The problem with weight is four-fold. There an element of how unhealthy you feel and a loathing that comes with knowing that something’s not good for you but you are indulging in it anyway; there’s the look people give you as you add pound upon pound of flesh; and finally there’s the flak that hits like a boomerang when you try to get people to stop making fun of you. For Hassan Abbas Hussain, who is a 24-year-old Pakistani in UAE, it was a youth seeped in this misery; the walls caving in on all four sides.
He had no control over his 146kg body. “I was being [told], ‘no one will take as you are. I was forced to marry [someone],” he says in an interview with Gulf News.
It was the sadness that was drowning him. “I wanted to change myself so I can move on for that,” he says.
He began his diet well enough, by slashing his portion sizes. “ Breakfast [ I ate] boiled eggs and brown bread. And during lunch I used to have salad and water melon. And at night, I don’t eat. I used to drink 8-9-10 cups of green tea; every 30-40 minutes I used to have green tea,” he said.
Next he gave up salt, sugar and spice. “I used to have vegetables and chicken boiled,” he explains.
He would however often slip-up. “In the starting I used to have a cheat day every Friday, or sometimes when normal vegetable is cooked in spices and oil, I used to taste two-three spoons from there,” he says. But when progress was stalling, he fell into greater despair. “‘So I stopped eating. For two days I would not eat anything, then I would eat three-four boiled eggs, an apple maybe. I would drink 8-10 cups of green tea.”
To keep his tummy full, he’d chug at least 4 litres of water a day.
Going to the gym
“I started gym after three-four months,” he says. And it sounds good, because exercise is one of the keys to weight loss, isn’t it?
But riddle me this: what happens when you are not eating well and then begin to rush into the gym? “My muscle used to pain, because I had fat loss also, muscle loss also. So my body used to pain a lot. So I could not sleep for more than 3-4 hours because of the pain, I could not work or focus on one thing,” says the self-employed caterer.
Health concerns spike
“I panicked two-three times, I collapsed two times. One time I was having bleeding from my nose. I went to the doctor. They [ran tests and] said you have low cholesterol and [RBC] blood [count] is getting little low and all your vitamins are getting low. Then I used to take multivitamin while I used to gym,” he says.
Then came the gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis that is caused by excess uric acid. All that green tea that Hassan had continued to drink had caused his system to not flush the uric acid out properly, resulting in this very, very painful condition. He was laid up in bed for about a week.
And then there was the problem with the loose skin. “After 5 months I lost 24kg with the diet but my skin was starting to loosen and it was like a lot of loose skin. So I started gym. In the first 3-4 months I came to 118kg…when I look in the mirror, it looks ugly.”
Change in diet and routine
After this scare, Hassan began to pay more attention to his meal plans. “After that I started one meal a day, but it was like watermelon, cucumber, boiled eggs. Grilled chicken [I introduced into my plan] after one week. The speed of reducing weight, I reduced it. First I lost 50kg in one year. Then I thought I am a bit fine, I’ve on XL size now from XXXL, so I’ll go slow. Then it took me 4 months – I came to size medium/small,” he explains.
That A-ha moment
When Hassan lost 50kg in about a year, people were bound to notice; but it really hit home after a trip to Baku in Azerbaijan come November 2018. The photos showed a stark dip in size. “When I saw the photos and everything, it was like very more realizing to me that I have done something good and I want to do it more,” he laughs.
However, one problem still bugged Hassan; the loose skin was getting droopier. “I started to do body building, because so much of loose skin there was,” he explains. Like so many others before him, when Hassan went to the doctors, they explained that skin sagging is a natural repercussion of his dramatic weight change. They could give him lotions to help its elasticity, or conduct an operation to get rid of the excess skin, or he could exercise it to fitness – and this would take a lot of time. “Operations,” says Hassan, “[are] a very scary thing for my family. So I’m just working at the gym, taking some protein. I’ll take the time to get it tight.”
A tussle with weight affects one manifold; for Hassan, however, the four walls that were closing in have fallen away – letting him out into the sunlight.