In Focus | Cut The Fat

Confessions of a dangerous waistline

Gulf News reporter battling obesity takes on challenge to lose 50kg

  • By Mohammed N. Al Khan. Staff Reporter
  • Published: 00:00 November 26, 2010
  • Gulf News

anti-obesity campaign
  • Image Credit: AHMED RAMZAN /Gulf News
  • Gulf News launches its anti-obesity campaign. As part of the drive, follow staff reporter and videographer Mohammad Al Khan on his journey battling obesity. He plans to lose 50 kilograms in six months.
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I am fat.

I'm vastly obese to be more precise. For the past few years I've been floating around the mid-160s kilograms, the heaviest I've been is about 175kg.

I don't own a scale, I'm afraid to get on one, not because of what it'll read but more because I know I'm going to break it. The scales that will take my weight are those coin operated ones you see at malls and supermarkets. And every time I get on one I have to fight the feeling of embarrassment as an electronic voice announces, "Your weight is one hundred and sixty…" for all the shoppers to hear.

Read Mohammed's blog

I don't like riding in other people's cars because I might not be able to wear the seat belt. I own a Dh10,000 elliptical trainer, which I use as a really expensive clothes hanger. I've hit rock bottom, and I have no one to blame for it but myself.

I wasn't always like this, up until about 10 years ago I was fine. I started gaining weight when I was four years old, but I was always active; not a couch potato like I am now. I would always be outside either playing football, on my bike or just getting into trouble. Karate was also a big part of my life growing up. To this day I can still do a split.

I was fortunate to go to a high school, which has an emphasis on after-school activities. That allowed me to pick up sports like archery, scuba diving, sailing, boxing and others. I may have looked out of shape but I had great stamina, most of my friends would be amazed when they saw me keep up with them in a foot race.

At 17 I joined a gym. Soon after, I started to look the way I felt — fit.

Going off to college I didn't have the luxury of free time or money. Between classes, homework, study and parties, I just couldn't find time to exercise. I lived in a small college town; I didn't own a car so I walked everywhere.

A couple of years later a 24-hour fitness centre opened near my flat. Bored and unable to sleep I started going to the gym at 3am. I weighed 85kg and had a 38-inch waist. For those few years of my life I was normal. I would buy clothes at the same stores everyone else did.

Then my personal life crashed and took my mind and body with it.

I went into a state of deep depression. I locked myself away in my flat, becoming a bit of a hermit. Like many other people, food was my escape and my prison. The birth of Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming acted as a catalyst to my weight problem. Constant snacking and sitting all day in front of the computer. Buying a car took away the last bit of exercise I was getting. I was gaining weight at an alarming rate.

I have what I like to think of as fitness credit. A background of exercise in my younger years and I'm living off its physical benefits. That is the only reason that I can come up with for not having any health problems up until now. I have a family history of diabetes and heart disease. Sleep apnea is something I've been battling with for many years now. It prevents me from a good night's sleep and affects my energy through the day.

That fitness credit must have run out by now, and now it's time to collect.

A couple of years ago I had to have my gall bladder removed because of gallstones due to high cholesterol. And now I've been diagnosed with type-two diabetes. Thankfully though it's not at a state where I need any medication, I can still control it with diet and exercise.

I get a look from my parents from time to time, up until a few years ago I though it was disappointment, now I know it's fear.

My mum cooks some of the best food I've ever had, and she is very health conscious. Her recipes should be in a healthy habits cook book.

My dad has always tried to get me to be more active, he is the one who got me into karate by signing himself up as well. Every night I go to bed knowing that they are dreading the fact that it's a high possibility that they are going to outlive their only child.

Somehow I've come to realise that everyone who weighs at least 20kg less than I do consider themselves nutrition and fitness experts, and it is their sworn duty to guide me to the promised land. This happens to me about two or three times a week. I even have a list of sarcastic responses to pick from every time I meet one. In fact there is a gentleman in Abu Dhabi who believes in my chocolate milk and gummy bear diet. Let's hope he didn't try it.

Here is my two cents: Every fat person (who has no legitimate medical reason) is a procrastinator; you wouldn't be fat if you would exercise now.

You're fat because: "I'll start tomorrow."


Mohammed's health tests:


 Test  Normal range  Al Khan's result 

Cortisol p.m.       
Free T4       
Direct low-density lipids       
Uric acid     
A1c 3-6%       
135-145 mmol/l       
3.60-5 mmol/l       
96-111 mmol/l       
2.3-12.3 mg/dl       
10.6-21 pmol/l       
0.4-4.7 uIU/ml       
9.0-28.1 nmol/l       
 75-115 mg/dl       
140-240 mg/dl       
36-150 mg/dl       
40-60 mg/dl       
62-130 mg/dl       
3.5-7.2 mg/dl    

View Mohammed's full test results

Doctor's verdict

Dr Abdul Razzaq Al Madani, general physician and endocrinologist and director of Dubai Hospital evaluated the results.

He told Al Khan: “The blood sugar is very high and the lipid and cholesterol are a little bit high."

"I believe if we can control the sugar it will improve the other factors as well."

“Diet and exercise are good, but it won’t be enough. I think if we add Glucophage tablets to the diet and exercise, we can control it much better.

“But the A1c (Glycated haemoglobin) is at seven per cent, which means the blood sugar condition is not that bad. If we don’t start the medication, I expect the A1c to rise.

“Maybe if you reduce a few kilos we can even try to reduce your
medicine to one tablet or zero tablets, so let’s see how your test results are next month.”

Fact file: Obesity in the UAE

  • 12.1 per cent adolescents are overweight
  • 21 per cent are at risk of being overweight due to imbalance of calorie intake
  • 26 per cent of school students have two to three soft drinks each day
  • 39 per cent of students lead a sedentary lifestyle
  • 70 per cent of overweight adolescents end up as obese adults
  • The UAE has very high rates of chronic diseases related to lifestyle. Some of these include: obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
  • According to World Health Organisation (WHO) reports, obesity rates among UAE residents over the age of 15 years have reached 25.6 per cent for males and 39.9 per cent for females.
  • Without major changes, these rates are set to increase further as the population ages. Cardiovascular diseases, considered the UAE's biggest killer, already accounted for a quarter of recorded deaths in 2009.

Source: Ministry of Health and Health Authority Abu Dhabi Annual Report 2009 (public health highlights)

Comments (4)

  1. Added 16:49 November 26, 2010

    Mohammad .. i used to weigh 150.5 in Jan 2010 .. today im 98 kgs and still going on.. if i did it .. you can do it !!.. its all about changing your life style and not controling what your eating .. eat right and keep moving .. good luck with every thing !

    Rashid , Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  2. Added 16:01 November 26, 2010

    I had the same the same issue of overweeight. I got rid of 26 kg almost in 2.5 months, 1 year ago, and got back my usual weight, and the most important didn't get them back : 1- I stopped eating rice. I banned it from my food chain. 2- No more white bread. I do eat brown bread, provided it is sugar free. 3- No more sugar in my tea or coffee. 4- Consume low fat milk only. 5- No more junk food / fast food (no more hamburgers, french fries and all these rabbish food types). 6- Eat fat free meat only. 7- Read the composition of each type of food you buy. Avoid Trans fat (or Hydrogenated fat). Trans fat do contribute to formation of the belly and are hazardous for your heart. 8- Avoid eating chocolate. Even the so called sugar free chocolate etc etc do contain significant amount of fat / trans fat.avoid it. At the end it is all about self discipline. You can hire the best doctor / consultant on earth, if you do not gain a strict self discipline, your weight will remain an issue. Best of luck !

    Bil, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

  3. Added 10:53 November 26, 2010

    Good luck my friend. I am right there with you and even larger. I played American football in College and have always been a very big guy. We have recently moved to the UAE as my wife is a teacher. I am looking to start dropping the weight also. I am going to follow your progress and use it to help me stay motivated. Exercise is definitely the key to long term weight loss and with the beautiful weather the UAE has right now I have NO excuses. Best Wishes, Brad

    Brad, AL AIN, United Arab Emirates

  4. Added 10:13 November 26, 2010

    Good luck Mohammed! You can do it! I have lost 30 kilograms in the past 2 years and feel much better about myself, although I still have around 20 kilograms to lose. Focus on eating healthy bit by bit, and over time you will notice you are choosing more healthy alternatives. Don't drink ANY fizzy drinks , Coca cola, etc at all or eat any fast foods or chips, etc. Try to eat a grapefruit every day. Drink around 3 - 4 litres of water a day. I always keep a 1.5 litre of water on my desk every day and drink one in the morning and one after lunch that way I know I have had my water for the day. Keep yourself busy. I've tried riding my bike to work - one colleague of mine rides her bike every day to work. Keep up the fight and you can do it. I went to Dr. Nutrition before and found their program very helpful and I've also ordered drops off the internet which helped me as well. Insha'allah you can do it!

    Karen, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

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