Dubai: Hoping to encourage obese residents to seek healthy ways to reduce weight, an Indian expatriate in Dubai has shared the story of how he “ran to his good health”, embarking on a phenomenal weightloss journey — from 153kg to 87kg — and even emerging a marathon runner in the process!
Jayesh Makwana lost his mother to heart attack, 17 years ago. She was only 44 and he had just turned 20 then. Almost everyone in his mother’s family had been obese. Yet, he did not pay attention to his food habits and lifestyle, ending up tipping the scales at a whopping 153kg by 2016, within nine years of his expat life here.
An IT specialist with a cloud-based products company in Dubai, Makwana confesses that he followed unhealthy habits, including a sedentary lifestyle and being a chain smoking. What jolted him out of his complacency was a question from his daughter in 2016. Angel, then six years old, asked her father: “Why can’t you be fit and healthy like my friends’ fathers who play with them?”
“Until then, I had taken my health too lightly. I paid no attention towards following a healthy diet or doing regular exercise. Instead, I had bad habits and was in bad company — smoking at least two packets of cigarettes a day,” he said.
All those unhealthy habits and stress at work turned him into a diabetic. “My sugar level was around 350-400. In 2010, I had a chest pain and had to undergo an emergency angioplasty to fix a blockage in one of the arteries. I survived only because of God’s grace. Still I ignored my health — until my daughter finally asked me that question.”
After that, Makwana immediately started paying attention to what he was eating and started controlling his portions. “I also started using the staircase and made it a point to walk. Within a span of six months, I was around 130kg. That’s when I realised that it was achievable and I could do better.”
Makwana stopped consuming sugar and wheat for a year. “By the end of 2016, I was 120kg. It made a huge difference. I became more active. Sometimes I went to the gym and kept myself active.”
In 2017-2018, he managed to lose another five to ten kilos.
‘The real change’
“Then the real change came in my life. At a birthday party, I met Pratik Desai. He was an athlete and had been running marathons for 15 years. He told me to start running. I said it was impossible for me to run. He motivated me to give it a try by joining him for a run.” Makwana then took his first step to run with Desai. “I started slow, but managed to run for two kilometres nonstop and I told myself: ‘Wow, I can do it’.”
Desai soon introduced him to Dubai Creek Striders (DCS), a running club that was founded by Malcolm Murphy in 1995 and had been hosting marathons and other running events. “When I joined DCS in November 2018, it was practice time for the half-marathon in December. I met some really motivated people. They were very encouraging. I realised that what I was lacking all along was people who would motivate me and push me to achieve health goals.” S
So, finally, Makwana was in the right company.
Running his first marathon
In December 2018, Makwana ran his first half marathon. “The then chairman of the club, Rajesh Daryani, motivated me to do a full marathon in January 2019. By then, I knew if I have the will power, I could do that too. So I ran the full 42.5km at the 2019 Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon. My journey of being a marathon runner started from there.”
Makwana had come down to 100kg by then. Having discovered running as the key to good health and fitness, he amped up his exercise regime by running for 40-50km a week. “I got a lot of running friends. They kept pushing and motivating me. We had different types of runs — breakfast run, tea run, Friday long run. I have lost count of how many runs and half marathons I participated in later on. I won several medals also,” a visibly proud Makwana said.
In November 2019, he went down to his hometown Ahmedabad, in Gujarat, to take part in a full marathon there. In January 2020, he also took part in the prestigious Tata Mumbai Marathon also. Being part of a fitness community also helped introduce him to yoga. “That helped when the COVID-19 struck in 2020. I did indoor exercises and yoga during the movement restrictions here to maintain my fitness,” he said.
New love for cycling
Soon, he discovered his new love — cycling.
“Sajin Gangadharan from DXB Riders inspired me to get into this new method of fitness. Now I cycle 100-150km once a week. I sleep at 9pm and wake up at 4am to go for rides. Long back, I had the habit of sleeping around 4am. I am now a totally transformed man and I weigh 87kg.”
Going forward, his immediate objective is to qualify for the Comrades Marathon, an ultramarathon of approximately 89km that is run annually in South Africa. He also wishes to participate in a coast-to-coast cycling race covering 215km in the United States.
Meaningful life goals
Makwana said the biggest achievement is his good health and a younger look. “Now, people say I look like the elder brother of my daughter. She will always be my inspiration because of that spark she ignited in me.”
“My wife Jagruti is my backbone, helping me follow my crazy exercise routines and healthy diets. Both my children — Harsh and Angel — also take their fitness seriously. I would say when it comes to the best gift that you can give your children, education and savings come only after fitness — at least in my case. And I want people to realise that in every family, health and fitness of every member should be given the highest priority. This is especially important in the case of housewives who tend not to take fitness seriously. All that we need to invest in our health is an hour of physical activity every day and having small meal portions at frequent intervals.”