January is always the time when people resolve to eat less and exercise more, quit a vice, or manage their expenses better. Realistically, not everyone succeeds. If you’re one of those who wishes to change for the better but don’t know where to start, or are on the verge of giving up, let the stories below serve as your guide.
GOAL: Lose weight and get fit Butch Atianzar, 43 years old Chief financial officer of Dearborn Motors Co., Inc. Married, father of two
“When I was young, I didn’t have any weight concerns,” Butch shares. “In fact, it was the other way around -- I was so skinny. I ate a lot, but when I graduated from college in 1994 I only weighed 110 pounds because I played basketball a lot.”
Things changed right after college when Butch started working for one of the country’s top accounting firms. His job as an external auditor was so demanding and required a lot of out-of-town trips that there was little time for sports and other physical activities. “Within a year, I ballooned from 110 to 135 pounds. By the time I left the company in 1998, I was 165 pounds,” he said.
In 2000, Butch got married and moved to Cebu. There, he tried to resume playing basketball, but his weight kept him from keeping up with his younger, more athletic co-players, so he eventually stopped. He continued to smoke (a habit he picked up in his teenage years) and eat unhealthily. “At my heaviest, I weighed 175 pounds,” he relates.
Butch’s wake-up call happened in 2004 when he started experiencing urinary incontinence. A brother-in-law, who was a doctor, suggested he undergo tests, which revealed that his blood sugar and triglyceride levels were above the normal range. An endocrinologist advised him to lose weight, quit smoking, and take maintenance drugs, which he dutifully followed -- for three months. He lost 10 pounds and his sugar levels went down, but he went back to his unhealthy ways.
There were other attempts to shift to a healthier lifestyle: in 2013, he shifted to smoking e-cigarettes, and after eight months, he was able to give up smoking completely. He and his wife also started joining fun runs, doing three kilometers but never going beyond eight kilometers because of knee pain.
It was only in 2014, when Butch’s father and brother both died of cancer in the same year, that Butch hardened his resolve. “I knew I had to change for the better for the sake of my family,” he shares. This was also the year that a triathlete-friend referred them to a running coach who started working with the family. The rest, Butch says, is history.
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“To compete in long distance runs, you really have to be super fit. I knew I had to lose weight to ease the pressure on my knees so that I could run faster and longer. So I limited my intake of softdrinks and other high-sugar beverages and controlled my food intake by counting calories,” Butch shares. “I was finally able to join many running events, including a 21K half marathon, in 2014. In 2015, I was down to 152 pounds and was able to compete in my first ever duathlon. In 2016, I completed six different duathlons.”
Today, Butch is trim at 158 pounds with normal blood sugar levels. He runs and/or bikes two to three times a week, and always makes sure that his calorie intake is less than or equal to his calories burned. “I’m more energetic, less sickly, and less prone to stress,” he says. He hopes to be able to participate in a triathlon one day.
Butch reveals his inspiration to maintain a fitter lifestyle. "I owe this new me to my wife, who stuck with me through thick and thin during the whole process. Training alone was very difficult, so when I started running she also started training with me. When I started biking, she also joined me.” And to those who are having difficulty shifting to a healthier lifestyle, he has this to say: “Changing to a healthy lifestyle is a choice, and it’s really a difficult one. Remember that while you are free to choose the easier, less healthy path, you are not free from the consequence of your choice. Surround yourself with people who the have the same interest and conviction as you." GOAL: Quit a vice Samuel Liuson, 49 years old Businessman Married, father of tw0
“When I got married in 1993, life was good,” Sam declares. “I had a beautiful wife, a budding career, and I was young, charismatic and proud. I got into the typical cycle of wining and dining customers, living life in the fast lane, and having a chauvinistic type of a lifestyle.”
Eight years went by and while Sam and his wife were financially blessed, they were unable to have children. Sam’s wife became sad and depressed, and sex became few and infrequent. She started talking to Sam about adoption, but Sam did not feel like raising a child who was not his.
“To cut the long embarrassing story short, I got involved with an old friend who was in dire straits, and I took advantage of the situation and had a child with her,” Sam admits. “We agreed that she would give me the child because she simply couldn’t raise her with her resources. I brought the baby home and lied to my wife, my family, and friends, saying that I happened to have stumbled upon a couple who was putting up their beautiful child for adoption and that I was conveniently at the right place, at the right time. The day I brought my baby home was probably the happiest day for my wife. I thought to myself, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.” The next few years went by peacefully, but Sam’s wife kept following-up on the child’s adoption papers. Finally, because of a guilty conscience and upon the advice of a lawyer-friend, Sam admitted the truth. The marriage went downhill from there. “My wife started talking about separating from me, but because she came from a broken home herself and didn’t want our child to go through what she did, we just continued to live with our situation and pretended to everyone that we were a happy family,” Sam shares.
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Twelve years into their marriage, Sam’s wife got pregnant. It was a difficult pregnancy, and the baby was born prematurely. But their daughter survived and thrived.
“I wish I could tell you that I learned my lesson and remained faithful after that, but my foolishness didn’t stop. Because I felt I was not getting enough attention, I repeatedly gave in to temptation. I justified to myself that I do it because I wasn’t getting it at home. I knew I was wrong, but I was reckless and too full of myself,” Sam says.
Sam’s turning point came when his wife convinced him to join her church’s weekly service. “At that time, the theme was family life, and the preacher’s message was so good that I found myself going back week after week for more stories, just like a teleserye,” Sam shares. “When the church announced that it was holding a marriage retreat, we both signed up, and the experience was really life-changing.”
For the past nine years, Sam has been faithful to his wife. “I believe my marriage was saved since I became a true follower of Jesus. In the same way that God has forgiven me, my wife and I learned to forgive each other. Once I started obeying His rules and letting Him take control, my life has been joyful, serene, and peaceful. This is also why I am sharing my story -- out of gratitude to God.”
GOAL: Become financially responsible and stable Vanessa Medrano, 50 Entrepreneur Married, mother of two
“Growing up, my parents were very kuripot,” Vanessa shares. “We were not poor but neither were we super rich, so my parents were always very cautious about spending their money.” While Vanessa did not lack basic needs, she longed for the latest toys or clothes and wanted to experience eating at the latest ‘it’ restaurants, but her parents felt those were frivolous and unnecessary expenses.
“I remember, I once bought the latest issue of a foreign teen magazine using my allowance. When my father saw it, he went ballistic. He said I was wasting his hard-earned money. I couldn’t understand why he was so mad because he gave me that money anyway, so technically it’s already mine to use as I want,” Vanessa remembers.
As a result, Vanessa told herself that once she starts working and earning her own money, she would not be like her parents. True enough, she spent her entire first paycheck on a wardrobe overhaul, and her second paycheck went to an expensive spa. “Of course, later on, I would set aside a few thousand pesos each month in the bank as savings,” she qualifies. “But while my expenses were more than my savings, I justified my spending by telling myself that I was young, single, and not responsible for anyone, so I really didn’t need to save all that much.”
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Things worsened when she got her first credit card. “’Zero-percent installment’ and ‘buy now, pay later,’ are my favorite phrases,” she chuckles. “If I saw something that I liked, and I could pay for it in three months, ‘swipe’!” When Vanessa got married and had children, her expenses increased, but this time she justified her shopping by telling herself she was buying things to show her family that she loved them. “I was really very generous, very unlike my parents,” she says. “Whatever my kids wanted, I gave to them without question. For our first Christmas as husband and wife, I gifted my husband with the latest cellphone, even though the one he was using was still perfectly fine.”
Vanessa’s wake-up call happened in 2014 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy. Around the same time, her father-in-law also got sick, and her husband had to foot the medical bills. “It’s really costly to be sick here in the Philippines,” Vanessa laments. “Our bills were piling up left and right. What I had in the bank barely covered the cost of my treatment. I was lucky my parents and siblings pitched in. I found myself repeatedly rethinking purchases like, ‘The cellphone I bought could’ve paid for this hospital procedure,’ or ‘My chemo meds were already equal to a round-trip plane ticket to Hong Kong.’ We had to max out our credit cards and pay only the minimum requirement per month, so for about six months, you could say we were in debt to our credit card company. We sold one of our cars and drastically cut down on expenses.”
Today, Vanessa is more circumspect with her money. “I’m still not as tightfisted as my parents were,” she laughs, “but neither do I just buy things at the drop of a hat. My husband and I now only maintain one credit card, which we keep at home and only to be used for big, planned expenses like family vacations, which we really deliberate on. I only always have about P1,000 cash in my wallet when I go to the mall so that I’m not tempted to shop. When I go to the supermarket, I stick to my list.”
Every time she spends, Vanessa writes the details down on a personal ledger. “It’s different when you see the amounts written down and tallied at the end of the week. When you see you spent a little more than necessary, you’re reminded that ‘Oops, watch it next week.’ But then when you see how much you’ve saved, you feel proud, that you did something good.”
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Thanks to a friend who is a financial advisor, Vanessa has also started investing her savings. “It’s important that you prepare for your future because anything can really happen -- if not to you, then to someone you love,” she advises. “Money does not grow on trees.”