Not your usual weight loss story

I lost a lot of things during the pandemic – my mind, my drive, my optimism, my will – but perhaps the most noticeable of them is my weight. I used to weigh 62 kilograms, but now it’s 55 kilograms. I know what you are thinking, but please, if you read a little longer you will know that this is not your typical weight loss success story.

I was one of those who used movement as a tool to deal with the uncertainties we face. I did it to have a semblance of control over my life; I figured I should optimize my physical health to compensate for the deterioration in my mental health. I might not know what the future would be, but at least I knew I would do high intensity interval workouts every Monday and Friday, upper body workout Tuesday and Thursday, and lower body workout Wednesday and Saturday.

People obviously saw the changes I was going through because they were starting to point out that I was losing weight. They seemed happy for me – the weird fat person in the family, the plumpest sibling, the PIG that was finally losing some weight. Nobody asked me if the weight loss was intentional or if I was losing it healthy. The important thing was that I got smaller.

When people asked me the secret to my weight loss, I would jokingly tell them, “The pandemic.” Well, there was more to the joke than meets the eye. Do you know the saying “abs are made in the kitchen”? The pandemic devastated half the contents of our kitchen, turning one meal five times a day into three. Our kitchen has shrunk and our choices have been limited. The space is only for survival now, so there’s no more room to sculpt those tempting six pack abs.

The pandemic has also blown away all the sweet treats, the flavorful and addicting fast food, the umami junk food, and the carbonated sodas. Unfortunately, our household has suffered a severe financial blow from the pandemic. We had to change our diet and reduce our portion sizes. We couldn’t afford to eat certain foods anymore, so we had to find cheaper alternatives. Of course, as I started eating smaller servings and less junk food, my weight decreased. People may ask, “Isn’t it a good thing that you started eating better in terms of the quality of the food?” From an optimistic point of view, yes. But at least I want to be able to choose what to eat.

Nonetheless, we are still lucky enough to be able to eat at least three times a day, because for some, three times a day has become a pleasure rather than the norm. Studies show a sharp increase in the number of children malnourished during the pandemic as their families struggle to bring food to the table. So many people lost their jobs when a shocking number of companies shut down due to COVID-19. And the government’s inability to support and assist its constituents during this crisis has only exacerbated poverty in our country.

I wonder how many people accidentally lost weight during this pandemic. How many people stop eating pork because the cost of a kilo of pork means that much more varied foods can be bought with change? How many people chose a plant-based diet to save money?

My experience of losing weight is not only an aesthetic and health concern, but also an indication of my social and political reality. It is a common experience among those of us who have borne the brunt of the crisis exacerbated by the ineffective and meandering governance of our leaders. Some weight losses have had a more tragic history. For some, it’s not a goal, but the side effect of a battle fought outside and inside.

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Diana Mandac, 21, is from Cavite. She is in her fourth year studying at the University of the Philippines Baguio.

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