36, personal trainer, Iranian
Weight loss: 50kg
‘I was involved with exercise a long time ago – I used to do karate and bodybuilding, and was involved with other sports such as basketball. Then about five years ago I broke my shoulder and had leg and shin splints, and for a year and a half I didn’t do any exercise at all. I started to eat and enjoy my life. But soon I put on a lot of weight and wasn’t happy with how I looked or felt.
‘So I started going to the Aviation Club. At first I just did classes. I was so shy and I would always hide at the back of the class. Then I got a personal trainer and started training six days a week. He really helped me. I must admit, the first 15kg was the hardest to lose – the hardest in my life. After all that time away from the gym, starting up again was really painful. My trainer also went over my diet, and cut loads of stuff out. I couldn’t eat many of the things I used to eat: no more pizza, spaghetti or cola. But after I got past that first 15kg, it got easier. I had a goal, and by that point I knew what was going on and what I was doing. I definitely don’t miss the old me – not even the food. I’m too happy with my life now.
‘While I was training at the Aviation Club, I got to know Simon Brown, the manager, and the staff really well, and now I’m also a trainer at the club. I owe a lot to them – they really helped to bring my confidence back.’
Weight loss tip
‘I’d say losing weight is 70 per cent about diet. Also, it’s about developing a routine and getting in the gym six times a week for at least 45 minutes. When just starting out or recovering from an injury, you can’t just start to run or do any old exercise – it won’t work. I believe having a good trainer or instructor is really important.’
40, housewife, French
Weight loss: 15kg
‘I started gaining weight when I stopped working. I was cabin crew, which is hard physically. Also, the Dubai lifestyle caught up with me. I was not feeling good in my own body. I was out of breath a little bit, and as for my clothes – nothing fitted me any more. I first joined Good Habits, a nutritionist programme, in 2008. I would lose a kilo then gain it back, but I guess I wasn’t ready to take it seriously then.
‘It became serious after Christmas last year. I was also turning 40, and I decided it was a good time to start. I had been putting more weight on every year, and I wanted this year to be different.
‘The Good Habits plan really helped. I had to write down everything I ate, and my nutritionist helped me figure out what I ate too much of and what I needed to eat more of. I was eating too many carbs and not enough vegetables and soups. I also started doing a lot more cardio. I own a stationary bike, and I started using it for half an hour a day, six days a week.
‘What really surprised me was how easy it was to lose weight when you actually stick to the plan. I didn’t stick to it the first time around, but when I did, the weight went quite fast. I lost 14.5kg in what, eight months? I think that’s quite good.
‘I have more energy now and I feel better about myself because my body has changed. Not only did I lose weight, but I gained muscle from weightlifting. I used to wear a US size 12-14. Now I’m a size eight – I had to buy a whole new wardrobe. I reached my goal weight a couple of weeks ago. Sometimes I think about celebrating, but I have to be careful not to overindulge when I do. Really, the biggest treat was changing my body, and that’s reward enough.’
Weight loss tip
‘The main thing is to be patient. Following a plan works when you put your mind to it. It helps if you write down everything, including your goals and why you want to lose weight. Don’t do it for anyone else other than yourself. And exercise: do cardio two to three times a week and eat healthily. That’s the important thing.’
33, senior account manager, Australian
Weight loss: 10kg
‘I came to Dubai for work, and when I got here I suffered from that fabulous Dubai stone effect. It’s weird because my eating habits didn’t change, it was just the fact that I was driving everywhere. The next thing I knew I was just packing on the pounds and was like, “What’s going on?”
‘I started thinking it must be the lack of exercise, so I joined Core Direction and got a trainer. The results have been amazing. We did the whole package, looking at exercise and understanding more about nutrition and food. I learned that some Caesar salads have the same amount of calories as pizza – that was interesting!
‘I started off going to the gym four to five days a week. Then work got busier, so I’ve backed down to two to three days with my trainer. I’ve lost weight, though that in and of itself was never the goal. The goal was about getting healthy and decreasing my body mass. Now I’ve lost 11 per cent body fat. I’ve been training since August, and not only am I back to my old body weight, but I’ve kept going. I got back in my old jeans and now they’re falling off. I guess I need new jeans!
‘It’s funny, because I’ve never been a morning person and I’ve never been a gym person. Now, I’m in the gym at 6am doing sessions and busting my ass, and I’m actually enjoying it. My friends back home don’t believe me. But the best part is that I have more energy. I’m able to run for more than five minutes and can push my body more than I have before. People get slightly gobsmacked when they see me, which I have to say I’m still not used to, but it’s lovely. When I go back home to see the family, people are like, “What the…?” It’s other people’s reactions that make me realise there is a difference, because I can’t quite tell myself. At the end of the day it was never about weight loss, but more about being fit and healthy.’
Weight loss tip:
‘I never thought I’d say this, but get a trainer. I used to go to the gym all the time, five days a week, and push it. I would bulk up and not lose kilos. Since getting a trainer, the results have been much quicker. It’s also a lot more fun.’
31, housewife and mother of two, Indian
Weight loss: 15kg
‘I gained weight during my first pregnancy, and it took me a year and a half to get back into shape because I didn’t have time to go to the gym regularly. Even then I was still 5kg heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. After having my second child, I decided it was time to do something, so I joined Shape Express because I could fit it into my schedule. As a new mum, I was busy with my child and didn’t have time for a long exercise session, but at Shape Express you just go for a half an hour each time.
‘Initially, I went six times a week, but because it’s only half an hour it didn’t feel that bad. An hour would be too much, but I felt I could give half an hour a day – that wasn’t much of a sacrifice. Now, just to maintain my results, I go to the gym four to five times a week. I would go seven days a week if I could.
‘My instructor also really encouraged me. She told me how to eat right and told me what I was doing wrong. For example, I used to eat cheese bread as a snack in the evening. She changed it so instead I have bread with labneh. Instead of snacking on fruit, I have a glass of milk (she told me fruit was simple sugar).
‘I don’t feel that I changed my lifestyle dramatically. I just tweaked my diet and I go to the gym and run behind my kids, and that’s my exercise. But I feel more confident now. I can finally fit into all of my old outfits.’
Weight loss tip
‘I found going to the gym for just half an hour was very effective. After my first pregnancy, I used to go to the gym for two hours at a time. When I was going for those long stretches, I would stop after four or five days. This, on the other hand, is much easier and more fun. Now I feel like going every day. I’d even give up sleep just to go to the gym for a half an hour.’
30, finance manager, Indian
Weight loss: 13kg
‘I decided I’d finally had enough of the extra weight I was carrying when I looked at my oversized stomach in the mirror one day. I decided not only to join a gym, but to get myelf a personal trainer as well. Having someone to workout with makes it much easier, at least in the begining. Dominic, my trainer at Natural Elements Spa & Fitness, not only helped me to develop a workout regime, he also helped me to revaluate my diet. I started eating healthily and I cut out all junk (especially chocolate – my weakness). I started drinking a lot more water and eating more fruit. I also went to the gym every day, even when I wasn’t working with Dominic. I even started to enjoy it.
‘Of course it was difficult in the beginning, but after getting over that initial hurdle, losing weight became a lot easier. I feel a lot healthier now and have more energy, especially during the day. Plus, everyone around me keeps asking me what the secret to weight loss is. What can I say? I think the biggest lesson I learned from losing the weight is that anyone can do it if they really want to. It’s just a question of putting your mind to it.’
Weight loss tip: ‘I’d say the main ingredient in losing weight is getting regular cardio and being consistent in the gym. I’d say 45 minutes of cardio a day – a minimum of seven kilometres walking, plus weight training. Also, following a healthy lifestyle with good nutrition is the start of a good weight-loss programme.’
Does living in the UAE really make you fat?
A WHO report last June stated that the UAE is ‘18th on the list of countries with the highest proportion of overweight and obese people’. What’s more, half of all kids, 39.9 per cent of women and 25.6 per cent of men in the UAE are considered obese. And, according to an Abu Dhabi obesity conference, 71 per cent of Emirati adults are obese.
But what are the causes? The long hot summer and UAE lifestyle, according to one recent survey. Think fatty foods, stressful jobs, brunches and cheap housemaids. Some doctors also blame a rise in fruit and veg prices and cheap junk food.
So can we blame the UAE for making us fat? It’s true that there are many obstacles to slenderness here, but it’s always up to you as to whether you overcome them. Becky Lucas