We expect very specific things when reading about someone's weight loss. On top of the list is, of course, how they did it—what they did and didn't eat, their workout routine, and how long it took for them to lose X number of pounds. As informative as these stories can be, though, we rarely find out everything else that happened beyond the subject's new set of abs.
Take Maxene Magalona-Mananquil, for example. The actress has gone through a major transformation after adopting a new diet and fitness regimen in 2017, and the photos on her feed are proof of just how far she's come. She lost 30 pounds in a single year—a jaw-dropping number that came with an entirely new physique, the results of which she often credits to copious amounts of yoga, meditation, and healthy eating. But like many of her followers, we couldn't help but wonder exactly how she managed to achieve such a change. Luckily, she was more than happy to indulge us with the answers, and there turned out to be more to the story than a slimmer figure.
In an exclusive interview with Preview, Maxene shares the details of her fitness journey and weight loss. She talks about her unexpected love affair with yoga, her new habits' impact on her mental health, and how she deals with unsolicited remarks about her body.
Hi Maxene! When did you start this new fitness journey of yours? What prompted it?
"It all started when my husband [Rob Mananquil] and I were planning our wedding in 2017. It got so stressful that Rob thought of inviting me to practice yoga with him. At first, I didn't understand what yoga was for. I thought it was just simple poses and stretching, and I sometimes even found it boring! I honestly had a difficult time for the first three to four months and would even pray on some days that Rob would not want to go to yoga class so that I could just stay in bed! Good thing he never gave up on me and always convinced me to take my health and fitness seriously.
"By the sixth month, I began seeing results and understanding the practice more. More than it just being a physical practice, it helped turn my attention inward and focus on my mental well-being. Yoga started becoming a holistic practice not just for my body but also for my mind and spirit. The reason why yoga became my number one workout is because for years, I had been looking for an exercise that I could stick with for more than a few months. With other exercises like running and going to the gym, it was never enough because as it turned out, I needed a workout that helped not just my body but more importantly, my mind to become healthier and stronger.
"To put it quite frankly, yoga was the perfect exercise for someone like me who was suffering from mental health issues like anxiety, emotional trauma and anger management. At first, I wasn't even aware that I had these serious problems! Yoga really helped not just tone my body but also clear my mind and open my eyes to the problems that I had been experiencing deep within. What started as a simple physical practice slowly became my spiritual and mental healing."
What kind of changes did you do to your diet?
"In late 2016, I was inspired by my husband to remove beef and pork from my diet as he had already removed it from his since 2009. I wanted to see what kind of effect it would have on my body. True enough, I noticed that I no longer felt sleepy after eating and I began feeling lighter. Come August of 2017, we started a diet delivery service with Diet Diva—while his was a diet designed specifically for men who work out, mine was a low-carb and low salt 1,200-calorie diet. By this time, both of us were only eating chicken, seafood, and vegetables. On weekends, we liked to indulge with occasional cheat meals like junk food and sweets. We didn't even realize that we continued this kind of diet for a whole year! I even combined my diet food with intermittent fasting, eating only from the hours between 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., which I noticed really helped speed up my weight loss. By late 2018, I had already lost 30lbs!
"In September 2019, after taking our Yoga Teacher Training Course under the school Kalpana Radhika Yoga in Thailand where we experimented with a vegetarian diet for three weeks, we were inspired to make the switch to a vegan diet—no beef, pork, chicken, seafood, eggs and dairy. We immediately noticed how amazing we felt on the inside by sticking to a purely plant-based diet. So far, it has been one of the best decisions we have ever made for our health and overall well-being. Plus, it's good for the environment, it helps protect animal rights and it keeps our bodies healthy so it’s a win for all!"
What kind of workouts do you do? How often do you work out?
"I practice yoga every day, sometimes even twice in one day. Meanwhile, I also practice meditation, which I believe is the workout for the mind. I've been practicing 10-minute meditations every morning for a couple of years now and it helped improve the state of my mental health immensely. I also go to my therapist once a month because I really believe mental health is just as important as physical health. Rob, on the other hand, also goes to the gym besides practicing yoga and he invites me to join him sometimes although I haven't really gotten the hang of it yet, but I hope to be more active in the gym as well!"
When did you start seeing results from this diet and fitness regimen? Were there any challenges along the way?
"I had a really difficult time sticking to this new lifestyle for the first three to four months and only started seeing results by the sixth month. However, even if I started seeing results physically, my mental state was no where anywhere near improvement. The biggest challenge for me was to silence my mind and negative thoughts that kept discouraging me from continuing this lifestyle. I had zero belief in myself with quite a pessimistic attitude about life—this was not a good combination.
"So, aside from just meditating, I started praying to God daily as well to help give me and my husband the strength to continue this kind of lifestyle. We also began attending church on Sundays so that we could form a deeper relationship with Him. Thankfully, by the grace of God and with my husband’s support, I was able to power through my negative state of mind. As cheesy as it may sound, I started seeing more positive results when we turned to God and submitted ourselves to Him."
How would you describe the difference between yourself now on this new approach to diet/fitness and you before you started this new path?
"I guess I could say that the changes in me were so extreme that I no longer resonate with my old self. I can definitely say that this lifestyle helped cleanse not only my physical body but, more importantly, my mind and spirit. It helped me grow and blossom into the person I had always wanted to become.
"Don't get me wrong though, I'm not saying that I have completely changed and that everything is perfectly fine now because that is a complete lie. Change and transformation do not happen overnight and I still have moments of weakness when I fall back to my old, toxic ways. It is honestly a daily struggle. However, that doesn’t stop me from wanting to change. There are times when I get frustrated and discouraged so I just keep telling myself to power through and continue because no one else is going to help me but myself."
What motivates you to stay on track?
"My family is my number one motivation to continue this lifestyle. Rob is my number one source of inspiration as well as supporter and he is the one who really helps keep me motivated and grounded. To be completely honest, I had already reached a point in my life where I was so toxic that I was unintentionally projecting my negative emotions towards others. I was desperate to change and this is what motivated me the most. I also think of my future children while I undergo this transformation as I want to give them my 101% best self. They are also my number one motivation for adapting a plant-based diet. I want them to have a happy and healthy home."
What's the most common misconception about your transformation? What are the questions you get asked often because of it and how do you answer them?
"Ever since I was able to shed the unnecessary weight, people automatically assume that I am sick or that something is wrong with me. They even send me private messages asking if I am sick and telling me to eat more. I answer some of them truthfully that they shouldn't worry—I am completely happy and healthy from the inside out. What they see is only on the surface. They do not know that I actually feel good and healthy. They do not know the amount of discipline and hard work I put into healing myself. Just because they were used to seeing how I looked before, I guess they are just not used to how they see me now.
"And again, to be honest, I was super unhealthy before I switched to a healthy lifestyle. I was not eating properly and not getting enough sleep while drinking alcohol excessively. So when I started making healthier life choices and completely removed alcohol from my system, the transformation was fast and evident."
Do you have any tips for those who are looking to go on a similar fitness journey and want to succeed?
"Love and forgive yourself before anything else. If you don't love yourself, you won't be able to respect yourself enough to practice real self-care and self-love which isn't just about physical exercise and skincare—it is looking deep within yourself and fixing your flaws. It is looking into the mirror and being completely honest with yourself about the things that you need to change. It is facing your issues head on without judgment and truly accepting yourself despite your flaws.
"Another thing I learned from my husband is to never give up. Always keep a positive mindset because there will be days when you won't feel as motivated or inspired. Keep going and just power through because you are your greatest investment. If you want your life to change, you have to change. Everything starts with you. Don't forget to enjoy the process! Know that you are making the best decision by investing in yourself so that you can give the best of yourself to the people around you and to the world."