Weight can be – pardon the pun – heavy. As years go by the pounds can slowly slide on, stretching you slowly out of your favourite clothes and past your comfort levels.
In August 2019, Alafiya Hussain, a Dubai-based Indian expat, had a creeping feeling that something was wrong. She’d always been lean and if she stopped exercising the fallout of that would begin to show on her 5-foot frame. But that was normal, thought the school teacher as she went about her daily life, buying new clothes. Even as the occasional person made a wry comment, she just thought, “This is normal.”
But then selfies began to make her uncomfortable – she couldn’t quite recognize herself. And her clothes began to get more and more snug until it was time to buy new ones, and then the cycle would repeat.
When she stood on the weighing scale – she had avoided it for much too long – she was 73kg. On her frame, this meant aches and pains and some shortness of breath. But before it could get too bad, the mother-of-one decided to change all that. It began with a slow 4km jog every day that was full of fits and stops. Next she would go up and down the stairs in the building she was in – 6 floors.
Over the months this would increase to 6 ups and six downs, but for the first week, even a few stairs meant stopping to breathe. Every change she saw in her body and her energy levels, every gram she lost sowed seeds of motivation. Later, metamorphosis would become her mantra. “My motivation comes from within, When I see my double chin was disappearing, the changes in [my] body, when people meet me and they didn’t recognise me - all this [became] the motivation [that] kept me going,” she says.
Alongside exercise, Hussain decided to try another trick she’d been reading about –intermittent fasting. She began with 12-hour fasts and then pushed that number up to 16.
And the kilos that had come over the years, with the move to a sedentary lifestyle, slowly ebbed. Over nine months, Hussain dropped 23kg – with an aim to lose another 5. (She wants to go back to pre-marriage, i.e. 10-years-ago, weight.)
At the start of the year, all Hussain had to contend with when working out was eking up some time for herself.
When COVID-19 struck, however, she had to recompute. She could no longer head out for fresh air. She had to keep the workout regime up, but at home. Enter home-made cardio plans. She spent hours looking at YouTube and followed the exercises to a T.
She also began to tweak her diet. She had been doing intermittent fasting, but now, she cut out rice from her meal plan. She began to eat Quinoa – the protein-and-fiber rich seed-cereal instead.
This doesn’t mean, she’s quick to say, that her husband and 10-year-old son have taken on the same habits. But it doesn’t mean she’ll allow them to derail her either. One of the initial days of fitness when the family had gone out for a meal, recalls Hussain, her husband and son looked at her pleadingly, with guilt as they ate and she did not. “I started drinking black coffee when we went out after that,” she laughs.
Hussain is matter-of-fact about her journey, explaining that it’s not gyms and equipment that make a person lose weight and get fit, it’s a person’s self-belief and behavior. “I have reduced all my weight with one skipping rope, yoga mat and one set of dumbbells. I never used any machine,” she says. It’s like that saying: ‘Being fat is hard, losing weight is hard. Choose your hard.’