Tuesday, May 19, 2015

11 Shades of Health


May 26, 2016 - 180 pounds, Day 3 EP, Round 2, 12 pounds over UGW

Pictures are worth a thousand words. 11 Pictures of a journey I am taking again. 11 shades of Health. Need to look at it to remind myself of where I've been and where I can go to. If this is really important, and I know it is, I will make it happen.

Lest I forget, over the past year (May 2015 to May 2016) I did personal experiments on diet and exercise and none worked as good as the Cohen program. I juiced vegetables and fruit, went high protein, high fat, low carb; did  gym and high intensity tennis- these where all nice and tiring but I gained back 10 pounds, slowly but surely. Went as high as 187, and the feeling was not good. The tight clothes did not lie.

I passed my April 2016 treadmill stress test and 2D echo with flying colours but my blood chemistry was not as good as a year ago and  I don't feel as healthy as last April 2015 which was my best ever.

But it doesn't really matter as I know I can do it again.

More than my personal gain (or weight loss), the greatest reward is that as I succeeded somewhat in my journey to better health, was 2 of my children, Kristine and Jeric, silently, slowly but surely watched and followed. I did not force them but they wanted the same results. In many ways, they were more disciplined than me.  Kristine, 17 years old, is now a competitive, bemedalled badminton player- #1 player in the School of Holy Spirt. Jeric, 19, freshman BSEE,  is a member of the UP Varsity Tennis team, Yes, this too I must remember... as this is not just about me, it never was.

Better health translates to better quality of life for me, my family and the people around me.

Below was my blog post last May 19 2015 (unedited)

I have been overweight and unhealthy  for 95% of my life. Not anymore. And never again.

This was made possible with the knowledge, support and expertise in the Cohen lifestyle program. From 226 pounds in Sep 2014 to 173 pounds by Feb. 2015.

What are the health benefits from losing 53 pounds in 5 months? After a series of medical tests prescribed by my long-time cardiologists, internists, gastrologist, the following were confirmed:

1. No more need for daily hypertension medicine as my BP has stabilized to the range of 120/80 to 110/75. I was taking hypertension medicine Micardis 40 mg for the last 15 years. This was reduced to a lower strength lower dose sometime in December 2014 but the BP improved to normal, that even this was no longer needed. Look ma, no more prescribed medicines!
2. My fatty liver (seen via ultrasound) has become normal (no more elevated liver enzymes too)
3. My cholesterol levels improved from borderline bad to excellent (total cholesterol within range with the good cholesterol at the high desirable limit)

Other benefits, while not supported by medical tests, are what I feel and enjoy everyday:
1. Improved quantity and quality of sleep
2. More endurance when I play rigorous singles tennis every weekend
3. Improved over-all performance at home and in the office

Of course, the compliments you hear from well-meaning friends and relatives are a good inspiration to continue the program. Never mind that some of them warn you of losing too much weight or tell you of somebody they know who lost all the weight and gained it all back and then some. 

So I will never forget, I decided to document part of my Cohen journey with 11 pictures. This is why I call this 11 shades of Health - the same me over a 5 year period...

The last 7 pictures above were taken by the same camera (my ipad-mini) by the same amateur photographer (Ate Josie) and in the same corner of my house (hence the same yellow background).

So it didn't take a whole lot for the Cohen team to convince me to participate in their campaign to promote the program. Here are the photos from that shoot:

The success of the program for me does not guarantee the same success for anyone else. It takes a certain mix of motivation, personal system and loving support to do so. But I can also say factually that I have tried other diets (Atkins, Fit for Life, South Beach, Carbohydrate Addicts), other programs (bodywraps, hypnosis, vitamins) and the whole range of regular exercise options (weekend tennis, 3 times a week gym exercise, yoga, home gym, jogging) for the last 30 years- and only Cohen helped me achieve this. Its a good thing that I didnt consider the more drastic weight loss alternatives- liposuction and lap band- though I'm sure that they too have their own target customers.

At 50 years old, I feel healthier and stronger than when I was 20 years old. That is a lot to say. And a lot to be thankful for. Thanks to the Cohen lifestyle team: Erika, Carmela, Norie, Olive, Sue. Special mention of course to my wife, Maris who has been very supportive of the transformation. Also to Ate Josie- our 20 year long kasambahay who attended 12 Cohen cooking classes and has always prepared the daily meals since I started the program.

Finally, this large photo (on the left, taken February 2015@ 173 pounds)  in our sala is a testament to the change...

A friend commented, that we just don't look good, we look even better than we were when we got married 22 years ago. (see  picture on right,  taken June 1993@ 202 pounds)

Food is the medicine!

Cohen Testimonial

Name:            Bong De Ungria

Age :  50

Weight Before:226
Weight After: 173

No. of Months in the Cohen Program: 
5 months to reach Upper Goal Weight. 
Currently on my 9th month (still at my target weight)

  1. Why did you take up the Cohen Program?
I wanted to improve the quality of my life. I had been overweight for 95% of the time and I knew my life- personal and professional will be better if I was fit.

  1. What was your lifestyle like before undergoing the Cohen Program?
I have always been physically active- playing 5 hours of tennis during weekends, and exercising about 2 hours during weekdays. I was very conscious about the effects of obesity and being overweight. The longest diet I tried to stick to was the Atkins diet – high protein, low carb and I started this in 1997. I stuck to this because I had some degree of success with the program, losing rapidly from 220 to around 190 pounds in 5 months in 1997 and then stabilizing around 200 pounds for another 6 months. After that, I gained it all back and was always around 215 pounds ever since. I noticed that my food cravings increase whenever I eat carbohydrates so I stuck to the high protein variety ever since.

  1. What were the difficulties you experienced being overweight/obese?  Did you suffer from any medical conditions.
I developed pre-hypertension and was taking maintenance pre-hypertension medicine since 1997. I always had elevated liver enzymes which was also manifested in fatty liver results during ultrasound. I felt lethargic when I overeat especially when eating carbohydrates. I developed sleep apnea and also had colon issues from having a low fiber high protein diet.

  1. Have you tried other diet or weight-loss programs before Cohen?  What are these?
I stuck with Atkins and the high protein-low carb diet for 17 years. The diet worked only for 1 year and was not effective for 16, but then I did not know of any alternative. I tried other diets- Fit for Life, Carbohydrate Addicts diet, Southbeach diet. I never believed in the standard medical association recommended diets since even the smallest amounts of carbohydrates stimulates my food cravings.

  1. Please tell us what makes the Cohen program different.
The main difference of the Cohen program is that it tells exactly what you can and cannot eat, when and how. Other programs recommend but there is a lot of leeway for interpretation and experimentation. Others were more intent on selling books, videos and supplements.
The presence of the Center, the Facebook page and the required monthly consultations was also very different. The program is there to increase the chances of success.

  1. How did you find out about the Cohen Program?
I heard about it, read it on the website. But the real trigger for me to start the program was when I saw a work colleague after she lost 90 pounds from the program.

  1. Was it difficult to adapt to the Cohen lifestyle?  What adjustments did you have to take
The Cohen lifestyle was relatively easy for me since I had the support of my wife and my officemates. I was fortunate to have had the budget to first enroll in the program and also enough to have my kasambahay, Ate Josie, attend 12 Cohen cooking classes, so she can prepare all my meals, all the days of the week. I just put everything she cooks in 1 bag I bring everyday.

  1. Are you happy with the results?
I am very happy with the results. I often wish I learned of the program earlier.

  1. How has your life changed for the better since you started losing weight? What medical benefits did you observe while and after doing the program?
I am now healthier at 50 than when I was at 20. My energy levels are up and I am performing better at the office and at home. All my medical conditions have normalized- no more hypertension, no fatty liver, no more elevated liver enzymes. Skin itchiness, body aches have disappeared. I have stopped taking all prescription medicine and reduced supplementation to simple multivitamins. Life is so much better when you are fit.

  1. What advice would you give to people who are struggling with their weight?
Just do Cohen. If you are successful, do tell others. Better yet, be living proof that the lifestyle system works. If you are not, then don’t blame the system- you just might be one of the few who need a different program.

March 11, 2019

Just today, I found out that I am one of the successful clients featured in 2 pages of the Cohen Singapore website! Whoa!



Friday, January 16, 2015

UP Ateneo DLSU or UST: Which College for My Beloved Child?

UP, Ateneo, DLSU or UST? Which college/ university is best for my beloved child?

This article is for the parent hoping to guide their child and for the student seeking some insights on what school to choose.  Please share this with those who may benefit…

This question is shared by a few thousand, proud and lucky parents at this time of the year who actually have a choice on which school to send their child. Having been a professor since 1994, I have been asked this question several times. This is an attempt to consolidate my  insights on the matter.

At the onset, I must declare that I have prejudices, biases and perceptions that have been formed from my own personal experience as a student, as a professor and as a parent. Wide and unique as it may be, my experience and family situation is very different from those of those who may read this. Where is my perspective coming from? As a student, I studied in UP (1981 to 1988 for BSChE and BSME), Ateneo (1990 to 1994 for MBA), DLSU (2002 to 2003for Marketing Management) and AIM (1998, 2002 and 2005 for 3 executive development programs). As a  part-time college professor I had the privilege to teach in Ateneo (6 semesters: 1994 to 1997 to BS Management, BS Legal Management),  DLSU (3 semesters: 2003 to 2004). I have also taught as part-time graduate school professor at the Ateneo Graduate School of Business (1997 to 2015) and consulted for a niche and high end school (iAcademy). But perhaps my greatest qualification is my actual experience as a father of my eldest son (Batch 2012:  passed the 4 schools and eventually chose UP for a BSME degree) and my 2nd son (Batch 2015: passed UP and Ateneo and will probably choose UP for a BSEE degree). Lastly my youngest daughter will be taking the college entrance exams in 2017 and she proclaims her plan to study in Ateneo, and I agree with her plan.

Now that the declaration of partiality is clear, here is the best answer I heard for the question- “which is the best school for my child?” I heard it last week from the school director of my high school alma mater (Claret School of QC), Fr. James Castro during the parents and son retreat which I attended.

The complete question is the ‘best school for my child” not which is the “best school.” To choose, here are the ff. steps and questions to answer:
1.     What are your child’s passions and where is he/she good at? What activities does he/she like doing even if there is no grade, no incentive, no pay? It is best to list several passions.
2.     What jobs/ work/ career in the future will allow the child to do his passion as frequently as he/she can? Do list several careers per passion.
3.     What is the renumeration/ pay/ benefits to each career path when your child graduates and possibly even 20 years from now?
4.     What is the best school for each career path? There is no single school that offers the best training for all the college degrees. There are more appropriate schools for engineering which are probably different from those known for pre-med, and different from accounting and even for animation.

Now this portion is no longer part of Fr. Castro’s answer. While course or college degree is a common and practical way to classify school, another way to choose is the school environment- there are the big, liberal schools like UP, big conservative schools like DLSU and the small exclusive, “feels like home” schools consisting of only hundreds of students like iAcademy.  I believe that since each child is different, there are school environments that will actually allow the child to discover, nurture but this same school can suffocate or frustrate a different child’s passion. Bigger and more popular is often not the best choice because in the end it is what our child becomes after college which weighs more to the future employer than the school on the college diploma. Some children will literally be lost in a big school system while others will find a small school too claustrophobic.

Other practical considerations for choosing a college: tuition fees, geography and 20 year career path.

Tuition: I have no personal knowledge of current UST tuition fees but annual UP tuition cost is subsidized by government, which is why the term: iskolar ng bayan and this is costing me P60k a year @ 30k a semester. Ateneo DLSU and iAcademy cost 3x as much,  are at P 195k a year @ P65k per trimester.  A friend shared that culinary courses can cost as much as P 500k a year. Personally, I am not a big fan of trimesters for college since this result in very short times in between studying and I personally believe that the 4 or 5 years of college should not be limited to studying but should allow the student time to pursue different interests like sports, hobbies or experience on-the-job-training or even working in the family business or experience working as a summer crew in a fastfood company.

Geography- travel time from house to school is a practical consideration especially with the horrendous Metro Manila traffic and unpredictable weather that we have. This will be a daily challenge for the next 4 or 5 years and cannot be ignored. Hypothetically, if I chose DLSU over UP, it would have required 4 hours of additional travel time daily for 7 years, That time is probably equivalent to getting a masters and doctoral degree!

20 Year Career Path: College is not just about the degree or the school you get it from.  UP, Ateneo, DLSU and UST are the best schools in the country to shape, nurture different children for different careers. But college is just a start- the reality is that each job you get after college is in a way, another school and another degree. When I completed my BSChE in 1986, I got offered  a cadet engineer job in the Petron oil refinery but I thought  I needed to prepare myself a bit more for a long term engineering career so I took a second engineering degree BSME which I compeleted after only 3 more trimesters in 1988. Having both the BSChE and BSME from UP was my competitive edge vs hundreds of other applicants in winning the lone technical management trainee role for Unilever Philippines (then known as PRC) in 1988. The first 6 years of my Unilever “school” has and still is a major defining and crucial ingredient in all my jobs after it.  So choosing the school and degree is important in that it allows you to start a long term career which you love to do in respectable companies which will provide you your “continuing education” in the real world. So I consider myself a Unilever graduate as well and there are not too many of us as compared to university graduates.

Another note on 20 year career projection is that there are some students who already know that their future careers will eventually result in them being active in politics or in their family owned business or in their own businesses which they will start. This has to be factored in the choice of school.

So what is my personal experience? Of the 4 schools, UP was and is the nearest to my house in Diliman 1981 then and Fairview now in 2015. UP will always be my alma mater and the best fit to my “maturity” and “life preparation” level when I finished  as class valedictorian of 151 high school students of Claret in 1981.  UP also had the lowest tuition fee rate and offered the engineering course required by my DOST (Dept of Science and Technology) college scholarship. By the way, I only  took and passed 2 college exams: UP and Ateneo and Ateneo didn’t have the science program where I can use my DOST scholarship. So it was an easy and personal decision for me at the time to choose UP.

On hindsight, my study habits and vision for my professional future was already clear then and I was emotionally and socially prepared to face the culture shock of school organizations (which can take gazillion hours of time) and fraternities  (which I didn’t join). I was ready to interact with students from all walks of life, rich and poor, urban and rural, with different dialects and backgrounds. I was not dependent on professors who are allowed much leeway and almost unlimited academic freedom in their style and content of teaching (unlike the other schools where constraints and controls are more pronounced).  At UP, I was an ordinary joe and as average  like the 15,000 other diligent, honor or  “smart” students from other schools nationwide.  As a freshman, I was aiming to achieve a cum laude rating and this was still on-track until my 2nd sem 3rd year when academic disaster struck:  a heavy academic load of 21 units of difficult subjects, my active role in a school org: UP Chemical Society and a terror teacher resulted in my first and only failing grade in BSChE resulted in my disqualification from this cum laude dream. After getting a failing 5.0 in that ES  11 engineering science subject, I took it the succeeding sem under a different professor, studied real hard and aced it and got the highest possible grade of 1.0 just to prove to myself that this failure was an exception rather than the rule. My UP dream was downgraded from being a cum laude to finishing my engineering degree in 5 years.

In UP, you are not trained for a college degree, you are trained for life. You are not spoon fed by a controlled syllabus and teaching style closely monitored by school admin or by professors who may sometimes be more absent and silent than present and teaching. You learn and find ways of learning in spite of the professor. Critical thinking and deciding with limited information is developed. A large percentage of professors don’t really mind if you are absent many times as long as you pass the requirements and your exams. If your course has a board or licensure exam, you need to take a special review course outside of UP to prepare for this because you will not learn enough inside the campus for questions that will never ever be asked again in your professional career. In UP, we were not trained to answer specific quetions, we were trained to think in a certain way that is applicable to many sorts of questions.

So unlike other schools, UP does not campaign hard for its students to top board exams; UP doesn’t need it so it is up to the students to find a way, and they do. My wife, Marissa, completed her Chemical Engineering degree 4 years after me, graduated cum laude from UST and she achieved 4th place in the ChE board exams, higher than any UP student who took that exam.  I took 2 board exams: passed the ChE board exam in 1986 and placed 6th in the ME board exam in 1988, My UP engineering training was so non-traditional (or critically developed) that in the ME board exam, I even answered that 1 of the essay problems they gave was wrong since the given data was not consistent. To this day, I continue to wonder if that answer, largely influenced by my UP training, got me a better or worse score. And no surprise that that question has never been relevant in the 26 years of being an engineer.

So if your child’s passion is available in a degree program that UP is known for, and if the university is geographically accessible and if your child is ready to face a totally "oblation like" school environment (vs high school) and manage the academic freedom environment then UP may be the best choice.  But, this is a big but, even if your child is ready but you don’t have the time, the parent-child relationship or the opportunity to oversee their wise adaptation to that unconstrained freedom, then there are still potential dangers of distraction from extracurricular activities like school orgs or frats or sororities.

And let’s call a spade a spade: a majority of those who pass UP will enroll in UP.  A considerable number of those who enroll in the other schools will do so only because they didn’t pass UP or they didnt take the UPCAT. Also boys are different from girls. So the opportunities and threats are also different.

But if your child is not ready and will not be nurtured by the very liberal and real world campus of UP, he/she does not give anything up by going to the other schools.  Based on my experience, Ateneo is inclined to more general courses like management and does not focus on specialization to the same degree that DLSU does where there are majors and minors that allow as much option while emphasizing functional expertise.  On my limited stint as a college professor for both Ateneo and DLSU, I noticed that the DLSU classes have a greater number of children from successful Filipino- Chinese entrepreneurs and “big” business owners while Ateneo has a greater percentage of sons from professionals and employees. A fellow parent said that aside from the school and the degree, the “networking” opportunity with studying with future leaders of business offers many long term benefits. On the other hand, if you will have the same classmates in college that you had in high school,  then you may be limiting your network potential.

Another key difference is that UP will not promote religion or spiritual development to the same degree as the Catholic triumvirate of Ateneo, DLSU or UST. But the UP student has easy access to structures that will provide the same atmosphere for a Catholic- there is the UPSCA student organization and of course the well known UP Chapel or the Parish of Holy Sacrifice.

And before the critiques out there point that there are other schools beyond the 5 mentioned in this article, I say AMEN to you and agree totally. However, my personal experience has only with these 5 schools so I hope that is a good enough reason.

Lastly, if animation or game development is your child’s passion and he/she will perform better in a school with less than hundreds of students in 1 building only instead of thousands of students in multiple campus building, then options like iAcademy may be their best answer to the question of which school.

Just like the wrong question in my board exam, the question- which is the best college is flawed. There is no such thing. The correct question remains- what is the best school for my child in 2015... (the answer may change in the future...)

In the end, this "correct" question is common to many parents and to many of their children – but the right answer is uniquely different for each incoming college freshman.