It wasn’t without its challenges but the journey of Erickson Paragas is a shining example of a human’s strong will to get healthier
Photos courtesy of Erickson Paragas
Thirty-three year old Erickson Paragas has had to battle a lot of things in his life. But the two things that stand out the most are his weight and self-esteem.
In 2013, Paragas used to weigh as much as 230 pounds. It’s the result of a lack of discipline he says that spiraled out of control due to his graduate studies ethics. “I’m currently finishing my PhD in chemistry, working on drug metabolism and pharmacokinetics in Washington State University.”
Aside from that, Paragas also works as a research and teaching assistant that, while impressive, didn’t help his health causes. “Graduate school research means long hours in the lab doing experiments plus the additional requirements for the classes you have to take,” he admits. “I basically had no time for exercise and was eating fast food all the time.”
But after a scary realization, Paragas knew that he needed to make dramatic changes to his lifestyle.
“I came to a point that if I do not lose weight, I might die early. My family is predisposed to heart diseases and diabetes. Last year, my dad’s brother had a heart attack from diabetes complications. It was a wake-up call and it became my primary motivation.
Now down to 160 pounds and still on the road to his weight-loss journey, Paragas has found the idea of making meals for himself as the best way to continue his renewed lifestyle.
Tell us about your weight issues and struggles. When did your weight become a problem?
Up until high school, I was always the fat guy. I was teased all the time. I was called baboy, matabas, piggy, and other things that refer to my weight. I really wasn’t confident growing up. When I went to college in Manila, I became cautious with my diet and exercise, primarily to gain confidence and to look good. But it did not last long.
After graduating college—I was about 200 pounds at the time—I had to review for my board exams while taking my masters degree, and eating became my stress reliever. I gained weight 20 more pounds (again). I started teaching and I still didn’t have time to work out. But when I started advising nursing students on their health research, it made me rethink about losing weight.
I joined one of the famous gyms, got a personal instructor, and even worked with a dietitian. I lost 25 pounds in four months. I would always look forward to seeing the number on that scale every week. Sadly, similar to what happened before, I did not maintain it. When work becomes stressful, I started eating more, and not at the proper times too, and eventually stopped going to the gym. Of course, I gained back the weight I lost and ultimately reaching 230 pounds.
What is the biggest struggle: food, exercise or temptation? What has been the greatest obstacle?
There would be weeks when my weight didn’t change, which made me sad and disappointed. When I cut down my rice intake, I started to feel sad for no reason. Depression was one of the things I had to overcome. I started talking to people in the gym about their experiences, researching online, and educating myself on how I can improve or how I can manage depression.
Because of all the support I got from friends and family, I was able to get through it. This is why I describe my lifestyle change as a roller coaster ride, physically and emotionally. Losing weight and maintaining it is a long process, but as long as you’re committed and have the right motivation and support you need, you’ll be successful.
What is your workout regimen like?
Last year, what I did for several months is to swim at least 1,000 yards every day. I’m not a swimmer. I actually hate kicking so much and it frustrates me when I sink every time. I learned firsthand from lifeguards on how else I can enjoy swimming without kicking too much. I use the pull buoy most of the time. I still kick but generally I pull, which helps me swim 2,000 yards every day.
Now that you’ve lost a significant amount of weight, how do you plan to keep it off? What are your next goals?
I enjoy cooking and preparing my meals for the week. I try to maintain a balanced diet. I eat only what my body needs. I have days when I will crave caramel latte or caramel macchiato. I still drink it but it has became my weekly reward. This year, I added TRX and spinning to my exercise (see his routine below). I just swim nice and easy so I can relax at the end of the day.
Weekday routine: TRX circuit for 30 minutes and swim at least 1,000 yards
Weekend routine: Spin for 50 minutes, TRX circuit for 30 minutes, and swim at least 1,000 yards
How has your weight loss affected your relationships?
It builds a lot of confidence. I gained more positive social skills. But most of all, I learned to love myself more. Yes “you only live once,” but make sure “you don’t die young.” I’ve met a lot of people in the gym. Before I was always teased for my weight; two weeks ago, I got yelled at from a car for my nice calves [laughs].
Aside from your exercise routine, what specific changes to your lifestyle have you made that works for you?
Diet is the first. I now cook and eat healthy. I started counting the calories I eat and calories I burn. At this time, there are a lot of ways to do it. You can get a personal trainer at the gym, a dietitian, and an app on your smartphone or you yourself can do it. All you have to do is educate yourself to become healthy. Staying healthy is a science. You just have to try the methods, and see what works for you.
What’s the biggest misconception about people wanting to lose weight?
One of the biggest misconceptions is that it’s easy, that there’s a shortcut. It’s a long process but it’s always rewarding. There would be days when it gets frustrating but don’t give up.