Dubai: A young Sri Lankan expat not only reversed his diabetes but also landed a dream job in the UAE, thanks to his weight loss journey.
Shashmika Saranga, 20, began his momentous journey last June. By December, the 113kg Saranga had not only shed 24kg, but was also able to get rid of a recurring pus-filled abscess that his diabetes had triggered. Having enrolled himself in a lifeguard training programme, he even landed a job at a fitness centre in Ajman.
Saranga told Gulf News: “In the beginning of 2021, I was possibly at the worst stage of my life. I had completed my studies in computer hardware networking in 2019 and was looking for a job. I was hopeful of getting a job placement in Colombo, my hometown. However, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown changed everything. For one whole year, I was stuck at home, there were no job openings and there was nowhere to go.”
Saranga said he compensated for his depression and anxiety with food, gaining 24kg in one year.
“I began gorging on pizzas, burgers, biryani and sweets. To the extent that I was having a minimum of four heavy meals a day, followed by dessert. At 6’2”, my ideal weight should be somewhere in mid-80s [kg],” said Saranga.
Soon, he was dealing with several health issues.
“My routine was completely home-bound; life was sedentary, with zero physical training. My blood sugar started going haywire. My breathing was shallow and I was often breathless. To make matters worse, with all the sitting, I developed a large pus-filled abscess on my back, the size of a small tennis ball. Every time I would get it drained, it would recur after a month. This went on. I was struggling with pain and weakness. Finally, in April 2021, my doctors did a proper surgery to excise it. They clearly told me the only way to make it go away was for me to lose weight, cut out unhealthy food, exercise and control my blood sugar. I heard them, but did nothing after my surgery for two months.”
Time for change
When the abscess recurred in June 2021, Saranga knew he would have to gather courage and face his demons. “I used to be so athletic in school as a regular volleyball player. I had to regain my old physical form. Therefore, I decided I had no alternative but to work out and take charge of my health. I read about fitness and health regimes and designed my own. In the beginning, I had very poor stamina. I could barely walk on the treadmill, as I was so breathless. The first month was not only exhausting but also discouraging as I lost no weight at all,” recalled Saranga.
However, Saranga decided to go on and not abandon his fitness regime.
“Gradually, I was able to walk faster on the treadmill, and then run. By the second month, I was spending three hours at the gym. I focused only on cardio and my diet. I did daily one hour of cardio and two hours of muscle training. I could run 6km on treadmill and burn 600 calories, all this while paying a lot of attention to what I would eat. I completely cut out all carbohydrates from my diet.”
After a slow start, Saranga found his rhythm and lost 4kg in one month.
“That really spurred me on. Cutting out all desserts and fast food items made me feel lighter and after three hours of gym training, I would end with a minimum of five laps of swimming. My metabolism really revved by. I lost 10kg by end of third month and then on my weight just started falling off.
“I felt so good and my painful abscess did not recur after that as my blood-sugar, which used to be in the range of 130-150 mgdl in fasting, got back to normal,” Saranga said.
Saranga’s parents and friends supported him throughout his weight loss journey. “My parents loved to have their occasional burger and pizza, but gave it all up in my support. They were my main motivators and inspired me to stay steady on my weight loss journey, as did my friends.”
Ticket to UAE job
While Saranga was reclaiming his lost stamina, he enrolled at a fitness centre in Colombo for a lifeguard course, as he loved swimming. It was this course that brought him to Ajman for a job as a lifeguard.
“My life has changed 360 degrees for the better. I feel absolutely healthy and energetic and am determined to go ahead in this field. I am planning to train as a gym instructor and enrolling for a course at a local fitness-training institute.
“I want to inspire people who may be experiencing similar issues, to make a determined effort to lose weight and follow a heathy lifestyle. Health is really the true,” he said.
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• Breakfast: Half lemon squeezed in a glass of water, two boiled eggs and two slices of brown bread.
• Snacks: Orange, Green Apple and bananas
• Lunch: Vegetable salads, soup, grilled chicken or fish and two slices of brown bread
• Evening Snacks: Oranges and grapes
• Dinner: Two boiled eggs, wheat bread plus zero fat cheese.
• Drink: nearly 3.5 litres of water daily.