What is the most difficult thing to manage in your life?
This varies from person to person but for me, it was my weight. I was obese when I was younger and I spent most of my youth fighting off the pounds as I strived to be healthy.
Losing weight was a struggle because as a little girl, I loved to eat! I was never a picky eater and I would gorge myself with the mouth-watering cakes and pastries that my mom would bake regularly.
I fancied myself as Dianne the Foodie and the international cuisine in Dubai supported my penchant for good food. It was also a plus that there was a Baskin Robbins store near my home. Beside that was a cafeteria with the most amazing shawarmas in Karama. Across the street, there was KFC and McDonalds. Lastly, supermarkets back then sold my favorite crisps for only 1 dirham.
So I ate and ate until it reached the point where I started to huff and puff whenever I climbed the stairs to our apartment. I noticed that the numbers on the weighing scale were slowly rising but I told myself: ‘Who cares?’.
By eleven years old, I weighed 70 kilos and my waistline was 32 inches.
Yet, this didn’t bother me. I enjoyed eating good food and I didn’t want to give it up. At that age, I also wasn’t keen on dieting and exercising. However, there came a day which convinced me that it was time to lose weight.
It was during the weekend and I was drawing in the living room. Everything seemed normal when all of a sudden, I felt an intense pain in my chest. It felt like someone stabbed me with an invisible knife and I thought to myself: ‘Am I having a heart attack?’.
The pain only lasted for a few seconds but it scared me and it convinced me that it was time to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
So I started to diet and exercise but changing your eating pattern is hard. I was used to eating what I want, when I wanted to and suddenly having these imposed restrictions did not sit well with me. So I convinced myself that should establish a reward system to keep myself going.
With this in mind, I would always treat myself with a diet coke and dark chocolate after every work out. After a few weeks, I stepped on the weighing scale and I was speechless! Instead of losing weight, I gained some more. I was both frustrated and demotivated. Eventually, I had to accept the bitter reality that sodas and chocolate were not the best treats after a work-out.
By the time I entered high school, my weight would fluctuate between 55 kg – 62 kg. At that time, I shifted to a school where fitness tests were conducted by the PE Teachers as part of our PE exam at the end of every semester in order to determine our grades.
One of them was the Cooper Run. The whole class had to perform as many laps as possible around the basketball court for 12 minutes. You could either walk or run and the number of laps you performed corresponds to your grade.
The second one was the Bleep Test. This one was more forgiving than the Cooper Run since you only had to run halfway across the basketball court. However, there was a timed beeper and we had to reach the halfway line of the court before the timed beep. As the exercise progresses, the timing between the beeps gets shorter.
These were exams that were meant to assess our aerobic capacity. Since I was unhealthy, my grades never went beyond a C.
I wanted to get higher grades but as much as I would love to say that this was my incentive to become even healthier and to lose weight, it wasn’t. It was a boy.
I had a huge crush on someone back then and I thought to myself, maybe if I lose weight my crush will finally notice me! So I intensified my diet and exercise but my motivation crashed when I learned that he already had a girlfriend. I was crushed and the balm to my broken heart was a daily cone of Jamoca Almond Fudge from Baskin Robbins.
Unsurprisingly, all the weight that I worked so hard to lose returned with a few more added pounds.
That was my problem in high school, I was prone to comfort eating. Eventually, I accepted that seeking comfort from food wasn’t solving my health issues. It was adding to it.
Slowly, I learned not to seek comfort from food. Instead, I channeled it to developing my interests. From there, I started writing fanfiction online and I took my piano lessons more seriously. It is true with what people say about music: It can soothe a wounded soul and these creative outlets helped me to overcome comfort eating.
My weight already dropped around 50 kg – 55kg when I entered university. By then, I knew that I would never lose weight successfully if I was doing it for someone. So this time around, I started doing it for myself. I wanted to lose weight for me.
Yet, I went overboard with my diet. It became very restrictive and I recall that there were days that I would only eat seaweed wrappers with puso (Rice wrapped in coconut leaves) to minimize my caloric intake. It wasn’t healthy and the restrictive nature of my diet led me to yoyo dieting. Every single day the only thing that I could think about was food. My crazy diets never lasted long. It’s difficult to concentrate on your studies when all you can think about is your growling stomach, complaining why it was being underfed.
By the time I graduated, I developed a healthier perspective towards weight loss. I ate balanced meals and started exercising daily. This shift allowed me to have a healthier relationship with my body and my weight went down to 47 kg.
Reaching this weight was an achievement for me because after my struggles, I was finally healthy.
I was finally able to walk up a flight of stairs without sounding like I just ran a marathon.
I was finally able to fit into the clothes that I always wanted to wear and this was an amazing confidence booster!
One of the most important lessons that I have learned from my weight loss journey is this: Self-love is the key to weight loss.
Losing weight is a personal journey that takes a lot of time, effort and patience. Shedding the pounds permanently doesn’t happen in a day. Learning to choose healthier alternatives and implementing changes to your lifestyle to support your fitness goals is a process that can take years to develop.
In the process of losing weight, self-love was the key which kept me going.
It reminds me that I am losing weight because I want to take care of my health by eating well and exercising frequently.
It also prevents me from going back to my restrictive diet of eating seaweeds and rice because I know that I am not providing my body the proper nourishment that it needs.
If I overeat during a party, self-love tells me that it’s okay. You can run a few extra laps tomorrow.
Another one of my weight loss secrets is prayer.
Since I was a little girl, I prayed to be thin. In return, God responded by teaching me how to love myself so I can properly take care of my body and be healthy. It also gave me the strength to keep striving towards being healthy during those years.
Looking back, losing weight isn’t easy but with prayer, self-love and effort, it becomes possible.