Before the pandemic, I was living on my own. But when COVID hit, I moved in with my mom and sister. Being with my family was really important for my mental health, it would’ve been difficult to live alone at that time. It was also great because my mom is an amazing cook! I was incredibly lucky. My mom was making three meals a day, mostly meat and fish, rice with every meal. So I was enjoying all of this, of course. But there was a downside.
I’ve never been especially thoughtful about what I eat. I’ve always trusted that my metabolism would be fast enough to take care of any junk food or fatty foods. But while I was living with my mother and eating all these rich meals, I started to put on weight. I could feel the guilt of eating so much meat and rice. I also have some risk factors in my family, including fatty liver disease.
More than that, I just knew I wasn’t at my best, at work and overall. I got so easily distracted when working from home, I spent more time on my phone, and there were always little household chores distracting me from work because they were right there in front of me.
In December 2020, I moved back into my own place. And soon after I had a doctor’s appointment that was a real wakeup call. I was diagnosed with fatty liver disease and my doctor told me I was overweight. Because I was working from home, I had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to eat — and what I wanted to change.
Now I’m much more intentional about what I eat. I’ve created a semi-vegan meal plan. I’m not 100% vegan, I don’t hold myself to strict rules or routines, but I have made some significant changes. I found a non-meat brand that mimics Filipino dishes like adobo, I stopped eating pork, and I eat a lot more vegetables. Broccoli is my favorite by far. I’ll buy a whole head of broccoli and cut off a bit for each meal. In general, I’ve noticed better gut health since changing my nutrition habits.
I like this new diet because I give myself flexibility. When I’m around friends or family, I don’t deprive myself. I have a lot less guilt when I let myself indulge from time to time. I’ll eat and enjoy that meat and fish and I won’t criticize myself for it. To me, allowing myself that joy is central to healthy eating.
I believe that depriving yourself of the good stuff in life creates stress. You may be physically healthy on paper, but if you’re always saying no to what you enjoy there’s something about that that’s actually unhealthy.
Another challenge was finding a middle ground as I went through the transition back to in-person work. My company requires us to work in the office once a week, but I try to go more often. The biggest challenge is making sure that I eat well and take breaks to eat. Since my hours are 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. midnight, I eat lunch at home before I leave for work. I can eat dinner at home, but I try to bring my own snacks to the office.
Snacking is tough, it can be so easy to pick something greasy and convenient. In my younger days, I ate a lot of junk food, so it takes some effort not to slide back into those habits. Now I try to pick snacks that have some health benefits and bring them with me to work. I check the nutrition labels for sodium and sugar, and so far I’ve been doing well.
Since implementing all of these nutrition changes, I’ve noticed much better gut health and I’ve lost about 10 kilos! Now I feel much more prepared for any challenges to come, knowing that I’m capable of putting my health first.