Nikki Misa’s story reveals that having someone to share your weight-loss journey with is key to actually achieving your goals

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos courtesy of Nikki Misa

One thing that Nikki Misa does regularly now that she probably wouldn’t prior to her weight-loss transformation is walking to work. Not that it’s a new concept for her but 12.8 kilometers on a daily basis is rather exceptional, especially from someone who used to weigh 170 pounds and was close to giving up on herself.

But this disarming 29-year-old pastry chef makes one thing clear. “It’s 80 percent what you eat and only 20 percent exercise. You can spend six hours at the gym every day, but if you keep eating junk, it wouldn’t matter.” Now, Misa is down to 133 pounds after losing 37 pounds in five months.

And while her excursion towards a healthy lifestyle was bumpy at first—no thanks to a food-filled career and a certain notoriety for binge eating—there’s something inherently organic about Misa’s blossoming. Strikingly adept at crafting desserts and nutrient-dense home-cooked meals, Misa articulates her newfound love affair with the lifestyle as breathtakingly as her sweet creations.

“It’s about respecting your body and filling it only with good fuel. Everyone should learn how to do groceries right, too,” she says earnestly. “Start reading the labels rather than what is on the front of the package and the price tags. A bag of veggie chips can have as many calories as regular chips; packages might advertise low-fat but then add tons of sugar instead. There are many ways to make you think it’s healthy when it’s quite the opposite.”

Her journey also underscores an indispensable ingredient of weight-loss transformations: positive reinforcement, a support system that pushes and inspires individuals to their unrelenting limits. Misa found hers through boyfriend Michael who has been a source of real change.

“He played a significant role in my transformation. He helped me keep track of my macros by creating a spreadsheet! We worked around how much protein, carbs, and fats I need to provide the energy I needed to work out as well as the types of food that my body type can easily or not so easily process.”

It was a very hard adjustment because back in college I played flag football and lived a very active lifestyle. I was fit, trained four days a week for almost five to six hours a day. I was eating five huge meals a day and didn’t gain weight. All that changed when I graduated

“We set a calorie limit per day, too,” she says. “It also made me realize how much I can actually eat without starving myself and still lose weight just by making different food choices and combinations. It seems almost too obvious and easy but as we found out in this interview, little changes often have the biggest impacts.

Tell us about your weight issues and struggles.

Being pear-shaped, I’m so much heavier on my hips down that whenever I gain weight, it all goes straight to my bum and thighs. I’ve tried almost every diet, every pill out there. I would lose weight, stop, then gain it all back again. At one point I was already giving up and was about to embrace the fact that ‘Hey, okay I’m gaining weight, I’m getting older, maybe I’ll stay this way forever.’ It was a very hard adjustment because back in college I played flag football and lived a very active lifestyle. I was fit, trained four days a week for almost five to six hours a day. I was eating five huge meals a day and didn’t gain weight. All that changed when I graduated.

What is the biggest struggle: food, exercise or temptation?

The struggle was all of the above. Working around food is a challenge every day. I like to play around with ingredients. Would you believe I even made dessert out of bacon fat? The fact that I was just getting heavier made me even lazier to work out. Because of the stress of my job too, I didn’t have as much time to eat well. I would pass by McDonald’s almost every day, eat even more fast food, and then go home and binge eat leftovers. Diabetes runs in my family and it took a medical exam to tell me that I was already borderline diabetic and would end up living off insulin if I continue to eat the way I did. That same night I ripped my pair of pants open as I bent over. That was it.

Diabetes runs in my family and it took a medical exam to tell me that I was already borderline diabetic and would end up living off insulin if I continue to eat the way I did. That same night I ripped my pair of pants open as I bent over. That was it

What is your workout regimen like?

On days I need to work, I set an alarm when it’s time to sleep, so whatever I’m doing, I just stop and force myself to sleep so I could get a good seven to eight hours. I wake up at six, make coffee, ‘wake up’ some more then proceed with my home workouts, which consist mostly of legs, glutes and core exercises. When I’m off, I wake up the same time and train at the boxing gym near our house for a good two hours. My trainer includes circuit as part of my first hour so that helps me sweat a lot. That’s three days of home workout and three days of boxing. I rest on Sundays.

How do you plan to keep the weight off? What are your next goals?

I bulk cook once a week for baon. I was already a vegetable lover, but I had to change the way I cooked them. Less oil, less salt, less sugar. I stopped eating fast food, fried, oily, and processed food, and sweets. My goal is to shred my body fat and then eat more and get leaner before I turn 30.

Were there times when you felt down?

Of course. When I got back to the gym after so long, I could barely do a push-up and a burpee. I was getting tired so easily I just wanted to stop and go home. One day I just woke up and stopped making excuses. People can support me, but no one else could help me but me. There were also times I got frustrated and discouraged when I didn’t see progress right away. I had to be patient and learned how to respect the process.

How has your weight loss affected your relationships?

Some people made fun of my food choices at first. Like ‘Wow that’s so not you! Stop being pretentious! Here have some butter!’ or ‘Wow Nikki has baon, ang arte!‘ People would joke and be sarcastic when I would bring my own food to gatherings and I just shrugged it off—and stuck to it. Months later, I saw results and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.

It’s also a big factor having a partner who eats the same things you do. We motivate each other now and even trade food ideas, and it’s so much fun bonding over that! He’s actually the first one who challenged me to come up with my own healthy meals. We actually recently started an Instagram account (@FoodAnaTummy) where we post low-calorie recipes to give people ideas on what they could incorporate into their diets to help them achieve their own goals.

People can support me, but no one else could help me but me. There were also times I got frustrated and discouraged when I didn’t see progress right away. I had to be patient and learned how to respect the process

What’s the biggest misconception about people wanting to lose weight?

People think we want to be fit because of vanity. No. Of course not. Everyone is beautiful, but not everyone is healthy. I wanted to be healthy and not lose my breath going up a floor. Or not have a hard time trying to get pregnant when I’m 35, and most of all, I don’t want to suffer from poor health by the time I’m 50.

Most people think we stop eating good food, stick to bland chicken breast and kamote, and work out like The Hulk. I was one of those people. I wanted to work out but still come home and eat food I can enjoy, snacks that don’t make me feel guilty, and be able to stay fit.

Every person’s body is different and you need to find that one program that will fit your type and schedule, one that you can sustain and enjoy doing. When people ask me ‘What’s your diet?’ I tell them I didn’t. When people ask that, it sounds temporary. I didn’t just ‘diet,’ I changed my lifestyle. It’s the first time I actually stuck to my New Year’s resolution too, and I’ve never been happier.