If you think you are healthy, think again. The average Filipino isn’t as healthy as they think, as many rely on fad diets and uninformed dining choices. Before popping that supplementary pill or depriving 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 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 says. “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 fit and strong.

“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,” Harvie de Baron says. 

“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, clinical nutritionist, 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, you’re building the foundations for a functional body even as you age.

Adjusting your lifestyle starts with proper planning. Mendoza says 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 for it, you’ll reap the rewards for years to come. “Being healthy enables an individual to reach their full potential and have the best quality of life,” says Mendoza.

To start, we should practice moderation, variety and balance. There is no such thing as bad food; it only becomes bad when taken excessively
IT’S ABOUT EATING CLEAN

Food safety does have its benefits, but clean eating 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 Veggy, the best thing you can do for your 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’s 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.”

Clinical nutritionist Diane Mendoza 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.

TAKE IT 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 EatRight.Org and the official websites of WHO and the 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—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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