with proper plan­ning. Men­doza shares that the av­er­age Filipino house­hold bud­get pri­or­i­tizes rent, util­i­ties, school, and food, in this or­der; how­ever, this food al­lowance doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean nu­tri­tious food. Al­lowance for planned phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity is also rare.

Life­style changes are a chal­lenge, but if you’re up to it, you’ll reap their re­wards for years to come. As Men­doza puts it, “be­ing healthy en­ables an in­di­vid­ual to reach their full po­ten­tial and have the best qual­ity of life.”

It’s about eat­ing clean

Food safety does have its ben­e­fits, but eat­ing clean refers pri­mar­ily to in­dulging on food at its purest and nat­u­ral state, void of added un­pleas­antries.

It’s not rocket science, really: choose freshly squeezed or­ange juice over a packed or­ange juice drink. The less pro­cessed a food item is, the more nu­tri­tious and less harm­ful it is for the body. In­stead of reach­ing for food con­tain­ing com­po­nents that sound like things from lab ex­per­i­ments, go for those that you can eas­ily find in most home kitchens.

For Denise Cel­dran, agri­cul­tur­ist and owner of or­ganic restau­rant Edgy Veg­gie, the best thing we can do for our bod­ies is to eat whole, nat­u­ral, or­ganic, and un­pro­cessed foods. In her food joint in Kapi­tolyo, Pasig, she sources many of her in­gre­di­ents from or­ganic farm­ers and makes all sauces and dress­ings in-house and from scratch.

Cel­dran’s restau­rant is a great al­ter­na­tive to eat­ing your way to a healthy life­style, but it is not the only one. Eat­ing healthily can also be done at home. Eat veg­eta­bles with ev­ery meal, and re­place white rice and white bread with brown or red rice and whole grain bread, and you’d be tak­ing in more fiber and less sugar.

“Healthy di­ets are not ex­pen­sive,” says Men­doza. “With proper plan­ning, ev­ery Filipino can achieve them. To start, we should prac­tice mod­er­a­tion, va­ri­ety, and bal­ance. There is no such thing as bad food; food only be­comes bad when taken ex­ces­sively.”

Take with a grain of salt

So­cial me­dia helps spread healthy recipes and ex­er­cise tips, but it also spreads un­founded claims just as eas­ily. Web­sites that earn from hits rely on sen­sa­tion­al­ized ar­ti­cles and para­noia, such as say­ing that a spe­cific in­gre­di­ent “causes can­cer” or that a nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring chem­i­cal is “toxic.”

“Most peo­ple be­lieve that when [a prod­uct or a diet goes] vi­ral or when a celebrity en­dorses it, that means it is cor­rect,” says Men­doza. “Get­ting health in­for­ma­tion on­line is not en­tirely a bad idea. What’s im­por­tant is know­ing where to get re­li­able in­for­ma­tion.” She rec­om­mends sites like and the of­fi­cial web­sites of WHO and our lo­cal Depart­ment of Health as cred­i­ble re­sources.

And in the age of celebri­ties making money off In­sta­gram en­dorse­ments, it pays to be skep­ti­cal of posts gush­ing about won­der prod­ucts. “Check if the post or the ar­ti­cle en­dorses a spe­cific food prod­uct,” says Men­doza. “If so, it most prob­a­bly has bias or is really in­tended for mar­ket­ing rather than to give ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion.”

More than any fad diet or juice cleanse, the key to get­ting healthy—and stay­ing healthy—is con­sis­tency. Enjoy your food, but eat mod­er­ately. You don’t need to hit the gym ev­ery day, but find an ex­er­cise rou­tine that fits into your sched­ule and prac­tice it reg­u­larly. Be mind­ful of your emo­tions and your in­ner well-be­ing. Small steps, taken daily, will take you closer to your health goals faster than you’d ex­pect.


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