Then-‘chubby’ actor-director shuts down body-shamers by winning bodybuilding pageant title

Barry Viloria on Dec 29, 2016 01:18 AM
Then-‘chubby’ actor-director wins bodybuilding pageant title
Even Joaquin Valdes, a bona fide celeb, gets insecure about his body. That is, until he acted on it by working really hard. Learn the story of this year’s Mr. Gold’s Gym Philippines. (Photos courtesy of Valdes)

“In 2017, I will...” wrote actor-director and Mr. Gold’s Gym Philippines winner Joaquin Valdes as a Facebook status message a day after Christmas, “Write more blogs. Read more books. Shoot more videos. Sing more songs. Wear more shirts.”

Such status would draw a mix of reactions from his friends on the social media site, with scores of them clicking the “Haha” if not the “Like” icon. It was their way of saying that they got the inside joke he had just put out there—indeed, in recent months, Valdes has taken to his Facebook and Instagram unbelievable photos documenting his body transformation. Yes, the admittedly former chubby kid is now Greek god-ripped. Same old story from a celebrity? Not quite, if you hear its entirety.

The bullied kid

A product of talent workshop series Trumpet Playshops since 13 years old, Valdes has made a career of theater acting growing up. He has top-billed several plays including Spring Awakening, The Last Five Years, and Ako Si Josephine; and even won a Philstage Gawad Buhay Best Featured Actor plum for starring in the Asian premiere of Red in 2013. His directorial credentials are just as impressive—with his Golden Duck award-winning Bulong in 2008 and his Cinema One Originals entry Dagim in 2009. He also directs commercial ads, to boot.

Yet, you’d be shocked that even if he already has had both feet at the door of showbiz, Valdes still grew to be insecure of his physical appearance.

“I was surrounded by beautiful people. My insecurities were always about comparing myself to other people. I guess non-industry folk will find it vain or shallow, but those inside the industry can attest to it,” he begins.

Back in high school at Xavier School, Valdes “was told I wasn’t sporty or athletic.”

He would carry over all his body issues to college—the UP Film and Audio Visual Communication student then attempted to reverse his insecurities by getting sportier. Valdes’ hands groped over various athletic territories—Dragonboat rowing, ultimate Frisbee, CrossFit, rock climbing, underwater hockey, Bikram yoga, and rugby. He also underwent different diet programs as well, from Paleo to Intermittent Fasting to Carb Backloading.

Valdes’ sports and other workout regimens did him well by bulking him up. His diet plans added to how he would look, although “I don’t think I executed them properly which is why the results weren’t as drastic as they advertised them to be.”

Then another problem came: He got too big.

Rise of the bodybuilder

Valdes was still unconfident of his then-muscular body. While his various physical activities rendered him looking big and strong, he was “mainly insecure about my aesthetic. Believe it or not, I didn’t look as fit as I felt. I wasn’t too comfy taking my shirt off in the beach.”

Add to that the once-in-a-while jokes about his then-chunky frame courtesy of the people around him, which became too frequent that they sounded more like jibes.

“It didn’t help that I was expected and assumed to be stocky, chubby, and fat by family and friends. I wasn’t outright bullied but that was the expectation. So, little words that might be said in jest or in familiarity were really quite hurtful and affecting. Lalo na here in the Philippines, we are so insensitive with remarks like, ‘O, tumataba ka!’ or ‘Ang chubby mo ngayon!’”

After more than a decade of Valdes working out just to overcome his insecurities, the invitation to try out for this year’s Gold’s Gym BodyCon 2016 would then prove to be perfect in timing. He was already a member at the international gym franchise that sponsored the physique pageant; and he was already keen on shredding in the past months for an acting role next year “that demanded me to look really good”—so, why not?

“It’s my first time (to join a competition like this)! I never thought I’d join this or anything of the sort. To be honest, I was one of those who would laugh at the thought only because I didn’t know any better. It wasn’t until I met real bodybuilders with real stories that I changed my perspective and grew the respect.”

Going for the gold

Valdes decided to join a week before the go-see. He went through the usual—an interview about his fitness journey followed by going shirtless before the panelists as necessary body assessments go.

“It was nerve-wracking,” the almost-32-year-old recalls the experience. “But I thought, ‘I’ve gotten to this kind of condition. I’m (already a) winner whatever happens.’”

In effect, the amiable and eloquent Valdes didn’t grow too competitive. He just kept his training as is (he has a seasoned international Mr. Universe-winning bodybuilder as his coach) and became stricter with his diet by eliminating starches and carbs (“I’ve been off sugar and salt for a month na.”)

If you’re curious about his training, he worked out on a four-day-on-one-day-off split. Meaning, he would hit the iron for four days straight and then rest on the fifth, and then repeat. Two weeks before the competition, he went daily.

To get down to the last few percentages of his body fat, cardio became essential so much so he would go through a session twice a day. As for sleep? Valdes would make sure he had eight to nine hours of which everyday to recover.

To juggle his fitness venture and his day jobs plus other responsibilities, he relied on what else but time management?

“I wanted the process to be enjoyable, inclusive and functional. I didn’t want to alienate my wife my work and my other responsibilities.”

New fitness ambassador

Valdes’ journey at BodyCon is one he’ll remember for the rest of his life, he says.

“This is my first one. I was surprised to see how encouraging, motivating, and reassuring everyone was. I was up against some seasoned competitors, and they were all extremely supportive. We all got pretty close and attached!” he adds with a laugh.

Last November, Valdes would best 38 others at the Gold’s Gym BodyCon 2016. He not only took home P150,000 in cash but also a trip and ticket to the Gold’s Gym International Convention in Las Vegas, Nevada, July next year.

This just put more pressure on Valdes, who now keeps busy as an actor, director, entrepreneur, and husband.

“That’s the real feat. I had to keep other aspects of my life as is. I continued work and all especially my husband duties. That’s who I am first before I am a fitness nut.”

Valdes’ recent ambassadorship for an iconic gym brand (so called “mecca of bodybuilding,” with bodybuilding legends like Arnold Schwarzenegger as patrons) now lent him a special power to inspire. This, he has been eager to do ever since his victory. He is, after all, one who’s been through it all—from being a victim of body-shaming, to going through a bunch of exercises and diet plans that didn’t at all give him a sense of clean, healthy living.

“I turned my Instagram into a fitness account, too, so I try to stay accountable to my wife, my coach, and my followers,” shares Valdes, who calls five-time International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness champion Jeremy Buendia (a Filipino-American) as his peg.

“Well, it’s pressure but it’s also a motivation to keep at it—that fitness is a lifestyle, that it isn’t seasonal.”

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