I’ve been in Dubai for six years now. In early 2010, I started working on reception at Fitness Factory gym in Discovery Gardens. I weighed 84 kilos then, which was quite overweight for my height of 155cm. It was affecting my health in some ways – I was suffering from hormonal imbalances and I had to have an inhaler with steroids because my asthma was bad – but I was happy with myself and my weight. I am big by nature... I was big even as a child. My whole family is fat – in the Philippines we eat a lot. So, when I came to Dubai, I just carried on eating.
“About 18 months ago, some of the gym members started commenting on my weight. They were saying, ‘You’re too fat! You work in a gym – you should be lean and fit.’ They started trying to motivate me to start exercising and to lose weight. Some were even offering me money to start working out. Eventually, in April 2011, I gave in and decided I would do it.
“The trainers at the gym put together a training programme and diet plan for me. I work six days a week and started going to work early and working out before I started my shift. It was hard at first. I was using the machines and the weights, and doing boxing. By September I had lost about 28 to 30 kilos. You could really see the difference, but I could feel the difference, too, as my hormones were more balanced and I was hardly using the inhaler.
I started to relax on my fitness programme and eventually stopped. Everyone was saying, ‘You’ve lost so much already. Carry on!’ But I didn’t want to – I was tired of exercising. I started putting the weight back on and, soon after, I had put on 10 kilos. So, in January of this year, I started exercising again and went back on the diet plan.
“The diet is hard for me. It’s a zero carbs diet – the one day a week that I don’t exercise is my cheat day when I can eat whatever I like... pizza, ice cream, burgers, fries. The rest of the week I eat vegetables and egg whites. I used to eat chocolate and chips every day – I’d take them to bed and wake up with them there. Sometimes I just want to eat chocolate.
“I used to be a size XXL, but now I’m a size 10. I can buy the clothes that I want and it feels good to be able to wear them. I gave all my old clothes away to charity... I had five boxes to give away! I didn’t have any issues with my body shape before, I was content with the way I was. But it feels great now to have lost so much weight and to have people notice and compliment me on it. When I went home to the Philippines earlier this year, my friends and family couldn’t believe it. They had seen me on Facebook and Skype, but they were still shocked.
“Everyone has been really happy for me and many of my friends have joined gyms now, too. They’ve all said, ‘If you can do it, I can do it.’ They are working hard, but they don’t have to go to the gym every day like I do, so it isn’t as easy for them. But I believe that if you really want it, you will do it.
“Sometimes I get bored of working out as it’s really tiring, but I think if I’ve come this far, I can’t stop now. I don’t want six-pack abs, I just want to be toned and lean. I don’t want to be a body builder, just a Victoria’s Secret model!
“I have a different programme now compared to during the winter months as I usually run outside, but now it’s too hot. I like running – I like that you don’t need any machines – all you need to train is your own body weight.
When I run, I normally do running mixed with exercises. For example, I run for five minutes and then do 50 squats, run for five minutes and then do 50 crunches, run for five minutes and do 50 kneeling push-ups, and so on.
A new life
“It’s been a complete lifestyle change for me and it’s made me a different person. Not just in the way I look, but in the way I think and feel, too. I am stronger now. More confident. And I just feel happy.
“Before I started working at Fitness Factory, I had a completely different environment and there’s no way I would have stuck at it. But working at the gym has made it much more accessible for me. Now, I plan to continue what I am doing... I’m concentrating on my abdominals at the moment, because stomach fat is hard to lose. I don’t want to make it my job, I only want to be a student. But if I can help motivate other people to start exercising, to look after their bodies and to be more healthy... that is something I would like to do.” A
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