For over a decade now, the public bore witness to how Empressita Karen “Empress” Schuck has blossomed from a child-actress-slash-commercial-model to a dramatic actress who can now hold her own among other stars. But if one were to casually glance at her stats, chances are that it will still come as a surprise to find out that Empress was just a debutante just less than six months ago. Though she has been in showbiz for over 11 years, the Fil-German teen says she has already gotten used to the flurry of intrigues that come with being a public figure, including fielding incessant inquiries on the state of her love life.
“Sanay na ako, kasi bata pa lang ako ganun na ’yung tanong sa akin hanggang ngayon. Hindi ako matantanan,” she describes this constant probing with a laugh. “At saka ayaw ’ata nila maniwala sa akin na wala kaya paulit-ulit sila ng tanong sa akin. Pero okay lang, ganun talaga, that’s life.”
But just like any teen, she admits being doubly excited for her “glam rocker princess” themed debut, for which she had started preparing as early as October last year. After her breakout role as the endearing hunchback in Rosalka, the hit ABS-CBN afternoon drama, Empress was given a much-deserved break when the series ended.
A healthier frame
Empress used her one-month break to focus on her body. “Sabi nila, bahala ako if I want to go abroad or go to school, basta ako daw bahala. So I decided na magpapayat na. I spent a month at the gym everyday with a [personal] trainer for two-hour sessions and also went on a super strict diet,” she shares. With the trainer’s help, she committed to the training programs, doing exercises beyond the mere use of gym equipment. “First time ko talaga tumutok talaga at mag-seryoso. Sobrang hindi biro. Talagang hirap at pawis talaga,” she recalls.
As with any kind of life changes, the first few weeks of adjustment will always prove to be the biggest challenge. Empress’ trainer started her out with light workouts before gradually moving her on to lifting heavier weights. “Sa second week hanggang sa tumagal na, dun na yung mahihirap. … Hindi ako every day nagbubuhat. Basta iba’t ibang exercises talaga yung ginagawa namin na hindi mo ma-i-imagine na may ganung mga exercise pala,” she says while laughing.
The dietary temptations
Although her trainer was in charge of her fitness regimen, Empress says her dietary restrictions were self-imposed. Her basic meal plan during this period included having the choice of only steamed fish or chicken, with no rice and softdrinks, plus fruits and vegetables with every meal. The diet resulted in Empress losing over 15 pounds in just one month. This also made her become more creative in adding flavor to her bland meals.
“Kahit gaano karami or kalaking portion basta steamed. Yun lang yung importante sa akin. Kahit mabusog ako kahit ilang kilo yung kainin ko, basta I’ll make sure na steamed siya, wala siyang oil or pork,” says Empress.
Empress admits that it was difficult to eat the same types of food every day, and made much worse by a diet devoid of tasty snacks or drinks like chocolate or juice. What she did was make interesting combinations of the food items she was allowed to eat. "Like yung fish sinasamahan ko ng mangga na may bagoong at kamatis or talong na steamed din. Para may lasa," she says.
She stresses that there was "no cheating talaga for one month," even supplementing her diet and workout with other activities like badminton, swimming, and jogging.
Despite being a self-confessed chocolate lover, Empress says she was so dead-set on achieving her target weight that it did not seem like such a big sacrifice considering the trade-offs in the end. Unlike other crash dieters, she also did not experience any symptoms like mood swings or headaches from her drastic change in eating habits. “Sobrang hilig ko talaga sa chocolates. As in super na kahit ano kakainin ko basta chocolate. Pero kailangan tiisin kasi ang gusto kong weight, 105 (pounds). kasi peg ko si Kim Chiu (one of her closest friends in showbiz),” she says.
Although she didn’t enjoy the bland taste of her meals, she admits it was the healthier way to lose weight. Empress explains, “Hindi naman ako nag-crash diet. Hindi din ako yung hindi kumakain sa isang araw at hindi ko rin ginugutom yung sarili ko. Basta lagi akong may baon, ’yun lang.”
Another hurdle Empress was proud to overcome was being able to stick to her diet even while eating with her entire family. As the youngest girl in the house with three brothers (her older sister Princess moved out already), Empress admits she grew up in a household where she is used to her kuyas constantly teasing her about her weight. “Ako na lang ’yung babae na kapatid sa bahay so ako yung inaasar palagi. Tinutukso nila ako araw-araw na ang taba-taba ko daw. Pero nung nakita naman nila na pumayat na ako, hindi na nila ako inaasar masyado,” she says.
Improving her self-image
Now, apart from successfully shaving off two inches from her waistline, Empress is proud that she also went down to a smaller dress size. The 18-year-old Star Magic talent is definitely happy to have achieved her desired health and fitness goal.
"I felt chubby before," Empress admits. She realized that she needed to take care of her body, especially after seeing results: a lighter weight and stronger frame.
After all the physical improvements, she now wants to have a more toned physique. "Hindi naman na gusto ko ng muscles pero sabi ko sa trainer ko gusto ko magpa-firm ng arms, yung parang walang gumagalaw na flabs," she says. That in mind, and with a tighter work schedule to consider, her workout has been adjusted from a daily schedule to three to five times a week. She's no longer as strict with her diet as well. "May naging improvement naman so hindi na ako ganun katakot mag-fail. I eat half a cup of rice with each meal tapos sa ulam, hindi ko inuubos, tikim-tikim lang," she says. She also admits having a much healthier body image now because of her new fitness regimen and diet.
“Happy naman ako kasi kasi nakakasuot na ako ng mga hindi ko nasusuot dati. Dati kasi, sobrang tago yung katawan ko, sobrang conservative. I would only wear pants, jacket, t-shirts,” she says.
Empress explains the change in her fashion style is also meant to match the big changes that come upon reaching the ripe old age of 18. A young woman by any standard, she aims to shy away from "pa-girl" image. "Gusto ko nang i-try na makapag-swimsuit sa beach na wala kang tinatago. Gusto ko ng makuha yung ganung level. Ayoko na nung bagets-bagets na conservative,” she says.