Neethu before (left) and after Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Twenty-seven-year-old Neethu Binoi had been trying to conceive a child for about six months in 2009 when a doctor’s visit brought scary news: she had PCOS, or polycystic ovary syndrome, which can greatly impact fertility.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that PCOS affected 116 million women, or 3.4 per cent worldwide back in 2012. Research pointed to weight loss as a way to improve her chances for a natural, healthy childbirth.

Binoi was 70kg when she got the news and began to take measures that could suit her busy lifestyle, which included a 9 to 5 job, and daily transit time.

“I got a cycle at home. I got a cross trainer and did a little bit of dancing, because after work it’s not easy to do your workout,” she says in an interview with Gulf News.

She curtailed her meal portions and after putting in the effort, she began to see great results – she had gone down to 62kg and met her goal – she was finally pregnant!

As the pregnancy proceeded, Binoi found coping with the demands of daily life overwhelming – she found herself relapsing into no-exercise zone. By the end of the term, she had put on 22kg. “From 62kg, I went to 84kg,” she recalls. Still, she had hope. “Initially, after delivery people say you will lose [the weight], I never lost [it],” she says.

Bout of reality

Reality hit her hard when one day while on a shopping trip, when she tried on a ‘large’ sized dress, it wouldn’t fit her.

“That hit me so hard. That’s when I decided I have to lose weight,” she says.

So she went back to the cross-trainer.

Though tough at first, slowly, she said, it became an essential part of her routine. “I started feeling so much attachment to the exercise…I said let’s see what all I can do and that’s when I started researching about [weight loss and training] and I started with body-weight training videos on YouTube. After that, I thought, ‘what’s the next level?’” she explains.


Back to 62kg and another baby

It took her two years, but she was back to her pre-pregnancy weight of 62kg.

“That’s when I fell pregnant for the second time. I was very careful that I don’t put on weight as I did for the first one, still I put on [weight] due to the lack of exercise and maybe, eating habits,” she says.

This time around, she was 20kgs heavier – and not panicking. “I knew I could bring myself back,” she says.

Having noticed that cardio had helped her get the weight off the first time around, but without the weights she didn’t feel as toned as she’d like, this time she tried a different track.

“I started straight with weight training. I started reading about it; what is weight-training, how should you do [it]. And then I got dumbbells,” she says.

Making her lifestyle a job

All this was home-schooling, she says. She had given up her electrical engineering job when she gave birth to her first child; she hadn’t worked at a 9-5 job since.

Two years later, fit and looking for a new profession to keep her occupied as her kids began short stints at school, she changed her career line altogether; she began to research personal training. “I took my first certification though my ISSA (International Sports Science Association), which is an international certification. I was not sure how much it is affiliated to the Sports Federation, so I did ISSA which is online.”

And she began a Facebook page called TUFF –Transforming You Flab To Fit.

“I came to know that to train here or to be official personal trainer you need a REPs certification level Three,” says Binoi, which she then got, alongside a certificate on nutrition.

A mother first

So armed, she was ready to take on the world – just as her Facebook page, now populated with motivational quotes and inspiring news of her own progress, began to take off. Soon she had clients. What she hadn’t forgotten this entire time was that she valued her role as mother and homemaker, so all visits to client homes had to be timed perfectly to not inconvenience her children.

Her classes could begin as early as 4.30am; and continue after she dispatched her kids to class. When they came home, she would be there ready with hot meals and help for any homework that had been brought back.


Last year, Binoi became a certified Zumba instructor.

For all her focus on exercise, Binoi gets truly animated taking about the importance of diet. “Everyone can do workout, it’s the diet [control] that 24 hours a day we have to do. Yes, initial phase lack of knowledge, I used to try every fad diet that’s there on Google like the three-day diet, GM diet – everything I’ve tried. Yes, in one week you lose [weight] but the second I [would] start eating normal I used to bounce back [larger than before],” she explains.

“Being a Malayali…we depend more on rice. I always tell [people], ‘You can eat rice, just the amount of calories should be less than what you [expend in order to lose weight],” she says.

At age 37, Binoi’s journey has been a long one full of twists and turns, but there’s one thing the now-62kg physical instructor says her life attests to. To shed kilos, starvation is not required – all you need is a desire to carry on.

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