GEOFF EIGENMANN BARES HIS EFFECTIVE FIGHT PLAN IN WINNING THE BATTLE AGAINST THE BULGE "/>
“I KNEW IT WAS COMING,” says Geoff Eigenmann of the infamous “fat memo” his mother station GMA sent him early last May. “I’ve been pushing it. I knew something was going to go wrong.” He’d then just finished working on the afternoon soap Forever, in which he’d team up again with Heart Evangelista. Allegedly, the show’s wardrobe people had to resort to layering off his clothes throughout the show’s 3-month run to hide his ballooning physique. “Before that, may mga ibang shows akong ginawa na nagpapasabi na ‘medyo lumalaki na si Geoff,’” shares the actor. Some of his colleagues were more frank, telling him to his face that he was indeed getting puffy.
Finally, when it became too obvious that every Geoff Eigenmann-topbilled production had to have a detailed plan on how to slim him down for TV, the channel’s bigwigs intervened.
“GMA talked to my manager, they went over what should be done and all that, and then my manager told me about it,” recalls Eigenmann. “When he told me, wala. I wasn’t angry. I didn’t complain. There was no point.”
Like every derogatory report that comes out in this celebrity-obsessed land of ours, the Internet and its collection of web trolls feasted on the issue.
The news ruled social media for a few days before the dust finally settled. Some commenters threw bad puns like “GMA has a ‘heavy’ problem,” while others ranted about GMA’s “discrimination against plus-size people.” For some artists, no publicity is bad publicity. But in this case, bad publicity equated to career jeopardy.
“I don’t want to bullshit you: It wasn’t just a memo, it was a suspension,” admits Eigenmann. “Nawalan ako ng trabaho.”
He was given three months to get back in shape.
ON FAMILIAR GROUND
Eigenmann was 28 at the time of the suspension and approaching his first decade as a top-tier leading man. (His first credited acting role was a brief stint as one of Ang TV “Esmyuskee” kids back in ‘92.) He’s also somewhat of a weight-loss veteran. This was, in fact, the third time he was going to do it—and the second time he had to do so because of work.
The first time he slimmed down happened by accident. He was 230 pounds entering his first year in college—his heaviest ever. Before the end of his freshman year, he heard about a small group of sports enthusiasts who were trying out a new outdoor game called Ultimate Frisbee at the Manila Polo Club. He joined in, and instantly got hooked. He played Monday to Sunday for at least three hours a day.
“I was part of the very first Philippine team,” boasts Eigenmann. “We had Spirits tournaments every weekend at the Polo Club where we’d play from 8 AM to about 5 PM. We also went to Singapore and Thailand to represent the country. All that running got me down to 160 pounds. I was in the best shape of my life.”
Then, when he entered showbiz full time, he started packing on the pounds again as quickly as he was snapped up for roles. By late 2008, he was still gaining weight. “I was busy, I wasn’t exercising, I ate what I wanted, I did what I wanted to do,” he confesses, adding that he understood when his network then (ABS-CBN) chose not to renew his contract. “That was the first time that it really hit me. [I thought,] ‘Shit, I really need to maintain my image.’”
That led him to boxing, and the sport’s weight-loss benefits was the central theme of his first Men’s Health cover stint in June 2009. From 210 pounds, he boxed his way back to 170. At that point, he also figured out his magic weight-loss secret: He had to like what he was doing, since desperation wasn’t ever going to be a pleasant gym companion.
“I realized that I shouldn’t put too much pressure on myself to want to work out,” acknowledges Eigenmann. “That way I just do it. Just like in Frisbee: I didn’t expect to lose weight; I just loved playing the game; kept on doing it; lost weight on the side. It was the same thing with boxing. It’s easier for me to focus. Pag inisip ko na kasi na, ‘I need to be on a diet, I need to lose weight,’ it might stick for a while pero eventually mawawala rin.”
The weight loss got him a second stint with GMA (his showbiz career thus far has a record of network switches). Through it all, however, he admits he still didn’t see the need to cut down on his food intake. “I love eating,” he insists. “I eat anything. My mom Geoff would always say na when I was a kid hindi ako mahirap pakainin, kahit anong gulay pa yan I’d eat it without complaint. Then I also got into a relationship with Carla [Abellana, who he teamed up with in Rosalinda for his comeback role in GMA]. We both liked to go out to eat at new restaurants.”
According to a study published last February 2013 in the British Journal of Nutrition, bad eating habits don’t just result in cellulite and bulge—it also changes the brain. Consuming too much fat, carbohydrates, and simple sugars can damage the nerves in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain that regulates metabolism.
Once this damage occurs, the function of the appetite hormones leptin (which tells you when you’re full) and ghrelin (which tells you when you need a snack) are affected. Your body thus loses the ability to tell if you still have fat stored inside, and if you really need to stop eating. Fortunately, the rate of damage to the hypothalamus can be fixed; you just have to reduce your supply of fat, calories, and simple carbs.
The study also reaffirms what weight-loss experts have been harping on about since time immemorial: If you want to lose weight, you need to change your diet first. Exercise just isn’t enough.
A NEW LOVE
“It was his cousin, Gabby, who told me about Geoff’s ‘problem,’” shares Erwin Tagle, a Mixed Martial Arts fighter-turned-trainer and the program director/part-owner of Ultimate Fitness gym in Pasig. “He told me that I really had to see Geoff. We were all headed to this fight, so I told him that I’ll seek them out.” One look at the young Eigenmann, though, and Tagle knew this was a totally different scenario.
“Hindi ko siya namukhaan,” remembers Tagle of his first meeting with the actor. “They told me tumaba raw siya, pero I didn’t expect that he got that big. I told him that he should go to my gym the very next day.”
The invitation couldn’t come at a better time for Eigenmann. It was late July, almost three months after his suspension. He should have acquiesced to GMA’s orders by this time, but instead, he’d ballooned to 215 pounds. He also had long, scruffy hair, and a full beard and mustache. “Nag-vacation pa ako,” he says. “I went to the States for my younger brother’s wedding. I still ate. And since wala akong ginagawa, it didn’t matter what I looked like. I’ve never had long hair and a beard so pinahaba ko nang todo. I didn’t care.”
He has always been considered a spontaneous—in fact, some would say hardheaded—character. “I don’t like planning things,” Eigenmann maintains. “If I feel like doing it, I’ll do it. If I plan something out that’s when shit goes wrong. Always. When it’s spontaneous, it works out all the time. Ganun ako sa lahat!”
The people around Eigenmann understand this side of him. For instance, his manager, Perry Lansigan, knows not to hold him on a leash. “[Perry] would regularly check up on me. I was always honest with him,” recounts Eigenmann. “If he asked if I was ready, I’d say no. If he asked if I was already working out, I’d say no.”
But now that they were past their deadline with GMA, Lansigan had lay down and ultimatum and pose a question to his talent: Do you want another three months, or maybe you’d like to extend your unemployment to a year? “So yeah, I just had to do what I had to do,” says Eigenmann.
“Sa totoo lang, nung una ko siyang nakita parang wala nang pag-asa,” discloses Tagle. “Ang laki niya eh. Pero siyempre, depende rin yun sa kanya.”
‘LOOK AT MY EAR’
Funny story: Around mid-August, the MH team was at Ultimate Fitness for our September 2013 cover shoot with Sam Milby. As with most magazine shoots,we had to spend a number of hours holed up inside the venue. But, amid the light stands and the controlled chaos we had brought to their gym that day, the regulars plodded on. One of them was Eigenmann.
“Ang laki mo pa noon,” we remind him.
“I remember,” he nods. “Ilang weeks pa lang ako nagte-train noon.” But what really stood out to us was his work ethic. He was training with pro fighters, and though it was obvious that he was barely keeping up, he was trying and he looked very determined.
There’s an obsessive-compulsive quality to the way Eigenmann embraced his MMA training at Ultimate Fitness. Coming off a combat sport like boxing, it was natural for him to get into MMA’s multifaceted brand of fighting.
“When I had finally decided to work out, I needed to find something new,” he remarks. “And the first time I tried Fight Form (Ultimate Fitness’ body-weight course for newbies, done in circuit training intervals), wala pang five minutes, I was already puking my guts out. I loved it.”
When he’s in the zone, Eigenmann never loses sight of what he has to achieve. His dwindling finances also reminded him to suck it up. “That was one of the big factors why I pushed myself,” he reveals. “My savings were getting depleted. Hindi tumitigil ang gastos eh.” Around the same time he started working out, his girlfriend began working on the groundbreaking TV series My Husband’s Lover. “She always asked if I wanted to go out to dinner. But I couldn’t pay for shit, and I didn’t want her to pay for anything. So, wala. I’d just ask na lang if we could stay in and watch a DVD, ha ha!” He spent the money he had left on working out—training gear, gym sessions, gas, and food. He was literally investing in himself. “Like when you want to buy something and you realize, ‘Aahh, ‘tangina wala akong trabaho!’” he says with a laugh. “It’s expected eh, kung wala kang trabaho, walang papasok. Going to the gym meant less gastos.”
After Fight Form, Tagle introduced his eager student to Level 2 or Caveman Training, a high-intensity, skills-enhancing program designed to teach you all you need to fight, before moving him to Level 3, which is actual fighter training. “Yung fighter training is 40 minutes of warm-up, then an hour of drills, then an hour of sparring,” Eigenmann explains. “We rotate around the different coaches and martial arts.” He tests himself by going against smaller fighters, who, because of the size difference, go all-out and don’t pull their punches. “I can’t do shit against them,” he says. “But I don’t stop.”
His other habits changed, too. Eigenmann drives almost 30 kilometers daily from his Alabang home to the Pasig gym. He gets to the gym at opening time (10 AM), takes all the different morning classes, eats his lunch at a taco place in the first floor of the building (“They’re really good tacos!”), then joins all the gym sessions till closing time at 10 PM. Afternoons are devoted to wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu classes (without gi or kimono), but he also attends the evening BJJ lessons (with gi) every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
He now also portions his meals, tries to avoid red meat, and counts calories. Regarding Eigenmann’s diet, Tagle had one simple rule for him: the more you eat, the more you have to burn. Ergo, if you don’t want to go home half dead every day, don’t frigging eat too much.
Eigenmann eventually developed the discipline to limit himself to just one taco a day (instead of the four he had during his first visit there). “You have to condition your body into thinking na you’re going to eat every two hours,” he imparts. “That way, it’s just going to keep on burning and burning.
With years of bad eating now behind him, the weight started coming off. “My metabolism has really changed,” concludes Eigenmann. “I’ve reached the point where I could do nonstop Fight Form for 30 minutes. I’d lose up to 500 calories from it but I can do it for five times a day, so that’s 2,500 calories! And all I eat is a single taco, which is only about 120 calories.”
As of press time, he’s 170 pounds—still shy of his target by 15 pounds, which he’s really finding hard to shed since it means he’ll now have to burn muscles. In case you’re wondering why he’s aiming for 155, it’s the weight limit for MMA’s lightweight division, in which—if ever Lansingan and loved ones allow him to fight—he envisions competing.
“See this,” says Eigenmann, pointing to his right ear cauliflower. “I’m very proud of it. When my cousins saw it, they proclaimed that I’m now legit. Even the fighters in the gym said, ‘Fighter ka na.’”
BACK IN BUSINESS
Eigenmann returned to GMA in late October, his haircut back to its short, clean style, and his facial hair completely shaved off—a transformation that instantly netted him a co-leading man role in the primetime fantaserye Adarna and bookings until New Year’s Day. “He lost 40 pounds in three months so siyempre masaya siya na he’s back working,” observes Tagle, “but it just seemed like it bothered him that he couldn’t go here as often.”
To help Eigenmann maintain his weight, Tagle gave him a list of exercises he can do in short intervals and perform even before he showers or eats his breakfast. For his part, Eigenmann runs during lulls in tapings. He also brings with him his stationary bike.
He looks back at the whole experience as a challenge he was able to overcome. “You know, one of things that also pushed me was the fact that I had done this na before,” shares Eigenmann. “I wanted to know if I could do it again. I had a lot to prove to myself and to other people. I knew I was a lot older, that my body wasn’t as active anymore, and that I wasn’t as strong as I was when I was younger. So could I pull it off?”
He already knew the answer before he started working out, and thought about it every single day he was battling his weight. “Ano bang mapapala ko if I stay here at home and watch TV all day? I could have chosen to live on my couch and watch every episode of the shows I could have done had I been working,” he points out. “But I chose to better my situation. The one thing I never wanted to happen was that I end up asking myself questions I already knew the answer to.”
USE YOUR BODY WEIGHT
Ultimate Fitness’ program director and part-owner, Erwin Tagle, shares a simple circuit work out that maximizes your own weight
Reps: Do each exercise for 40 seconds each, resting for 20 seconds in between. Repeat three to five times
Duration: 14 to 25 min
Jog In Place
RAPID FIRE: GEOFF EIGENMANN
“I’m a seafood person. I’d say lobsters. That’s my favorite.”
Hardest food to shun:
“The one thing I’m really hooked on is candies. Sweet tooth ko is candies, not chocolates, like Skittles, Starburst, and any chewy candy. I still have it but not on a daily basis. Controlling lang. Portions.”
Meal he’ll survive on for a whole week:
“Anything new that I like. Ako kasi, if I try a new dish and I like it, I can have it every day for all of my meals.”
Instant exercise routine:
“I run. I also follow @spartanrace on Instagram. May mga daily workouts sila. I can also do Fight Form on my own, body weight lang naman yun. Sinasabi nga nila sa gym na I can teach Fight Form na kasi I do it a lot.”