One Pound Less at a Time

The two are fitness ambassadors of the Philippine Heart Association. In photo are Coach Jim and Toni with former PHA president Dr. Nanneth Rey and Dr. Jeremy Robles, President of Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Metabolism (PSEDM)

Cover Story

Coaches Jim and Toni Saret are not the typical gym coaches. The two are constatly on-the-go, flying in and out of town to train massive crowds and inspire them to lose weight and stay fit, sans the heavy gym equipment and stiff monthly membership fees

By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos


A lot has changed since Jimbo Saret, or Coach Jim, came home to the Philippines in 2000 after obtaining his master’s degree at the Brigham Young University.

Indeed, Coach Jim has gone a long way from teaching in the academe, conducting lectures on sports medicine, being a Biggest Loser coach, and a trainer for the country’s elite athletes for more than a decade.

He, together with wife Marie Antoinette Dimaguila-Saret, popularly known as Coach Toni, has paved the way for more Filipinos to start moving and getting fit with their simple yet effective exercise campaigns.

Likewise, Coach Toni’s background on fitness is unparalleled. As a child, she was into sports, running, ballet, and gymnastics. She then sought other certifications abroad to keep up with the trends of fitness and introduce them to her home country. She is a certified Zumba, cross-fit and a holistic plant-based raw food chef.

“You won’t find us in the gym,” Coach Jim says, describing how they work. “We have no time for things like that even though we can do it. We are actually more inclined to help as many Filipinos as possible.”

It is just fitting for the couple to encourage a healthy lifestyle at a time when the prevalence of obesity and overweight among Filipinos has increased to alarming levels. With that goes cardiometabolic problems like diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, hypertension which could all cause cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) like heart attack and stroke.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), 18 million Filipinos are obese and overweight, which makes them prone to lifestyle diseases that includes not only CVDs but cancer as well.

Coaches Jim and Toni Saret are advocates of exercising with a massive crowd which gives motivation to each participant

For Coach Toni, losing weight is not just the goal. Shedding a few pounds is just part and parcel of the transformational life they want every person to experience.

“Embracing fitness in your life and having a deeper grasp of what they are doing makes them more passionate. Being physically active also gives a positive effect to your emotional and psychological well-being,” says Coach Toni. She adds that it is not only the physical strength which is being developed but the person’s wellbeing as well.

FitFil Challenge

The two put up the Fit Filipino Movement, a campaign to get Filipinos embrace transformational lives through simplified exercises which they can regularly conduct even without going to the gym. An example is Coach Jim’s 4-Minute Exercise, which one can always do anywhere and anytime. It can burn 600 calories with a series of fat-burning movements.

But the two have a bigger vision for Filipinos; they envision the whole country to be more physically active and adopting healthier lifestyles.

Sometime in May 2017, while the two were running along Roxas Boulevard, an idea came to mind. Remembering that day, Coach Toni shares she thought of the whole country exercising together. That would indeed be fun and motivating! She noted that in their previous trainings, conducting big-group exercises was effective and motivating for the participants.

The goal was to lose collectively over 1,000,000 pounds by encouraging Filipinos to actively move together and lose weight for six months from June to December 2017. After drafting the mechanics and who would be the partners, The FitFil National Weight Loss Challenge was officially born.

It was the Philippine Heart Association (PHA) who first bought into the vision. As PHA’s Lifestyle Ambassadors, Coaches Jim’s and Toni’s vision was backed up by top cardiologists in the country, which prompted other medical associations to follow suit.

The PHA Board pledged a donation of 2,000 pounds. Other pledges followed from the Philippine Medical Associations and other societies, including groups from other allied professions.

One major boost for the campaign was when then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief and now Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa pledged 500,000 pounds coming from the entire PNP. This made the campaign rise to the national level, gaining massive media mileage and eventually landing more partnerships with other regions.

Local government units (LGUs) from different regions, universities, media partners, public and private agencies have also showed support for the cause by pledging thousands of pounds to lose in a span of six mouths.

Six months after, the challenge saw a collective ‘donation’ of a total of 1.6 million pounds to lose, creating a vast awareness on lifestyle-related diseases associated with having a sedentary lifestyle.

Also this year, PHA has launched the Fit Heart Minute, a brainchild of former president Dr. Nannette Rey in collaboration with Coaches Jim and Toni. The Fit Heart Minute is a spin off of Coach Jim’s 4-Minute Exercise, which gives a person no reason not to exercise even just for 60-seconds.

While it may not directly help in losing weight, a 60-second active physical movement can give a person a lift in mood and other positive benefits in the body.

From fitness challenges to one-minute exercises, there’s still a lot to be done. Today, Coaches Jim and Toni continue their fitness-for-all quest by aiming for another million pounds of pledges to lose this year.

Currently, they continue partnerships with different public and private organizations, helping them achieve holistic health through sharing what they are most passionately into—living transformative lives through a healthy lifestyle.

A perfectly healthy and fit nation may be quixotic, but Coaches Jim and Toni persevere and are taking everything in good stride, one pound less at a time.

“A perfectly healthy and fit nation may be quixotic, but Coaches Jim and Toni persevere and are taking everything in good stride, one pound less at a time”

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