How Luigi Tan overcame his doubters, detractors, and even gouty arthritis to shed off 97 pounds

By Eric Nicole Salta | Photos courtesy of Luigi Tan

When I first talked to Luigi Tan. He was a 26-year-old guy turning 27 on the 28th day of the month. He works for a fast-moving consumer goods company while taking up a business management master’s degree. “My schedule’s quite loaded, but it’s my last semester!” he says. Progression seems to be Tan’s biggest hallmark.

Maybe it’s because of his inclination to dance, but the idea of progression, movement, passage, advancement to greater things could have played a part in his fearlessly genuine transformation from weight 260 pounds to his current 163. It’s a 97-pound difference that outpaced his initial motivation of trying to look better and into his newfound appreciation for a different kind of thrill. “It was quite recently that I realized I was doing these things to live longer so I can enjoy life and inspire other people as well.”

 Tell us about your weight issues and struggles.

I thought that I was okay. Being fat was okay like it’s a normal thing. I ate everything with gusto. I never had a normal BMI. The concern came in when I was diagnosed with gouty arthritis at 19.

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

I think it’s food. Even though I was fat, I was still physically active. I’d been dancing since I was a kid. The real problem was my food intake. I can finish 10 orders of siomai in one go. If I like the food, I’ll eat it. There was a time when my mom would just place a cup of rice on my plate every dinner. What they didn’t know was I would sneak in the kitchen when they’re sleeping to eat more.

You said that you also run. What is your workout regimen like?

The gym bores me. Not to mention, it’s quite expensive. So I got into running. I started small, around two to three kilometers for 30 minutes then five kilometers in 40 minutes until I can finish a set in 25 to 30 minutes. I tried to increase the distance or go faster every week (up to 11 kilometers). I’d drop to three to four kilometers after a month then run long again.

I don’t let myself get used to my workout. Every after run, I’d squeeze in some DIY circuit exercises. Aside from running, I also tried gymnastics and trapeze. I stopped using the elevator. I’d usually climb the stairs. And I walked a lot. The little physical movements meant a lot to me. I felt that with every movement, I was burning calories.

 Now that you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, how do you plan to keep it off? What are your next goals?

Live actively. The little physical movements I do like walking and climbing the stairs make significant contributions. I still jog even if I’m busy with work and school.

Were there times when you felt down? What kept you motivated when you were feeling down? 

The other reason I never got into the gym is the judging looks people gave me. It felt awkward lifting weights or try the exercise machines because I would randomly see someone laughing at me. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I chose the outdoors. When I run, I never feel judged. I can be who I am. I’m not competing with anyone but myself. When it’s hard and I feel like giving up, I remember the mental imprint of me having the body that I want then I tell myself, “Kaya mo yan, Luigi!”

Aside from the exercise routine, what specific changes to your lifestyle have you made that works for you?

Calorie counting! Without monitoring what I ate, I don’t think I would be able to shed those extra pounds.

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

There are shortcuts. Nope! Sad to say, there are no shortcuts to losing weight. Those sauna belts and slimming pills won’t work if you don’t exercise and watch what you eat. The road to your ideal weight can be a stroll in the park—only that it’s a Jurassic Park. It’s going to be hard but I promise you, it’s going to be worth it.