Jovi Tupas, 35, was fit and healthy for most of her adult life. But when the mobile ad tech sales head moved abroad for work, her health took a back seat.
It didn’t help that she suffered from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a hormonal disorder among women of child-bearing age that make it more difficult for the body to process insulin, the hormone that converts starches and sugars into energy.
Women with PCOS tend to develop diseases like Type 2 diabetes and infertility. And weight gain becomes a constant struggle.
Tupas came home to the Philippines just before the pandemic hit. Even as she was eating normal portions, she started to gain weight, tipping the scale at 190 pounds (86 kilograms).
Reading an article that said women with PCOS, because they’re obese, are at a higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19, got her worried. That became her wake-up call.
What have you been busy with?
I work in the mobile advertising technology space that requires a lot of collaboration with stakeholders. My day is a normal 9-to-5 job but sometimes extends to longer hours. Weekends are a break for me. I work out or catch up on the newest show on Netflix/HBO Go/Apple TV+ or do my new hobbies like baking or painting.
Any recent updates or projects you want to share with our readers?
I got into healthy cooking and baking because I was so committed to my PCOS weight-loss journey. I now read the labels and ingredients of the food I consume.
Have you always been into fitness? What inspired your fitness journey?
I was fit in my late teens to early 20s. When I moved overseas for work, my overall health was overlooked.
I got diagnosed with PCOS in my late 20s and I became lazy to workout. The symptoms of my hormonal and metabolic condition worsened—weight gain, stress, anxiety, depression, acid reflux and hair loss.
I just took prescription drugs to alleviate the physical pain and I couldn’t find information on the right type of diet or exercise for women with PCOS. It was a long journey.
There were unwanted comments from people that “you’re getting big” or “you’re not like that before.” They were unhelpful. It’s something women like me have to deal with every day.
I came home in November 2019 and started a new job right before the pandemic. And when the lockdown hit, I actually gained more weight from eating “normal food” and ordering food deliveries, plus the added stress. I was at my heaviest at 190 lbs. I never ate more than a plateful because I was aware of my condition, and yet I still gained.
I read a medical journal that women with PCOS, being obese, have a higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19. That was my wake-up call and I decided to take action.
In August 2020, I consulted with doctors, health professionals and wellness advocates. I spoke to an internal medicine doctor, an endocrinologist for all my blood and hormonal tests, then with a nutritionist-dietitian for my weight-loss program. I got an online fitness instructor for my strength training and an energy wellness coach to help me with the transformation mindset.
In my whole journey, I got into holistic wellness. So I started a nutritional regimen, fitness routine and mindfulness practice. These are all virtual meetings and consultations and I would have these sessions on weekends, and before or after work.
I lost 35 lbs (16 kg) in seven months and have maintained it for a year now.
What’s your fitness routine/regimen?
I do cardio, strength and yoga before starting work. My cardio is indoor cycling; I signed up with a cycling studio’s online classes for at least thrice a week. Strength training is twice a week. Yoga or stretching is once a week. I also need to time my workout. With PCOS, I actually gain more weight if my workouts are long and high intensity, so it has to be slow and low-impact.
How often do you workout in a week?
I try to make it four to six times a week.
Where do you workout?
In the living room where I put up my indoor bike and connect my laptop to our TV and blast the speakers. If I am doing yoga or strength training, sometimes in my bedroom, too.
What are your fitness essential?
Definitely my Schwinn IC7 indoor bike, mat, dumbbells, ankle weights, kettle bell, resistance bands.
What’s on your workout playlist?
Hip-hop! A Kanye song or club music.
Do you stick to a strict diet? My nutritional regimen is gluten-, dairy- and sugar-free.
What do you usually eat in a day?
I usually eat lots of greens and leafy vegetables, organic chicken or fish, and berries. I also do a smoothie or prepare golden milk or chocolate milk using nut milk.
I have stopped eating rice. I’m more worried about its negative effects on my body.
Do you have cheat days?
I miss the taste of fast food or certain types of food. I look for alternatives in vegan restaurants, or in plant-based food. I try not to cheat because I can easily gain back 2 lbs (1 kg) the next day.
What keeps you motivated?
That I wake up feeling OK. Prior to my transformation, my stomach was at its worst because, whenever I woke up or felt tired, I had anxiety.
When I changed my lifestyle, it felt like magic, all the anxiety went away. If I feel it now, it’s because of self-induced stress, it’s not as severe as before.
How did the pandemic affect your fitness routine? I signed up to a gym before the pandemic. I just miss the gym facilities like sauna, heated jacuzzi, swimming pool, machines like rower or steppers. Since the pandemic, I got more flexible and focused on body weight training and indoor exercises.
What are your other fitness secrets?
Consistency and commitment is really the key to any goal.
What tips do you want to share with people who want to get healthier?
Start small. Before you can run a marathon, you have to walk first. So start moving at home or outdoors; outdoor biking is a trend now. And be mindful of your daily choices—from food, social media and the content that you consume. All of these affect your mental, emotional and physical health. Always remember, this is the time to practice self-love and self-care.
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