Dubai Fitness Challenge

One step at a time must for 'sustainable weight loss'

Dhanusha Gokulan, Saman Haziq
Filed on November 15, 2019 | Last updated on November 15, 2019 at 10.28 pm
Dubai Fitness Challenge, DFC, Sustainable, weight loss, weight gain,

Since October 15, thousands of UAE residents have taken the pledge to lead a fitter lifestyle as part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) 30x30.

Is it a good idea to take extreme measures to shed weight? How far should one go to transform his/her body completely, and in turn, their life? Are you guilty of eating only one grapefruit a day?

Since October 15, thousands of UAE residents have taken the pledge to lead a fitter lifestyle as part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) 30x30. For many, the DFC is a means to lead a healthier, confident lifestyle, but, for a vast majority, the DFC becomes an opportunity to take their weight loss goals more seriously. 

Weight loss is tough, the uphill task requires extreme hard work, time and patience, and all fitness experts will swear by the fact - weight loss, just like weight gain, does not happen overnight.

Though the Internet is a treasure chest for extreme weight loss diets and exercise routine, such as the stomach balloon diet, the egg diet, and the grapefruit diet, any nutritionist or personal trainer will advise to opt for a journey that is slow and sustainable.

As the 2019 edition of the DFC comes to an end, Khaleej Times spoke to individuals and families in the UAE who have lost tremendous amounts of weight, and it is true - the only thing that works is, a healthy diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep and stress management. Though it may seem daunting at first, these habits need to be developed over time.

Change your mindset

Kyle Evans, a personal trainer and transformation expert at the GymNation Al Quoz, said: "The first step for extreme weight loss is that you are going to have to change your mind-set completely. You are responsible for the weight you have put on, and now you are going to have to break all these habits you have created that has got you there."

According to Evans, most people give up their goals in the first month. "Most people find these extreme fad diets which, either eliminates certain food groups, or are at an extreme calorie deficit which they cannot maintain, making people give up really soon."

Do extreme diets work?

According to Evans, there is a place for extreme diets. "You can lose a lot of weight with large calorie deficits, but it takes a lot of will power and can only be used for a short time. It is good to lose a quick two to five kilo for people who need quick results. However, it is not a good idea for people who want to lose over 20kg. You will break down mentally, very quick. The best way is a moderate consistent approach," explained Evans.

"Tracking your calories is the most important aspect to weight loss. A person needs to be eating at a calorie deficit to lose weight as you cannot out train a bad diet," he added.

Residents' success stories

Akhil Sajan Mani, 27

Weight loss: 28 kg

Time taken: One year

Born and raised in the UAE, Akhil Sajan, an employee of Asteco Property Management, decided to turn his life around after a friend asked him to 'Keep up, old man' during a basketball game.

"That one line, from someone a few years younger to me, changed everything," said Akhil. At the lowest point in his life, Akhil weighed 105kg. Today, he is 77kg, and happy with himself. He said, "I started gaining weight in 2017. I would binge eat junk food, drink and the cafeteria food is very cheap."

An asthmatic patient, Akhil was finding it hard to breathe or perform any routine activities due to shortness of breath. "It took me eight to nine months to gain all the weight," he said.

Today, unless it is very dusty, Akhil does not need his inhaler anymore. He started off by incorporating exercise into his daily routine. "I would run for 30 to 45 minutes every day. As long as I broke a sweat, I knew I was doing something right. For food, I stopped eating out and only eat home-cooked food. I completely stopped consuming sugar as well," he added.

Akhil also started intermittent fasting, a diet technique that required him to avoid food for 16 hours and eat in an eight-hour window.

Lijo Ittoop, 43 

Weight loss: 55 kg

Time taken: 2 years

Lijo Ittoop's journey to weight loss started two years ago after a conversation with his father, which forced him to change his lifestyle. "My father said: 'You want to leave the world before me? Look at yourself'. I was 126kg back then," said Lijo.

"When I came back to Dubai, I found myself amid the first DFC, where there were fitness opportunities all around. That's when I made up my mind that I have to get into shape and I did it aggressively by going on a zero-carb diet and by dedicating at least an hour or two every day at the gym," he explained.

"It was the personal training at my gym Ultimate Performance - the guidance of amazing trainer Yasir Khan - that I am now down to 76kg with 20 per cent fat in my body that I am looking to bring down to 15 soon," said Lijo.

Lijo has become an advocate of health and fitness in his personal and professional life, as he also helped his wife Nini Thomas lose 22kg and has transformed his 10-year-old son into a healthy food lover.

"I would never be able to play or do any activity with my son as I was overweight but now our relationship has improved as we bond over outdoor games. I have gone back to the olden days when I used to be a fit sportsperson as I now go for active sports such as squash and cricket. My weight loss also helps me in business as my clients don't ever forget me after I show them my before and after weight loss pictures. They get very impressed as many middle-aged men are struggling with weight and fitness issues and they seek advice," he said.

During DFC, Lijo said all his weekends are dedicated to fitness with his family at the free sessions the challenge is offering.

Expert speak: 10 steps to a happy, healthy mind and body

If you looking to lose over 20kg:

1-Undergo a complete medical check-up for, including your blood sugar, cholesterol, hormones such as thyroid, etc

2-Find a good nutritionist who can help you with an eating plan specific to your needs

3-Nutritionists will give you a calorie deficit that you can handle

4-Have a weekly check-in with the nutritionist as it will help you stay on track

5-Send your weight, measurements, and progress pictures to someone besides yourself to hold yourself accountable

6-Allow the nutritionist to either up or lower your calories, depending on your progress and how you feeling

7-Find a form of exercise you enjoy as you need to learn to enjoy training, so look around and try new things until you find something you can stick to

8-Get adequate sleep

9-Drink plenty of fluids

10-Allow yourself one cheat meal a week  - Source: Kyle Evans


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