Debunking Filipinos’ False Nutrition and Exercise Beliefs

Debunking Filipinos’ False Nutrition and Exercise Beliefs

filipino fad diet

Summer is about to end but we still all want that sexy, stunning and “makahulog panty at brip” body. Our standards for sexiness are now being defined by people we see on magazines and on television. Fly-by-night and so called Nutrition and Exercise experts began devouring the misinformed masses who are compelled to lose weight even if they do not need to shed pounds and undergo useless, ineffective exercises and fad diet plans. “Nutritionist experts” began prescribing fad diets, which do not have sound scientific study. “Exercise gurus” promote exercise regimens, which, again, doesn’t have enough research to back it up.

As a duly registered nutritionist-dietitian and a member of the academe, my responsibility is to share my knowledge to fellow Filipinos who are being misguided by false nutritional beliefs. In my bag of tricks, I tapped registered nutritionist-dietitians working in different fields to shed light on these false beliefs.

The Fad Diet: Celebrity X is promoting it so why can’t I use it?

According to Eunice Baluyot, a Filipino registered nutritionist-dietitian and a registered Australian nurse, “Fad diets are weight-reducing diets which promises a dramatic result in a short time. As far as the public is concerned, they see some celebrities in magazines, movies and TV looking fit and sexy and one of the things being asked is how they got their body. In an interview for example, the celeb introduces this new diet regimen and every man, woman and teen goes gaga. Skinny and sexy are two words that people want, thinking that they are acceptable to the society. Losing weight and being healthy are two different things.”

She said that the fans adore celebrities; so whatever they do, the people follow. We must make our clients understand that fad diets may work for some but not for all. Most of these do not have enough scientific studies to back it up. Sometimes these fad diets can be dangerous and detrimental to one’s health. She encourages the public to consult a registered nutritionist-dietitian before engaging in any of these trendy dietary program.

The “Construction Worker” Diet

Quite often my students would ask me, “Sir bakit ganun yung mga construction workers ang lakas kumain lalo na ng kanin pero ‘di naman tumataba, GAGANDA PA NG KATAWAN!?” Their work is rigorous, hence, the chiseled bodies. But there is more science to that. According to Ian Sarmiento, a faculty member of the Philippine Women’s University’s School of Nutrition, the “Construction worker diet” is primarily a high carbohydrate, low protein diet.

In their case, it’s a violation of having a balance diet and exercise. Their bodies look good but it won’t last. He adds: “We do carbohydrate loading for super-compensation of glycogen stores for upcoming extreme physical activities. This is normally done by athletes. Pero pag ganyan, walang diet plan at maayos na exercise regimen, the body will automatically convert excess energy into fats. Yes, they are lean outside but inside possible na mataas pa rin ang body fat. In short not all carbohydrates are being used.”

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Also there is this condition called Sarcopenia, which is characterized by the loss of muscle mass when the body ages. One contributing factor is the prolonged use of a high carb and low protein diet. Ian suggests to eat a balanced diet, have a working and systematic exercise regimen and to consult a registered nutritionist-dietitian and a certified fitness coach.

The no exercise, weight loss drink/pill

There is a fad going on. Smoothies, capsule drinks and juices that promises weight loss without exercise. There is no known pill or drink that can make you lose weight without exercising. According to Angelo Tenorio, a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian and Certified Fitness Trainer, nothing beats a good exercise regimen and a balanced diet. There are no short-cuts to being healthy.

He said: “These pills and concoctions will only make you undergo a crash diet which aims to drop your weight fast. It can lead to severe consequences or worse—make you gain more weight, thinking na by drinking and taking more will hasten fat loss. No. May calories pa din yan. Without exercise those calories will soon become fats. Eto pa, you are not building the necessary muscles to boost up your metabolism and mas magiging dependent ka dun sa pill or weight loss drink.”

Tenorio said that there are two types of diet pills available in the market. The first one is lipoprotic pills. These are fat blockers, meaning the fats are flushed out of our system. The other is the thermogenic pills. These are the ones that increase body heat thus increasing metabolism and when there is an increase in metabolism calories are being used. It comes either from natural sources such as cayenne pepper, chitosan (extract of crab or lobster shells) or chemical like ephedra which is a derivative of methamphetamine that is why it is also regulated.

He suggested that we should not deprive ourselves of good food. Having a good meal plan and regular exercise will provide quality results.

no rice diet

The No-Rice Diet

During one conversation over dinner, my sister Rochelle Espiritu, a freelance Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian,  said, “Eating rice is embedded in our culture as Filipinos. Since time immemorial nasa diet na natin ang kanin. Why take it out? It is a good source of carbohydrates. The reason we gain weight is because we are not disciplined. It is not the rice’s fault that you gained weight. It is as if we are blaming the farmers for cultivating rice and making us fat.”

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Kevin Carpio, a board top notcher in the Nutritionist-Dietitian Licensure Examination and a faculty member of the PWU School of Nutrition, backs this up. He said that we Filipinos love to eat rice so there’s no reason to deprive ourselves when on a diet. If you don’t feel like eating rice, you can always replace it with other carbs like bread or pasta. Remember, carbs only get stored in the body as fat if we eat too much. A successful weight loss regimen is actually one that is more like your normal eating habits but with fewer calories. Meaning, eat everything in moderation including carbohydrates and fat and then combined with regular exercise.

Carpio said, “Diet books, so-called nutrition articles, and other hypes painted rice and other carbohydrate sources like bread, pasta, potato, wheat and so on as fattening and bad for our health. But we actually need carbohydrates to give energy to our body. If a person eats too little carbs, muscles will be broken down in order to be used as energy. Doing exercise is harder because muscles are easily fatigued and the body has less fuel to use. Metabolism also drops because of less lean muscle tissues to burn calories. No-rice diets, like any other form of low or no-carb diets, do cause weight loss, most of which come from water and lean muscles. We want the weight lost to come from fat, so doing no-rice diets is a big no-no for dieters.”

Bottom-line: There are no short-cuts in achieving a sexy body. Discipline is the key. Go consult a Dietitian before engaging in any diet regimen.

Author’s bio:

Jonathan Espiritu is a college professor and a registered nutritionist-dietitian by profession. He is a dad to two little princesses and a tattoo enthusiast. He is also a fan of John Lloyd Cruz.


  • Janice
    June 13, 2015

    There are so many wrong info here. The reason most construction workers are buff is not because of carbohydrates, it is because they use their muscles and carry heavier things more often than other people. The muscle us challeneged and thus adapts by becoming bigger and stronger. Just think of the bodybuilders! Even if people eat more protein, but do not challenge/use their muscles, it will lead to muscular atrophy. It is the concept of use it or lose it. It is the same thing as to why more women have osteoporosis than men. Most women are conditioned that they should not carry heavy stuff or do weightlifting. The long term effect is, the bones to do not get stronger esp when they age.

    It is not too little carbs that causes muscle breakdown, it is too little CALORIES. Many bodybuilders, while cutting bodyfats are in LOW CARB diets!

    Nutrition in the Philippines is so OUTDATED!

  • “Even if people eat more protein, but do not challenge/use their muscles, it will lead to muscular atrophy.”
    are you sure with this statement Maam? you can read the Theories and Principles of Nutritional Biochemistry so you can associate the metabolism of protein if unused by the body. You cannot establish a fact or a theory by judging what diet you know and what you see from those bodybuilders and construction workers. think about Science. carbohydrates spares protein from catabolism to energy and if carbs is insufficient, it will source out intermediate metabolites to the protein stores in the body… In contrary to your statement, still It’s the little carbs that causes muscle breakdown… Think of Carbohydrates as an Immediate source of energy in the body… 😉

    “Nutrition in the Philippines is so OUTDATED!”… oohhh well, Let’s See;)


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