I had first met Donny Elvina at Burgers & Brewskies, a popular burger joint in Bonifacio Global City that he co-owned with a few other partners. He sat to one side, playing with his son, Tiago, and watching our table as we took photos of all the burgers and sides that the kitchen was rolling out. He reminded me of a teddy bear almost – if teddy bears were built like brick walls who referee international MMA fights in their free time.

I got to chat with Donny a few months later, when he hosted a table at Kessaku, a Japanese restaurant he co-owns with Chef Rob Goco and a few others partners at the Commercenter in Alabang.  We got to talking about the pitfalls of having to eat (or run restaurants) for a living, of how he lost the weight equivalent to that of a whole other human being, of how he maintains his weight now, and what else he does to keep him busy.

What Donny didn’t realize was that that conversation was what inspired me to take charge of what was happening with my health – my funky thyroid problem and the weight that came along with it – to get back to the physical challenges of working out, and treating my body like a machine, fueling it with clean food instead of junk.

This may be the story of the everyman’s struggle to shed the extra pounds and feel better about himself every new year, but this is the story of the guy who personally wanted to make me do the same. Here’s a snippet of our inspiring conversation along with tips for those who want to do the same:


… on how he gradually put on the extra pounds and his heaviest weight.

My max weight was probably 360 pounds or more. My size was just right when I was a baby up until maybe five years old, then my parents decided I had to gain weight, so that’s where it started. I was a very heavy gradeschool boy at 200 pounds, but I lost the excess weight during my highschool varsity days – dieting and sports was always present.


… on what made him realize he needed to lose weight.
Well my son. Ever since I had my first born, that was my very inspiration – I want to win the sack race in those father-son things. I was always an athlete, even when I was overweight.


… on why he chose the HCG diet over the Paleo diet, Southbeach, etc.

My sister made me try it. I saw her and all her friends were losing weight daily and I was so amazed! I tired all types of diets already, but hCG is the quickest and most effective! I lost a minimum of one pound a day – I lost 56 pounds on my first month believe it or not. At that point I really didn’t care if it was too fast, all I cared about was losing the weight! And guess what? All my blood results, etc. went down, which was really good!



Donny on the far right before the hCG diet


.. on his drastic weight loss.

I lost over 130 pounds in less than a year. It was a lifestyle change really. I probably gained 20-30 pounds when I normalized my intake (also called Phase 3 of the hCG diet), but am slowly going back to my diet. I’ll hopefully be back to hCG in a couple of weeks. Most friends and acquaintances didn’t recognize me! We would talk to for two minutes then they would go, “Oh, shit….”


… on his biggest challenge when he went on the hCG diet.

Saying goodbye to carbohydrates and sugar. I had to give up rice, but rarely eat it now – very minimal, close to none. I’m big on bread and pasta as well. You know, you can eat three kilos of steak and probably lose weight, but a cup of rice is deadly. Im used to no carbs now. What the absence of carbs and sugar does is it forces your body to use your stored fat as eneregy.


… on getting started.

It was hard at first, but I had to. During Phase 2 of the hCG diet, you are restricted to eating certain food items at 500 calories. On day two, you will start to regret everything you’ve ever eaten and will really question why you did all this to yourself. But then again, when you were enjoying all that food you didn’t give a shit on what you were putting in your body. The challenge is staying on it day to day.


… on his exercise routine while on the hCG diet.

While on the diet, I started running since I had nothing better to do. So I started my most hated sport in the world and it has now became my staple. Restricted to 500 calories a day, I couldn’t do competitive sports, so I had to go do sports where I can move at my own pace – swimming, running, and cycling. I was a varsity swimmer during my college years so it wasn’t hard for me. Also, when on the hCG drops, your cravings are less and you don’t feel too weak.


… on how his approach to food has changed.

It’s easier now because I know what works for my body chemistry. I try to go back to the hCG diet every three months, but lately I haven’t been taking it too seriously. I wanna go all out now!


… on cheat days.

Sometimes you need the cheat days! With the hCG diet, if your weight loss stalls, you will have to go back to Phase 1 – gorge on fatty foods again before going back to the restrictive 500 calorie diet. My cheat meal? I can never say no to pizza!


… on his transition from restaurateur to an MMA referee.
During my early years I was really heavy with MMA – we were the very few who started it in the country and have been practicing since 1998. It was underground back then. When I aged and, of course, became one of the senior practitioners in the country, I slowly eased my way in to officiating and now am an international MMA referee. I am one of the first Filipinos to become one!


… on up-and-coming Pinoy MMA fighter we should look out for.

There are tons! The MMA scene in the country is growing like wild fire! We have produced a handful of local talents that already are in the UFC.


… on advice for people looking to lose weight this year.

The hCG diet is a good place to start. No carbohydrates, no sugar, and moderate exercise. The best way to jumpstart your diet? Add fiber. Lots and lots of fiber.  Good luck!


If Donny’s story has inspired you to start your hCG diet story, I’d love to hear from you! Comment below about what made you want to start tour weight loss journey and how far along your diet you’ve come. The hCG diet has worked for Donny, but you might be going a different route. What other diet-cum-lifestyle changes are you thinking of doing?