ULTRA-RUNNER Brod. Carlo Bacalla brought me to my senses.

He expressed puzzlement when we met—of all places at a fastfood line—why I gained weight since the last time we saw each other despite my increasing mileage.

“Ikaw ra man ang akong runner nahibaw-an nga nanambok (you’re the only runner I know who has become fat),” he said as I quickly decided against ordering a double

cheeseburger with extra-large fries.

That honest appraisal gave me the impetus to face something that I had been putting off from confronting for a long time: a creeping weight gain caused by a sense of entitlement to gorge on food just because I regularly run.

It’s true that by exercising, you are entitled to eat a little bit more. But like many runners, however, I thought I was entitled to the equivalent of a daily buffet. It is, as Time described it in an article I did not want to read, “ravenous compensatory eating.”

Instead of seeing the run as reward, we see it as torment that should be rewarded with a plateful of Shanghai fried rice, grilled pork chops, fried chicken, spring rolls, siomai and another plateful of desserts.

That’s a sure way of bulking up. I should know. I gained five pounds even when I was running 80-kilometer weeks.

To lose weight, healthy people like me need to create a caloric deficit by burning more than what we take in.

And so with a final extra helping of Casa Verde Harvest Rice to accompany my usual Tavern Shrimps order (a day after a lovely dinner of steak ala pobre from Mooon Café with sizzling gambas as appetizer), I made a vow to eat within my (caloric) means.

I wanted to start counting calories, but found the process laborious and lugubrious, a dismal mathematical experience too much for my starved brain to handle. I decided to just simplify things and cut in half the servings of everything I ate. I also decided to avoid meat, although I haven’t fully gone to the Dark Side by being a vegan.

As with anything I do, I turned to people close to me for support, announcing that I was on a diet and talking publicly about my struggle to lose weight. By doing so, I put added pressure on myself to keep the diet and recruit others to warn me when I’d start bingeing on food again.

It helped that a lot of runners in the CebuRunning community are as healthy as I am and as determined to lose weight. I initiated a Biggest Loser type of contest, an activity widely reported as successful in encouraging people to lose weight, whether in schools, dormitories or companies. We got the crucial backing of drop-dead sexy Rowena Duarte of Herbalife, Richelieu Mariano Ho of Coffeecat, and Jermine Germino of Runnr.

Aside from providing prizes, Duarte also handles the weekly weigh-ins, provides crucial tips to lose weight and be sexy and provides the needed shock to shatter all your years of denial, “Obese ka!!!”

I’ve lost about four pounds in a few weeks. It’s not much, but it’s a start. Others have lost more. Coleen Digman was the first weekly winner. Dindz Bartolabac is my toughest rival while hunk-to-be Dexter Dimaano, who lost five kilos in a week, seemed to be the likely winner.

I don’t know whether I can continue to lose weight or even maintain it but one thing I know for certain, running isn’t an all-you-can-eat ticket.

(maxlimpag@gmail.com/www.CebuRunning.com )