Like most regular people I know, once they reach their thirties, they mellow down. Gone are the hyperactive party-all-night-Fridays or swim-all-day-weekends. Instead, most prefer to stay home to read or maybe work on a presentation.
I was never the “fat” person (sorry, for the bluntness), I have been thin all my life without meaning too. In fact, I was barely over 110 pounds or 50 kilos during my college days. My metabolism during my twenties allowed me to eat what I wanted and I never thought that one day I would struggle with my weight as my age caught up with me.
As I soldiered through medical school during my early thirties, I started gaining weight. I’m not sure if it were the Oreos and chips I ate during all-night study sessions or the fact that I drank soft drinks (Coke zero, I mistakenly reasoned, ergo no calories or sugar) morning, noon and night to cope with the stresses of school. Food was my reward, and at the same time my comfort measure when I was feeling down.
By the time I graduated, I was a solid 64 kilos. At 164 cm height, I had a Basal Metabolic Index (BMI) of 23.7 which was still within normal limits in the World Health Organization (WHO) classification.
Enter the era of my training at the Hospital, the mecca of medical internship. The stresses of adapting to the environment and the inherently toxic duties had me reaching for more comfort food, which were unfortunately junk, plus the fact I need to get a good parking for my Nissan Juke.
Except for pushing stretchers and wheelchairs of patients, or running to the third floor to assist on an operation, I never exercised. This was the time I exceeded my ideal weight and reached 70 kilos. I was officially overweight. My cheeks puffed. My old clothes failed to fit, but luckily my scrubs accommodated my extra bulk (especially on my belly).
My family has both a history of hypertension on both sides, plus diabetes on my paternal side. My parents both died in their early fifties, which puts me at very, very high risk. When my glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1C) came out almost borderline for diabetes, and had one episode of palpitations while on duty in PGH, I was officially scared. I was 37, overweight, and started having symptoms of polyuria (frequent urination). That was the last straw.
Working on having a fit body and a fit mind needed a conscious decision every single day. I realized we always have a choice, a choice between fried processed pork over grilled chicken, or getting a bowl of fruit over cake for dessert. Making fitness as a choice was also made easier because my gym was closer to where I worked and lived, and my trainer not only instructed me but also encouraged me to complete every single routine.
Recently I had my glycosylated hemoglobin taken again, and it was 5.2 percent–within normal limits. It meant that my sugar levels within the past three months had not been excessive. Nowadays I rarely drink softdrinks or eat sugary food, but of course allow myself a chocolate bar or two on Sundays for a treat.
Losing weight wasn’t just about looking good, it also taught me about being determined and consistent with working towards your goal. It does not take someone extraordinary to get back in shape, and age should not be an excuse. I think I may even be in better shape now than I was in my twenties.
So this is my take-home message to anyone aspiring to lose weight for health or any other reason: if I can do it, anyone can!