Coronavirus Pandemic

Emirati CEO offers prizes to residents who lose weight amid Covid-19

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi Filed on August 17, 2021 | Last updated on August 18, 2021 at 12.09 am
Hamad Al Mehyas, CEO of the National Health Insurance Company (Daman)

First, he challenged the community to beat him in losing 4kg. Now, they are game for a 10kg target.

Finding one in three people gaining weight amid the pandemic, an Emirati threw a challenge for the UAE community to shed the tummy flab. And a few months down the line, he has been influencing the lives of hundreds of overweight people.

Listen to this story and more on the 8@8 with David Light podcast

Hamad Al Mehyas, CEO of the National Health Insurance Company (Daman), launched the personal initiative, urging people to lose a certain amount of weight over a period of time and share their progress using the hashtag #hmehyas_challenge on Instagram. He even offered several prizes, like an iPhone and an Apple Watch, to those who showed remarkable results.

“The pandemic has disrupted several health habits. With home-working, people end up living more sedentary lives, snacking, and having a low intake of nutritious and high-quality food. Among many, I also gained weight,” Al Mehyas said during a virtual interview.

The UAE has existing issues with chronic diabetes and obesity, he explained.

“Research and studies indicated that 31 per cent of the UAE residents have gained weight during the pandemic; 39 per cent have not been engaging in physical activity; over 50 per cent have not been consuming fruits daily; and over 37 per cent consume salty snacks — chips, crackers, and nuts — on a daily basis.”

And it was during Eid Al Fitr that Al Mehyas came up with a unique concept of challenging the community to beat him in losing 4kg by the end of May.

“I was surprised to see the huge response. Many registered, while others participated anonymously, which I came to know later. The challenge became a talking point in the community. While most reached the 4kg target soon, I pushed it to 5kg.”

Al Mehyas conducted a poll and got replies from more than 400 participants.

“I thought of making it more challenging. By the end of June, the challenge was to lose 4kg in a month, then another 3kg were added due to the enthusiasm of the participants, making a total of 7kg. To keep the momentum going, I introduced prizes like Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad Pro for those who lost significant amounts of weight. Later, a category of ‘fitness’ was added for those who wanted to maintain their normal weight.”

To help the community succeed in the challenge, Al Mehyas posted health tips, diet plans, importance of eating on time and in the right amount, exercise, short walks, sleeping, jogging, etc.

“All this was done through gamification. The idea was to lose weight through fun activities on social media. I gave them a comparison between eating a burger and a nutritious meal. My idea was to watch what you eat, be more active and follow the healthy tips. The incentivisation system also helped. Participants were urged to post their photos and videos to inspire others.”

There was a sharp surge in participation as people were able to lose 8-9kg.

“Even senior executives, CEOs and government officials approached me to participate. Croatian footballer and former Barcelona player Ivan Rakitic lent his support on social media and this encouraged many football fans to participate.”

From kids to retirees, people from all walks of life joined the challenge, which is now set to grow into an even bigger movement.

“With this level of participation and excitement in my challenge from the public, we are now thinking of ways to keep building momentum. Stay tuned for more surprises in the near future.”

His recent poll asking whether to stretch the target to 10kg and beyond saw thumbs up from more than 75 per cent of respondents, showing that the #hmehyas_challenge has been successful in encouraging people to take care of themselves.


Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do whatís right and stand by what I believe in.

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