His hands were shaking. He was heaving. He had to sit up.
Pakistani expat Muhammad Ghufran sat stumped as his breathing slowly returned to normal. Then he tried to tie his shoelaces again. A few seconds later, as he sat gulping air, trying to steady his breath, he made a decision; he would get fit, he would dump the extra kilos that had been piling on since 2014.
Ghurfan wasn’t new to the concept of weight loss, back in 2009 when a sedentary lifestyle, stress and irregular meal times caused him to swell up to 109kg, he focused on diet and exercise and dropped down to 84kg. However, over the years he had slipped up on his workouts and in the September of 2019 he found himself at his heaviest: 122kg. “I was unable to even tie my laces [while sitting down],” he tells Gulf News in an interview.
The 5-foot-11-inch expat from Attock says he suffers from hypothyroidism, which means he has a sluggish metabolism. “[Even when] I am not eating much my weight is increasing,” he says.
“My sugar was [also] high at the time; 189-190; and the doctor told me to go for the medicine. I decided that if I have to take medicine I’ll have to take it for life, so these things encouraged me to lose weight,” he adds.
The day of lace-gate, Ghurfan decided his life was going to change. From that day, he began to walk an hour a day. He also took charge of his diet and cut out most carbs, fried food and some sugar. “I started with basic walk for three months, I reduced 7-8kg,” he recalls.
Just as he was eying a gym membership however, the novel coronavirus was swelling to pandemic proportions, causing governments to restrict movement, to shut stores and gyms. Come March, Ghurfan also made a trip to Pakistan, finding himself stranded in the country amid a lockdown. This put a roadblock in his exercise plans. “But I controlled my diet and for nine months I was taking only kidney beans [for lunch],” he says.
It was a difficult time, recalls Ghurfan. “I [would be] sitting alone from my family to eat. [It is] our custom [to eat together] on one Dastarkhan [table]. [But] in that case you can’t really tell how much you are eating. So I was taking my [portion] and sitting alone.”
Ghurfan says ruefully that he would shut his eyes when he passed an eatery in the early days. “It was very difficult first few days because I’m a foodie person. Especially when passing a nice restaurant. I was trying to control myself and not to see this food.”
While it was tough going, insists Ghurfan, “there was no point at which I wanted to give up. Because I kept in mind that if I am giving 12-13 hours a day to the company, I must give that one hour to myself to get healthy.”
Lunch: Red kidney beans with vegetables
Dinner: Grilled chicken/fish with vegetables.
No snacks. Barbecue chicken/meat once a week.
The one thing he says he can’t cut down on is the sweet he needs in his tea. So while he still puts the same amount of sugar in a mug, he decided to minimise the number of cups of tea he drinks. He also never computed the size of a meal. “I never measured but I was always trying to keep space in my belly. What I was doing, one day I took 150g [of protein] and it made me feel a little heavy so the next day I was trying to reduce [the amount], but not by measuring, but by [looking at the] quantity.”
When he came back to the UAE in July, he looked again to exercise, now spending about an hour-and-a-half at the gym. He spent 50 minutes on doing cardio and 40-45 minutes lifting weights.
All those sacrifices were working, helping him to get rid of excess fat. As Ghurfan says, to do anything – especially to lose weight – you need patience. “[When] we are going to the gym, after a few weeks you will feel like leave it today I don’t want to go but I didn’t [stop],” he says. His commitment has now brought him down to 98kg.
Fitness is important for family, he tells his wife when she asks him to take a break and spend time with her and their two children.
Ghurfan remembers lace-gate. He’s determined to never go back.