His weight-loss story will motivate you to change your life

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos by Patrick Segovia and courtesy of Tom Tacwigan | Grooming by Bullet Reyes

On a normal day, Tom Tacwigan stands in front of a class of 30 students at an aviation school in Manila. This college instructor doesn’t hide the fact that he has only recently acquired his private pilot license—his fresh looks make it apparent. What his students, and anyone else who hasn’t seen his viral photo, are unaware of is that this 22-year-old has set a high bar right from the start.

A couple years ago, Tacwigan weighed 233 pounds and although he advocates loving all shapes and sizes, it’s not an excuse to not live healthier. “Sabi nila [online detractors to his photo] ‘I don’t need someone to tell me to lose weight.’ [But] we must start eating clean and exercising not just to look good but to actually feel good.” Almost a year of struggle and discipline, Tacwigan’s transformation is true to the spirit of what he delivers. And while Tacwigan admits that he still has a long way to go, he now weighs at an impressive 145 pounds purely because of good eating habits and a willingness to push past temptations. A potent combo anyone can pick up.

Tell us about your weight issues and struggles. When did your weight become a problem?

I weighed a maximum of 233 pounds in July 2015. It’s always been a problem since I was in high school. I was lying to myself for a very long time [telling myself] that, you know, everyone is beautiful in their own way and that I should be confident. It wasn’t until I lost weight that I realized I wasn’t happy even though I was telling everyone I was happy.

A lot of people assumed that I lost weight because it’s a requirement in flying. It’s not. It was just really a personal goal. What motivated me is… well it’s a funny story. We came from a long weekend in Batangas. So fiesta, kain-kain lang. We arrived back home in Baguio and the next day I had to attend my cousin’s wedding. I didn’t fit in my largest pants! It was size 38. So I had to wear a larger pair of jeans. The following week I joined my cousin’s gym classes. I did that for a month but had to stop because of my flight training. Just really started going to the gym January last year.

I started noticing big changes a month after going to the gym in January 2016. That was the only time I became serious about training. In the first week, I lost almost nine pounds because my body wasn’t used to eating less and working out. I rapidly lost weight but gladly didn’t regain it because according to experts, the safe amount of weight to lose is two pounds a week. If you lose more than that you will likely gain it back.

Was that the first time you attempted to lose weight?

Yes. But in college I was cooking my own food; mostly fried and then I started eating brown rice but I didn’t control how much I ate. I didn’t expect anything to change though. I still I eat brown rice but now I control the portions.

What has been the biggest struggle: food, exercise, or temptation?

It’s actually my mind. Like how to control the temptation, keeping the motivation. Every day, I don’t know if it’s weird, I imagine my dream body. I want to achieve this. This is what I’ll do today. That’s how I motivate myself. Another thing is how to fight temptation. When I see donuts or cakes on the table, maybe I’ll just take a bite or three and then that’s it. It’s not advisable to have cheat days, just a cheat meal. Back then, I ate clean meals for three months and then had a diet break for a week. So during that week I can eat anything I want but in moderation and portions.

Do you still follow that?

Yes, just to reset the metabolism because if my body gets used to that type of food I won’t gain muscles or lose weight.

Now that you’ve lost weight, how do you plan to keep it off? What’s your plan now?

In our family, we’re either fat or a bodybuilder. I’m trying to, maybe in three years, gain more muscle just to see what my body will look like. But who knows what will happen (laughs). I’m happy with the amount of weight I lost and the new lifestyle I’m leading.

What is your workout regimen like?

I mostly do cardio because I didn’t respond to weightlifting. I did circuit and HIIT with my cousin.

I’m sure it’s not easy. What kept you motivated when you were feeling down?

I felt that every day, but I just had to keep going. When people ask me where I get my motivation, it’s me wanting to lose weight more than feeling down and lazy. Now I do it because it’s part of my life. If I don’t do it, I feel guilty.

My cousin told me just to set small goals every week. That was my mindset. I didn’t expect to lose 10 pounds in a week. I felt down when I wasn’t losing weight after a month in the gym. The scale wasn’t showing any progress but taking photos of myself, I did notice changes. That’s the month when nakakatamad talaga. I was just there to kill time. But at the end of the month, dun na lang lumabas ‘yung results.

How has your weight loss affected your relationships?

It’s funny because I expected my family and friends to tell me ‘tigil mo na yan, walang mangyayri’ but they’re actually supportive. My family doesn’t eat salty food anymore. My mother rarely fries. So nadamay sila sa diet ko (laughs). And also my friends when we go out, they always say we should eat healthy. They’ve all been supportive.

What do you want other people who are struggling to lose weight to know?

It’s easy to lose weight as long as you’re doing it right and not lying to yourself. Just don’t think that you will lose it immediately or expect fast results. That won’t happen if that’s your mindset.