“I woke up one night and I couldn’t breathe,” says Talha Majid. “I thought that was the last night of my life.”
“This was when I was 150kg,” he recalls. The 6-foot, then 23-year-old Pakistani expat coughed through the darkness, the fear of his own mortality slowly transmuting into a fire of change.
That morning about 14 months ago, he started on his fitness journey by computing a diet that was high in protein and low in carbohydrates. “I started with eating 3 eggs in the morning. I [ate] grilled chicken in the afternoon. Then fruit in the evening and then again grilled chicken or fish in the evening. I cut down my carbs to almost 20 per cent of what I usually had,” says Majid. At the end of seven days, he was 4kg lighter.
Then, he began to go to the gym. “I met a lot of people and I used to asked them, ‘what do I do to lose weight quickly and efficiently and effectively?” Around this time, he also met a gym instructor who calculated that for his height and build, Majid’s optimum weight is 90kg.
Now, all at once a 60kg drop seems impossible, but then the trainer told Majid something that would go on to become his mantra: “Why do you want to lose 60kg?…why don’t you lose 1kg at a time and do that 60 times.”
Basically, says Majid in an interview with Gulf News, “Make smaller targets but do it multiple times,” he says.
So he worked on making the numbers go down, one by one.
On and on he worked at it, all though his university summer break. At the end of two months, he was down 20kg. His peers in college had begun to notice; his resolve just got a boost.
Hitting a wall
While the initial days were full of results, there came a time of slugishness. “The journey started becoming more difficult when time actually passed by, because at a certain point in your weight loss journey, you usually stop losing weight; it’s called weight [plateau], it’s constant for a long time. I had that issue [at the 2.5-month mark where] for the next 25 days, where I was constantly going to the gym and [eating] diet meals and I wasn’t even losing half a kilo. I was really demotivated,” he recalls.
One day he decided to give up, it was too difficult. He went out partying with friends and indulging in things he had been avoiding, like burgers and fries. “When I came back, I was feeling guilty. Why am I cheating on myself?” he wondered.
“The next day i went back on my diet, started my routine again and I started to see even more changes; I started to lose even more weight.
"This went on until 11 months [later], until the day I stood up on the weighing scale and I was 90kg. I had lost 60kg in 11 months.”
During this period, Majid also hit another plateau, when he was 105kg - but he says he was prepared this time around. Instead of waiting for the frustrating period to blow over, he concocted a new plan. “The second time it actually happened, I changed my diet to a Keto diet.” He also changed up with workouts and started focusing less on cardio and more on weight training.
Then he began to get some battle scars from his drastic weight-loss journey. “I do have lose skin," explains Majid. But he wears these marks with pride. “Whenever I see it, I feel really proud of myself because I’ve gone through a stage where I used to be 150kg and now I’m 90kg,” he says. (For those hoping for a similar transition without this issue, he recommends a slow and steady reduction schedule, which is more likely allow skin to retain its elasticity.)
Status 14 months on
Today, Majid stands fit at 94 kg - the 4kg gain he attributes to a busy schedule that pushed him to eat fast food and a bout of intense weight training.
He is, however, keeping an eye on that scale and has a formula to fall back on when things start to slip. “How I control [the weight] is I go on a diet for 2-3 days and then eat normal food for rest of the week and go to the gym at the same time. Or if I don’t want to diet I reduce my portion sizes [to balance it all out].
This two-day food programme is a high protein, low carb window reminiscent of his initial dieting days.
He sums up his transition with this other mantra. “It’s not what we do once in a while to shape our body,” says Majid, “it’s what we do consistently [that matters]."
Majid's tips for staying in shape
1. Small goals are key to staying motivated.
2. When you hit a plateau, change your eating and exercise habits.
3. Don’t starve yourself to get slim; you’ll end up losing your muscles too - the fat will come back and the muscles will be harder to rebuild.
4. Eat healthy.
5. Consistency will help you get to your goal.