The kilos came along with his achievements. Thirty-four-year-old Mohammad Asif, who is originally from Pakistan, settled comfortably into life in the UAE about eight years ago. He was married with three kids, and three years ago, he decided to do an MBA to further his career. And in the rush of things, his scale fell to the wayside.
He started getting used to shirt and pant sizes needing upgrades. And as they inched up, he noticed other – at first, insignificant - changes creeping up on him. There was “numbness in [my] hands in feet, pain in body, pain in the hands and legs, tough time getting to sleep and getting up was difficult”, he says. The pain turned chronic, and no physiotherapy or doctor’s visits could help. “When you have pain in your body each day, each week, each month – it [is] really terrible,” he recalls in an interview with Gulf News.
Then he came across articles about weight-loss transformations in Gulf News in February. Meanwhile, when he stood on the scale, he found himself dazzled by the numbers: He was now 101kg. “I was doing MBA from a university in the US, with a full-time job and a family here, so I was having a really tough time. This was the trend for three years.”
As he considered alternatives, he found inspiration in his collegues and friends who had undergone body makeovers themselves. “In February, one of my family friend [who lost a lot of weight] was visiting us, so I got some inspiration from him. Another colleague of mine was able to run for almost 15-16 miles. And one of my colleagues also lost 10-15kg. So two-three things happened at the same time.”
Meals key to weight
He began with monitoring what was on his plate. “So I went into very, very strict diet. The diet I went for was oatmeal in the morning, two multigrain slices of bread (with curry) with fruit; mostly apple and banana; and evening only salad. And from 7-730pm – I read in Gulf News a suggestion to do overnight fasting for good 5-6 months and that really helped me. And one-off cheat meal once or twice a month on the Friday. Cheat meal – typically I’d go for rice, biryani; something other Asian dish.”
Today he has cut out carbs during the week; only bread or rice over the weekend.
In the beginning, Asif recalls, there were tough days. “I used to get cramps in my tummy”, cravings, hunger pangs. “I used to drink some water, just to fill up my tummy, just to avoid everything else. But it was really really hard time for me,” he says.
Working out time
In May, he added time on the treadmill. “So my routine was one hour before fast breaking [during Ramadan], I used to run for 30-35 mins.”
He hung on to his commitment – even while he travelled. Work, the marketing manager explains, requires him to travel for about a week every month. “But I never missed my gym for more than 2 days; we were on vacation in July, I couldn’t go to [the]gym but what I did was walking 30-40 mins on alternate days,” says Asif.
And while visiting clients, when he had no access to a gym, he says: “I used to walk even in the customer space in the office or the lounge area. They used to laugh at me and I said, this is how I’m doing it.”
“Now I am at a point where I can tell you, I can run at a speed of 9km/h for almost 81 minutes without stopping,” he says.
Moment of truth
But there was a time he thought he would like to stop. “When I started doing the workout in May,” he recalls, he was 93kg. At the end of June, he was still 93kg.
But before he could be truly disheartened, he remembered the advice of a friend. “I remembered my friend [telling me] initially, for the one-one-and-a-half-two months you may not lose anything. But once you start losing weight it will be a very quick drop in the weight so you have you continue with that.”
And he did.
Today, Asif weighs 78.5kg. He burns about 600Kcl a day through exercise.
To keep himself on the path, Asif weighs himself almost obsessively – in the morning and evening, before and after his workout, “, just to make myself accountable”.
And just as he left the aches and pains behind, he says, he picked up lessons on mindfulness. “When I work out people get shocked because how can I focus - I don’t like hearing music during exercise; I just want to focus on my running. This has really helped me focus on the moment,” he says.
So how tough was it – to get rid of 22kg in about 8 months? Well, says Asif, sometimes people are amazed at his transformation and dedication. And you know, he says: “At times I also get amazed at myself.”
This is part one of our weight-loss success stories from the UAE. Have you undergone a transformation? Would you like to share your story? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org