Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network via AsiaOne
"Gaining 50 pounds (22kg) during pregnancy is not normal for my size. In fact, it’s not normal for any woman,” declares beauty queen-turned-actress Lara Quigaman-Alcaraz.
But that was how much she gained while pregnant with firstborn son Noah, now eight months old.
When Lara won Miss International in 2005 - bagging for the country its fourth crown from the Japan-based beauty contest - she was in fighting form at 110 pounds.
At 5 foot 5½ inches tall, she was also one of the smallest contestants then. Her height, or lack of it, she says, worked to her advantage.
"In a field of tall women, I think I was the shortest," she says with a laugh. "And I got noticed for it."
But when she tipped the scales at 160 pounds a week or so before giving birth to Noah, there was no way Lara could hide how huge she had become. Even if she were 5'11", she'd still end up looking disproportionately big after gaining all that heft.
During her entire pregnancy, she often got hungry, which led her to binge on fattening snacks.
It didn’t help that Lara has a history of having a sweet tooth. She said back when she was younger, she would often skip breakfast while snacking on syrupy desserts and bars of chocolate throughout the day.
"After a day of taping dramas, I would be so hungry that I would cap it off with a huge meal," she said. "It has always been like that even when I was single. And I brought that bad eating habit with me after I got married."
After giving birth to Noah, Lara lost a mere 10 pounds (4.5kg). Weeks after bringing Noah home, her face, arms, legs and feet were still bloated. And even as she managed to slowly shed off some of the pounds, her jellylike belly pouch jiggled and seemed likely to stay.
"Breastfeeding and going up and down the stairs during the course of the day helped me lose some of the inches," she says. "But no matter what I did, my belly pouch was still there. It was so unattractive that I didn't even want my husband to see it. I'm not kidding."
Since she delivered through Caesarean section, going to the gym pronto wasn't an option. Besides, unlike her hunky actor-husband Marco Alcaraz, Lara was never a big fan of working out.
Ditching her binging habit
Her desire to lose weight led her to sign on as Marie France's latest beauty queen endorser.
Lara first underwent a thorough medical checkup before she was asked to sign up. After passing her medical exams, a nutritionist interviewed her about her lifestyle and eating habits. The team then devised a nutrition and fitness programme for her based on what they had gathered.
Apart from letting her go through the standard wraps and machines to eliminate body fat, the doctors and nutritionists taught Lara to overhaul her lifestyle and eating habits.
Lara underwent a "relaxed and steady" weight-loss programme without her resorting to crash dieting, fad diets and invasive procedures.
Instead of eating three square meals, for instance, Lara now eats four to five smaller meals throughout the day to keep her from binging, especially at night. She's not prohibited from eating anything, but she's encouraged to make the right choices and portion sizes.
"It's working because unlike before, I no longer feel famished by day's end," she says.
"It takes some getting used to at first, especially for someone like me who used to skip breakfast. During the three-day booster stage, for instance, I had to eat lots of raw greens, which I really don't like. But once you get used to it, it becomes automatic, even enjoyable."
“The only time I cheated, if you can call it that, was when I ate a big chunk of chocolate,” she says before breaking into giggles. "I still buy taho (a sweet Philippino dessert), but unlike before, I no longer buy a huge syrupy bowl."
Laura is slowly but surely regaining her whistlebait figure. Almost four months after she signed up as its newest beauty queen endorser, Lara has slimmed down to 115 pounds (52kg).
Months after being obscured by her bloated visage, Lara’s winsome cheekbones and jawline have begun to reappear.
She has also made tremendous progress around her erstwhile problematic upper arms. She has yet to fully regain her flat tummy, but she’s getting there.
"But I think the best part is I’ve regained my confidence,” she declares. "I’m also more energetic during the day."
However, Laura says she still has a little more weight to lose before she hits her ideal size.
"I still have five more pounds to shed off," she says. "I always tell women, especially mothers, that they owe it to themselves, not even their husbands, to look slim and beautiful. I intend to maintain my weight and keep my figure for as long as I can."