Passions and Obsessions

Eat colorful food—including ‘kimchi’: Diary of (nearly) middle-aged woman

In this third of 4-part series, the author discovers the use of functional medicine

A recommended meal but there has to be more colorful vegetables

The author with South Korean actor Kim Seon Ho during an interview for fan meet in Manila

For the first time ever, I had a team helping me not only to lose weight but  also to improve physically, mentally, and emotionally. It was a bit embarrassing to think that I couldn’t do this on my own, but as functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Aisa Yamamoto, assured me, “It takes a village” to help one achieve one’s health goals.

Coach Ken started the author on 2 lb dumb bells.

I started my twice-weekly morning online workouts with fitness coach Ken Rioveros in the second half of June. I am the laziest person ever when it comes to exercising. Moreover, because of my cervical spondylosis, I have to be quite selective in my exercises, as any wrong movement can trigger painful muscle spasms, and I might end up having lengthy sessions of physical therapy.

Thankfully, Ken, a CrossFit athlete and trainer and a functional fitness, strength, and conditioning coach, put together doable sets of exercises for me.

We worked on my core strength, arms, thighs. The increase in intensity was gradual to get my body used to working out. I realized I dove right into boxing in 2022, after being sedentary throughout the pandemic lockdown. I didn’t prepare myself physically and mentally so I felt worn-out, almost gasping for breath, after my first boxing session.

Coach Ken gave me 20-minute functional workouts. On days that I didn’t do them, he reminded me to do conscious movements. I first did 10 minute-brisk walks on my treadmill, which I steadily increased to 15 and then 20 minutes. There were days when I was even able to do 30-minute brisk walks.

The author with BTS Suga in June 2023

BTS Suga at his D-Day concert in June 2023

I packed my gym clothes and shoes when I flew to Seoul for BTS Suga’s D-Day concert in June. I even took note which floor the gym was at as soon as my friend and I checked in the hotel. But my gym outfit stayed in my luggage. I wasn’t able to wake up early enough to fit gym time in my schedule during my week-long trip.

Coach Ken gave me 20-minute functional workouts. On days that I didn’t do them, he reminded me to do conscious movements

I mentioned this to Chelie Arabelo, who, as my overall health coach, continued to check on me while I was in Seoul. She assured me that my daily walks around the city were already part of my exercise routine.

Indeed, I didn’t need a smartwatch to figure out that I did thousands of steps daily around Seoul. My friend Camille, and I walked from morning ‘til night, going up and down the stairs in the metro, with heavy shopping bags doubling as weights.

Although I failed to work out as I promised Coach Ken and myself, I was quite proud that I managed to keep my meals almost healthy even while on vacation. Camille was shocked to see me have vegetables and kimchi for breakfast.

As the one in charge of my diet, Ayer Ayo, a functional nutritionist, advised me to consciously have a colorful meal, which means having a variety of vegetables, protein, as well as kimchi, a healthy probiotic and antioxidant.

My food has to be measured as well for every meal: palm size protein; 2-3 fists of vegetables; thumb of fat; and cupped hand of starch.

Because I had a workout routine, Ayer said I should have between 1500 and 1600 kcal intake daily. I should drink at least one liter of water every day.

The biggest challenge for me in my diet was my sweet tooth and my love of carbs. While in Seoul, even as I loaded up on vegetables and protein, I couldn’t resist having hotteok and bingsu.

Ayer had suggested that I ban sweets from my house, a sort of “out of sight, out of mind” psychology. However, I live with my 77-year-old mother who bakes as a form of relaxation. A ban is a no-go, lest I end up getting thrown out on the streets by my own mother.

I also grew up in a household where we always had panghimagas after lunch and dinner. Whatever it was, a small slice of cake or a cookie, dessert was always part of our meal. Ayer suggested that I have dark chocolate instead, to satisfy my craving.

I normally have two cups of black coffee a day, which I take in the morning and afternoon. But before I started the functional medicine program, I was hooked on sweet iced coffee. I had to give up this oh-so-yummy caffeine treat when I started my diet. I went back to having a cup of black coffee in the morning and substitute my second cup of coffee with hot green tea in the afternoon.

To be honest, I had an easier time doing my workout routines than preparing my meals for my diet. But a month into the program, I noticed a considerable change in my body. I was still heavy on the scale, but Coach Ken reminded me that the scale was not an indicator of my progress.

True enough, even if the needle on the scale hardly moved after a month of diet and exercise, the jeans that were very tight on me during the summer fit snugly when I wore them to my interview with Korean heartthrob Kim Seon-ho. I was absolutely excited to see Hometown Cha-cha-cha’s Chief Hong in person, but happier knowing that my efforts to feel better were paying off. I was starting to feel better about myself again.

Once a week, I would also meet with Chelie for sessions akin to counseling. As the program’s health coach, Chelie guides and supports clients to create healthy lifestyle behaviors that include sleep, nutrition, stress management, relationships, and movement.

I’ve known Chelie since our grade school days in St. Theresa’s College in QC. Her pieces of advice are simple, yet they could improve one’s day-to-day living: Remember to stretch for five minutes after waking up. At breakfast, try not to read or send work emails. Instead, enjoy your coffee and savor the morning. Try not to eat your meals in a hurry. Savor every bite. Chew your food.

At night, put down your phone an hour before going to bed. Or better yet, put it somewhere far from your bed so that any noise from it won’t wake you up. Go to bed early so you can rise early and feel refreshed.

These are small behavioral changes that can contribute greatly to improving one’s lifestyle. I admit though that I couldn’t put down my phone an hour before sleeping, and my phones are still by my bedside.

Since I’m not really adept at making my own meals, I ordered food online following Ayer’s recommended 1500 kcal daily. A couple of weeks later, I took the liberty of lowering it to 1200 kcal a day. I started the program at 134 lbs. I lost 4 lbs in a month, which wasn’t so bad considering the program wasn’t a crash diet but an overall lifestyle change.

My schedule, however, turned upside down by the end of July. I had a major project in August and while I thought I could set aside time for my workouts, even just for 30 minutes a day, I was too tired and too preoccupied with my tasks at work, so that little by little, I fell out of the program.

Next: Smooth roads and potholes

Read more:

‘Peg ko si Jennifer Aniston’: Diary of a (nearly) middle-aged woman

When I could hardly follow BTS JK’s boxing video: Wellness diary of a BTS Army nearing 50

About author


Nikko Dizon worked as journalist specializing in security and political issues for nearly two decades. She is doing consultancy work during her time-off from journalism and remains immersed in the Korean Wave, in particular with BTS, actor Ji Chang Wook, and K-drama.

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