Twenty-six-year-old Naazneen Khan had always been a lean 52-56kg as a teenager. Her 5-foot-seven-inch frame was almost wiry. She moved to the UAE at age 21 and slowly began to gain weight. Then, three years ago, Khan got married. In keeping up with her new, busy life where she juggled work and family, she wasn’t surprised by the twitching of the weighing scale, and when she got pregnant a year later, she expected a few more kilos.
Her doctor, when consulted, told her to eat healthy and be careful; with a history of diabetes in the family, developing a problem was a real concern.” Each week I had tests – I [had] started gaining; and I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t diet because I [was] pregnant. I couldn’t do exercise [for a similar reason]. By the time I was 9 months [pregnant] and I stepped on my scale, I was 99kg, with the baby,” she tells Gulf News.
She was also diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It’s a condition that can occur at any stage of a pregnancy but is more likely to happen in the second or third trimester. According to statistics by the International Diabetes Federation, one in seven births in 2017 were affected by the condition. (In Khan's case, once she gave birth, she no longer had this issue.)
In Khan’s case, her weight issues were compounded by delivery conditions – she had to have a C-Section, which resulted in scar tissue and weakened stomach muscles. However, she says, it was all worth it – her son was a healthy 3.6kg.
When Khan came home, she was at 90kg. She could not exercise because of the pain, her back hurt, her legs hurt; she couldn’t walk.
Still, she held on to relatives’ advice. “Your relatives tell you, if you breastfeed, it [the weight] will go gradually."
Then, she says, came the darkness. "I was not able to breast feed also, because I was not able to produce milk,” explains Khan.
And with the thought of intrusive visitors taking jabs at her size, the mirror showing her a relative stranger in its reflection and the pain that came with the stillness, Khan began to slip into depression.
Her husband, who she says over and over, has been very supportive through the journey, encouraged her to visit a doctor. Since she wasn’t breastfeeding, she was now allowed to diet a bit – “you can have small small meals”, she was told.
Lunch: 2 rotis with a salad
Dinner: Juice and fruit.
“Within 6 weeks, I came down from 90 to 87,” says Khan. But it wasn’t just the loss of mass, it was the gain in energy that was very encouraging. “I felt my body was ready, so I [asked] my doctor, ‘can I work out now? She said, 'yes, but you can’t weight lifts, because the tissues inside your stomach [aren’t completely healed]',” she recalls.
Khan began with small, consistent steps. “Every evening I used to [briskly walk on the] treadmill [for 30 minutes] and my husband would look after my baby.”
She got ambitious, and began to look into diets; unfortunately, every time she’d try something ‘recommended by online experts’ she suffered a backlash. “I started losing my hair, I started feeling very weak, so I couldn’t do that diet,” she says.
“So what I did was I started having a boiled egg and milk [for breakfast], and in lunch – brown rice and sometimes oats roti [with] subzi or grilled chicken. In the evening I used to snack [on] fruit – banana, apple, whatever. Then at night I used to keep it very light, like juice, or smoothie.”
Plus, one cheat meal a week – which could include pizza, or ice cream, or whatever - but she would control portion sizes.
She incorporated yogic breathing exercises at home as well. “Because you really need it [these drills] after delivery, it will help you, because the main thing is your stomach. You have to do some work on it [before it deflates],” she says.
She began her weight-loss journey in March; since then Khan has gone from 87kg to 77kg.
She says that by December she’s looking to lose another 10kg.
We see slim days ahead.
2. Don’t eat after 7.30pm
3. Let your husband support you: Khan credits her husband and herself for letting him babysit while she worked out.