you_lose_you_win_2_inside.jpgEmily Manuel started packing pounds when she entered law school in 1996. “I would study and eat late at night and binge on weekends. I hardly found time to exercise.” Worse, she smoked half a pack of cigarettes a day and was a coffee-holic. “To get rid of the acid buildup that coffee left in my stomach, I’d eat, even though I wasn’t hungry.” Manuel’s diet staples included sweets, pastries, cream-based drinks, and greasy foods like sisig and crispy pata.

In 2006, a friend invited Manuel to try yoga. “I knew I was overweight but never realized how much until I tried doing a pose. After struggling in that class, I decided I needed to lose weight. Yoga inspired me to aim for a healthier lifestyle.”

Manuel began her journey to fitness by walking every chance she got. “I’d walk from the office to my house, roughly 5 km, every day. I’d walk around the block during my breaks.” She also took up badminton. “For years, I resisted joining a gym because I found it costly and boring. I succumbed and signed up for a six-month program in 2008, when a friend convinced me that strength training was necessary for weight loss.” Manuel also added wall-climbing, swimming, and running to her activities. “My desire to run longer distances prompted me to give up smoking.”

Manuel worked out at least three times a week, alternating strength classes with cardio classes. “My diet plan wasn’t as aggressive as my workout plan. I didn’t keep track of my caloric intake, but I took in more fiber, fruits and vegetables. I avoided sweets, pastries, and alcoholic and cream-based beverages.”

Manuel's current fitness regimen involves going to the gym at least five times a week, and complementing her workouts with running. She adds, “I stay away from unhealthy food, but allow myself to indulge every once in a while.”


“It felt great to wear clothes that flaunted my body,” Manuel says. “Weight loss opened up new possibilities for me. I’m now able to join treks and climbs.” Best of all are the compliments she gets. “I’ve had long-lost friends and balikbayan relatives whose jaws literally dropped when they saw the new me for the first time.”


1. START SLOW. “I set realistic expectations. This wiggle room made me ecstatic when I reached my goals.”

2. LOOK FOR ALTERNATIVES. “I always eat out, and there are very few restaurants that serve healthy meals. I controlled my portions by finding meals that satisfied me in small amounts. I'd share meals with friends or bag a portion of my food when alone.”

3. STOP FOCUSING ON FOOD. “I’d invite friends to watch a movie or wall-climb instead of eat.”

4. LOVE YOURSELF. “Weight loss should be fueled by self-love. This mindset kept me from setting unrealistic expectations and motivated me to make the right choices.”

5. RETHINK YOUR GYM REGIMEN. “I mix 'necessary' gym workouts with activities I love, like running and wall-climbing. I also set gym appointments with my friends.”

(First published in Women’s Health Philippines, Weight Loss section as “Weight loss opened up new possibilities for me” in June 2009; adapted for use in Female Network)

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