Say hello to a slimmer you with Time Out's gut-busting experts
Nyree Barrett and Oliver Robinson
Let us guess: you’re feeling a little lardier than usual. Why? Because after scoffing more turkey, pudding and novelty chocolate Santas than it would take to sink the Dubai-docked (yes, still!) QE2, the average person gains ‘a child’s bowling ball’ of weight over the festive period (that’s 2.3kg on the scales). And if ever there were a place that needed its inhabitants to shed a few pounds – Christmas period or not – it’s the UAE, where it’s estimated that 70 per cent of the local population suffers from some sort of obesity.
However, as we all know, sticking to our resolutions is easier said than done, which is why Time Out has decided to make life easier by profiling five very different ways to lose weight and change your shape this year: hypnotherapy, interval training, playing sport, a great diet (that really works) and lifestyle changes at home. We spoke to the experts, as well as the people who have benefited from the different regimes, leaving you with no excuse not to look good and feel great in 2011.
The sustainable diet
Nutritionist Ahlaam Ali doesn’t like diets – instead, her Powwer Eat programme offers personalised healthy-eating advice. She explains how you can overhaul your nutrition and lose weight while still feeling full.
What is it? ‘We’re the anti-diet-diet. We build a programme of balanced eating, and we don’t eliminate any food groups – dieters nearly always eliminate carbs, but most of them don’t know that fats burn in the flame of carbs. We also consider the ethnicity of the client, their lifestyle and whether they can exercise or not. Our key speciality is that we work with food intolerances and eliminate these. For instance, do you have flatulence 20 minutes after a meal? You may have wheat and gluten intolerance. For the first week we plan a full-on detox with fruit, vegetables and superfoods, then we build that up into a sustainable meal plan.’
Why it works: ‘Eating right is 60 per cent of the battle, and our diet is sustainable. We give people so much food that they don’t starve – we train the metabolism up, because most people’s metabolisms have been on holiday. It helps to exercise as well, as this helps you lose more fat than muscle mass, but we have some people who work silly hours and can’t do any exercise; one such client recently lost 6kg in two weeks.’
The evidence: Last year, 39-year-old businessman Tamur Anwar, originally from Amsterdam, weighed 92kg and was desperately looking for a healthy way to lose weight. He decided to go for Ahlaam’s five-week programme as it offered a complete package with a detox plan, a vitamin profile, an exercise plan and ongoing counselling.
‘During week one I went through a full-on detox. The first couple of days on the detox were difficult as it was a new way of eating, and until then my eating habits were notoriously bad as I ate out pretty much every night. After day four, my energy levels started soaring and after the first week I’d lost 3.2kg. In the second week Ahlaam put me on a healthy eating plan, which was fairly easy compared with the detox plan – it consisted mainly of fruits, vegetables and superfoods, as well as some other foods, and offered five meals a day: three main meals and two snacks.
‘I also worked out an exercise plan with Ahlaam, featuring cardio and Powwer Abs spot exercises to tone from the ribs to the hips. This really helped and I could see some significant differences. After five weeks I was two jean sizes smaller, and eating healthy seemed to come naturally. I lost 9kg and 40 inches in total, and felt and looked great.’ A five-week programme with Ahlaam starts at Dhs3,500. www.powwereat.com (04 319 7679).
Dubai-based hypnotherapist Zimmy Khan talks us through how tapping into the mind can tame the waist.
What is it? ‘Hypnosis is a state of mind, enhanced by mental and physical relaxation, in which our subconscious is able to communicate with our conscious mind in an aware state. When we talk about the ‘power of the mind’, we’re referring to the subconscious mind. It stores the tools and resources, skills and capabilities that can help us become the best we can be.
‘People are sometimes concerned they will “lose control” in hypnosis. They think that when they’re hypnotised, they will be asleep, won’t remember anything that happened and can be made to do things they don’t want to do. All these are myths. Hypnosis is like those few minutes before you fall asleep, when you are highly relaxed, yet still aware of everything, and can get up easily if need be.’
Why it works: ‘Hypnosis helps a person to align the body with the mind, rather than just working on the body in isolation. In hypnosis we connect with the subconscious mind (which controls all involuntary body functions, including breathing, the heartbeat, the metabolic rate and digestion) and we make adjustments to these so that the body releases weight easily.
‘An important point is that we shouldn’t refer to it as “losing” weight, because loss is stored as a painful concept in our minds. Whenever we lose something we try to gain it back, so we should get in the habit of “releasing, letting go of, shedding” weight, which implies that it is done willingly.
‘My weight management programme spans eight to 12 sessions, completed over a period of four to six months. We work on four different aspects of the person: their mind/body alignment; their relationship with food (where we identify and release the emotional voids that cause them to overeat and re-programme their system to be able to eat healthily); their inclination toward exercise (we programme the body to release more calories during exercise, and even during rest); and resolution of past experiences that may be causing them to hold onto weight as a means of literally protecting themselves from hurt.’
The evidence: PR manager Lindsay Johnston, 30, from Scotland, has been seeing Zimmy for four months and has lost 10kg. ‘In June 2010 I decided to try hypnotherapy. After a month of weekly sessions, I signed up to the Live’ly food programme, which provides catered meals and nutritional help for those wanting to lose weight. I’ve no doubt that if I hadn’t started doing hypnotherapy, I would never have made that decision – I’d known about Live’ly for years beforehand! Through a combination of weekly hypnotherapy and Live’ly, I’ve lost 10kg in four months.
‘Hypnotherapy has helped me discover why I’ve developed specific attitudes towards food, and it has helped me neutralise those negative associations. I’ve also developed techniques to help combat food cravings. As someone who lived on takeaways and crisps, I now no longer know the names of Dubai’s delivery men, and I eat a balanced diet of 1,500 calories a day. I’m also swimming and walking, and feeling much more positive about the future.’ Sessions with Zimmy cost Dhs400. Al Barsha, www.epiphany-zk.com. For more info on Live’ly, see www.lively.ae.
PTX ‘Pure’ functional workout
Personal trainer Charlie Keenan from fitness company PTX demonstrates the personalised workout schedules that are ideal for fitness-phobes.
What is it? PTX Pure is a form of interval training that focuses on functional core strength as well as cardiovascular fitness. It’s divided into four supersets of eight exercises. For each superset, complete the first exercise and perform as many repetitions as you can in 30 seconds, followed by a 30-second rest, then complete the second exercise in the same way. Repeat three times before moving on to the next superset. Total time: about 25 minutes.
Why it works: The beauty of interval training is that it works in different ways for different people. For guys wanting to build bigger muscles, this kind of training enables them to work on their core, and get fitter and stronger before moving onto weights. For ladies, interval training is a great way to shed weight and tone up. Tom Woolfe from PTX estimates that half an hour’s interval training should burn between 300 and 500 calories (you’d burn about 150 calories walking and about 200 cycling). ‘It’s similar to the energy used in kickboxing,’ says Tom. ‘If you train hard, you can lose up to 400 or 500 calories an hour quite easily.’ The idea of these workouts is that they’re practical and accessible, which is part of the reason they can be so effective (providing you’re disciplined!). Also, as with many things, the more you put into it, the more you get out. ‘You might start [the exercises] slowly, but the more experienced you get, the quicker you can bang out reps,’ says Charlie, who’s demonstrating the moves for us. ‘We call it strength and conditioning,’ adds Tom. ‘You build cardiovascular fitness as well as lean muscle mass.’
The evidence: Louisa Fagan, 39, a housewife, moved to Dubai in June and heard about PTX through a Time Out article on personal trainers. ‘I started training with Tom and then Charlie, and since I’ve been with PTX I’ve lost 11kg in thee months. In the past I’d done lots of training programmes with different companies in the Middle East and I got fit, but never lost weight. I think PTX works because they mix up the training regimes to keep you interested. Also, they come to my house, so there’s no excuse – I’m not very good at self motivation! I train about three times a week, and I’ve even started running. Before, I would never have had the confidence to run in public, and now I’m running for an hour at Safa Park.’ An hour’s personal training with PTX costs Dhs350. www.ptxdubai.com (050 254 7431).
Time Out makes friends with Dubai Celts coach Aaron Reilly and works up a sweat playing one of Dubai’s lesser-known team sports.
What is it? Not only is it the national sport of Ireland, but it’s a great way to lose weight.
Why it works: Like all team sports, to get the most out of Gaelic football, you have to train. And by training, you get fit and lose weight. Simple. Aaron explains that a standard session lasts for an hour and a half. Proceedings begin with a light warm-up, which consists of a jog, followed by five minutes of stretching. Then there are some basic ball-handling drills (which are essentially hand-eye coordination exercises), followed by more elaborate drills, which incorporate different kinds of skills with fitness work. Aaron estimates that you can burn 500 to 560 calories during each training session.
‘We focus on cardio and speed – we work on short, explosive sprints,’ he reveals. ‘We’re not a big team, so we focus on our strengths. We do a lot of circuit training and don’t use weights. Our resistance training is all about our own body weight – press-ups, sit-ups, planks and burpees.’
The training and exercise are accessible to beginners and seasoned Gaelic players, both men and women. ‘We also work on our core,’ continues Aaron. ‘This is very important, especially within the game, which involves a lot of jumping, twisting, turning and balance. While there’s lots of running to help you lose pounds, the training really helps you tone.’
Obviously, training is only one aspect of Gaelic football – the aim is to prepare for matches. Yet Aaron says that despite the game’s relative obscurity, it’s easy to master. ‘If you’ve played, soccer, basketball, netball or handball, Gaelic incorporates all of these and there’s no need for anyone to be intimidated if they haven’t played.’ Want to shape up? On average, a professional player will run 10 or 11km per match. Granted, Dubai Celts play shorter halves with fewer players, but there’s still a lot of distance to be covered.
The evidence:Dubai Celts player Catherine Kehoe, 29, who’s also the business development manager for Dubai Sports City, started playing from scratch three years ago. ‘I wasn’t in good shape – I couldn’t even run around the pitch. I found that many of the players were of different fitness levels, which was helpful because there was a lot of encouragement. I didn’t feel any pressure and could go at my own pace. So I started getting fitter – I lost 10kg in three months and I’ve kept it off. The weight didn’t come off at first – for the first few months, I didn’t notice that much weight change – but some people join and lose weight immediately. Overall, I’ve found Gaelic very good not just for fitness, but socially: I’ve met most of my friends here.’ Dubai Celts train every Monday and Thursday at The Sevens. www.dubaicelts.com.
The gut buster
Why won’t that beer belly/muffin top go away? Men accumulate fat specifically around their abdomen, because the receptor that tells the male body to store fat is located there, while a women’s receptor is located in the hip and thigh area – the body stores fat there to protect the reproductive area. Unfortunately for men, the accumulation of fat around the abs is widely considered the most dangerous deposit. Why? Well, according to Harvard research, visceral fat, or fat buried deep in the body (which only accounts for about 10 per cent of it), secretes dangerous, cholesterol-raising, insulin-affecting proteins. And the visceral fat around the belly is all too close to a vein in the abdomen that carries fatty acids straight to the liver. The Mayo Clinic in America considers a waist measurement of more than 100cm to be dangerous. So how can we get rid of it? (Yes, Time Out has a gut too). The only solution, we’re afraid, is to lose overall body fat via a low-carb, high-protein diet and alternating resistance and cardio workouts. Because you can’t chose where the weight flies off, it has to go from all over.
The lifestyle update
Contact sports and training classes not your thing? Here’s how to go it alone…
• Do your training for 20 minutes first thing in the morning, forcing your body to burn fat for energy.
• Train three times a week, and walk for an hour twice a week.
• Don’t eat for one hour after your workout. You burn as many calories during this time as you do training.
• Eat six small meals to speed up your metabolism, and stop eating bread.
• Park your car as far from the mall as possible and use the stairs instead of the lift. At work, get up from your desk hourly and walk around the office.
• Weigh yourself weekly, not daily. The biggest cause of failure is losing faith if you don’t see immediate results. It took you years to pile on the weight; it takes a while to shift it, too.