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From XXXL to S in her late 50s

Tess Arvisu before (at 165 lbs.) and after (at 123 lbs.): “The gym became my healing place. I sleep well now. I joke around and laugh easily. I have become a discerning eater.”

I have known Golden Bear president Tess Arvisu for about 15 years now, mostly praying together as members of one spiritual household. In that span of time, I saw her worked on her weight. In terms of workouts, I knew she enjoyed joining group exercise classes, but she did so in spurts and not regularly enough to bring desired results. But one slow afternoon, she joined me in my regular circuit training session. She didn’t mention if she enjoyed it. I left for Europe and the US and skipped seeing her for a while. When I saw her again after sometime, it took me a long time to recognize her. Just like Ernestine Shepherd who first lifted weights at 56, Tess hired a fitness coach and went to the gym regularly only last year. She worked out regularly to be able to fall asleep after the unexpected death of her husband Pylo.

Here, she shares her very inspiring story.

“Pylo was my world. He was my best friend, confidante, and valiant prince. Just gazing at him puts a smile on my face. I remember back in the day when he started to show interest, I asked God to give him to me as my husband, promising to cherish him, and care for him for the rest of our lives. Now I was a colossal failure, as Pylo fell ill and died during my watch. I was heartbroken. Our marriage lasted for 21 years. We had no children. Pylo left me all alone.

“Grief took its toll when everything settled down. Overwhelmed with shock, fighting with denial and wrestling with acceptance brought weeks of sleepless nights that slowly turned into months. No matter how tired I was, I could not lie on our bed. I preferred to doze off in his TV chair. Accustomed to keeping everything to myself, I numbly floated in a daze each day. At work, my heart was aching from so much sadness that to understand a simple email took a few minutes of repeated reading.

 “Mounting confusion and self-pity brought me to a point where I thought I would lose my mind. Family and friends reached out, but I did not want to bother them. I prayed more, attended daily Mass, and sought spiritual counselling. But something was lacking. Then I remembered that happy hormones are produced during exercise. So I joined the gym after learning that it closes at 12 midnight, determined to work out to sheer exhaustion every night after office.”

She helped transform herself by hiring a coach committed to deliver results.

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“Mind still muddled and distracted, I did not hit the ground running towards the goals set forth. I exercised but ate freely. One month later, my weight remained the same: 143 pounds. Cool, at least I did not gain, I thought. It did not bother me since I already slept deeply at night, mission accomplished.

“But my youthful coach chided me in the gentlest way, ‘Ma’am, how will I help you if you do not help me?’ He  mournfully announced that weigh-ins will be every Friday. He was utterly crushed. Stunned at his reaction, I felt shame. Coach Kevin was eternally light-hearted and upbeat.

“Accountability was crystal clear: 80-percent nutrition — me, 20-percent exercise — Coach. The meal plan starts with a healthy protein-based breakfast. Lunch, 4 p.m. snack, and dinner have less carbohydrates and more protein from fish and chicken. Small meals every four hours. Truthfully listing the food I consume in a journal helped control mindless eating. Hunger pangs are satiated with three liters of drinking water. 

“Using all possible paths of least resistance when on the treadmill, I watched any or all of the six TVs, fiddled with the inclines and speed pretending to trek through mountains in snow or rain, or run to the thumps and beats of the overhead music. Or engage in a make-believe race with the guy on the next treadmill. After checking the calorie count, I find that I had already passed my target. Benefit: my thunder thighs slimmed down.” 

From 165 pounds, Tess is happier and lighter at 123 pounds.

“It was bittersweet. Taking out fat clothes from when I was 165 pounds to make way for new ones at my current weight of 123 pounds. The sagging shoulder lines of XXXL blouses were beyond what my trusty safety pins could fix, now that I was a medium, well on the way to small.

“The gym became my healing place. I sleep well now. I joke around and laugh easily. I have become a discerning eater. I am grateful for my marriage and my late husband and the life we had together. Strength, discipline, and perseverance are slowly and surely building up not only in my body but more so in my mind and my heart. Confidence (and sexy) is back.”

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