Mehdi Berrada shows his photo in his mobile when he was overweight. Image Credit: Pankaj Sharma/Xpress

Dubai: Mehdi Berrada, 34, weighed 122kg as recently as April 1 this year. The Dubai-based Moroccan said, “I had an addictive relationship with food and felt powerless over it. I wore an XXXL and invariably looked for pants that had elastic on the sides. I suffered more than 500 episodes of sleep apnea every night, meaning my breathing would stop that many times putting my life at constant risk.”

Nine months down the line, however, Berrada isn’t quite the same man. Beyond recognition almost, his weight has come down to 72kg and he has drastically downsized to ‘S’. His body mass index has fallen to 23 from 39. “My sleep apnea has disappeared and I am full of energy.”

BeWellCycle Tour

Berrada was speaking at a briefing session of a community initiative called BeWell Cycle Tour organised by the Wyndham Hotel Group and Mediclinic Middle East on Wednesday, on the eve of the Anti-obesity Day. He was addressing the programme’s ambassadors who will embark on a four-month weight loss regime under expert guidance beginning November 25.

Michael Zager, Wyndham’s regional vice-president, said: “The high rate of obesity – 50 per cent – in the GCC must come down. We want to do our bit to reduce it. So we came up with the idea of the BeWell Cycle Tour to promote a healthy lifestyle through cycling, education and the provision of appropriate support.”

Although the big BeWell Cycle Tour UAE will take place on February 12 (details on www.Bewell-tour.com), open forum rides are being held at the Dubai Autodrome every Wednesday to encourage residents to exercise.

“Cycling is the new golf,” said Stewart Howison of Revolutionary Cycles, a partner in the initiative. He reckons there are 10,000 active cyclists in Dubai today and expects the numbers to grow with time.

Berrada said obesity is not a battle against the body but the mind and requires a holistic approach with support from doctors, nutritionists, therapists and personal trainers.

But what about the high cost? “I spent far more on the food I ate earlier than what I do now on a personal trainer,” said Berrada who exercises regularly and has blacklisted many foods from his diet.

Dr Toba Elegbe, consultant physician (internal medicine), at mediclinic City Hospital, said: “The bedrock of obesity management lies in lifestyle and behaviourial changes. Eat in moderation, avoid unhealthy foods and exercise as much as possible.”

Dietician Minette Prinsol said: “Focus on health benefits rather than appearance or a number on the scale. That will motivate you to eat the right foods, exercise and become fit.”