I never saw myself writing about fitness. Never. I was never a fitness enthusiast. However, I realized that I have a story to tell. Somehow. Particularly to those who are like me who relatively live a sedentary lifestyle due to the nature of job and personal interests.
I live a sedentary lifestyle just like my cats.
I have gained at least 15 kg since I moved to Abu Dhabi in early 2008. Of course, the ballooning did not happen overnight. Initially, the situation was sort of ‘cute’ — just like regaining baby fats, bad angle resulting to double chin, etc. At some point I (unfairly) viewed it as a norm since most of the expats are gaining weight in the UAE. This country has not been designed primarily as a walking city, as we may have noticed from the old roads which indirectly suggest that everyone has been envisioned to be moving by cars. That could be because of the brutal weather in the lower Gulf, particularly during summer. The glaring facts though are the impressive efforts of the government in redesigning the way people should live at the present times and onwards – a healthy and sustainable manner. No one is excused anymore; plenty of free activities are available (e.g. yoga every Saturday at Umm Al Emarat Park, cycling, running, bootcamp and other activities in Yas Marina Circuit every Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and more).
It is massively unfair though to blame the lifestyle in UAE as the main culprit for gaining weight. Yes, it is a trigger, but we are all accountable for our own lifestyle. In this post, I will talk about how I gained weight without much effort (hahaha) since 2008 and why and how I am trimming down.
How I gained weight effortlessly?
In a nutshell, these are the main attributes to my weight gain:
- Complacency. I never cared at all if I gained weight because I am happy with it and life in general, anyway. I was and still am never bothered being teased.
- My challenging yet satisfying job requires me to be sitting 80% to 90% of the time; the rest goes to bathroom breaks, lift/elevator trips to my meetings, and sometimes for lunch. Most of the time I do have a working lunch.
- I perceived that my cravings which attack 2 hours after dinner or at midnight were worth entertaining, just because I deserve to have a happy tummy. I used to eat whenever I want. It got worse when I was working on my projects and dissertation for the master’s degree. I thought I deserved (more) indulgence.
- My only exercise then was the walk to and from the parking and those in the malls, and well, those occasional fire drills at the office which I have non deliberately cheated few times by taking the lift to the ground floor down earlier when my ‘intuition’ (or sources say “There will be a surprise fire drill…”) saves me from trailing through the stairs.
- I eat everything.
- I am a couch potato. Series marathon, Netflix, etc. Then, I love to munch while watching (even when reading).
The list goes on. As I look back, I am laughing and embarrassed at the same time for being so abusive of myself. Modesty aside, I am prudent in many aspects. However, I was obviously one of the most irresponsible in the physical fitness department.
Why the change of mind and heart?
Over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Long story, but it is hormonal-related. While my doctor is doing a good job, I am quite appreciative that I was born in the era when there are maintenance tablets and the best part is I am not spending anything because of my full insurance coverage from my employer. I have excellent diabetes management as per quarterly check up. However, my doctor kept nagging me about my needed increased efforts, at least, in increasing my walk, except for a couple of times that I have been commended for losing 4 kg after an almost 3 weeks winter trip to UK and the overseas trips that followed.
In October this year, I woke up thinking of restrategizing the minimization or avoidance of risks in my life in general. I thought of the people dear to me. When I was younger, I felt invincible. I used to be oh-so-workaholic. The first time in my life that I resonated with the real meaning of health is wealth. Random thoughts on how I am putting so many garbage in my system because of my lifestyle then. I thought of the risk of spending a fortune from my own pocket in case my insurance coverage is downgraded due to cost cutting measures of companies and ultimately I do not want to be sickly nearing and during my retirement. That would be throwing away hard earned money instead of utilizing those to help the ones who are really in need. Then, of course, I do not like maintenance medicines – to be dependent on them as long as I live. Type 2 diabetes is reversible, thankfully. I wanted to be among the few who overcame it. (Note: As I write this, it has been a couple of weeks since I have stopped taking Glucophage/ Metformin; yet my blood sugar is at normal level. Nothing is really impossible.)
Beach Run Abu Dhabi 2016 in Corniche. I joined the 3.6 km Fun category. I look forward to joining the 7.2 km Serious Run category next year. I, literally, was like my dog (tongue out) as I finished the run. I was so hungry, I wanted to eat my medal.
So, how the super lazy me managed to lose 6 kg in 35 to 40 days? It is not a lot, I know, but that is something for someone who has a lifestyle like mine. It is not rocket science, but here is how it happened:
- Mindset overhaul. I only had one main goal: to stabilize healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels. To support that main goal, I have identified sub-goals (aka baby steps). Losing weight would be one of the results of the main goal.
- No crash diet. I did not want to pressure myself. With the help of a free app, My Fitness Pal (this is not a sponsored post), I am keeping a food and weight diary. It is capable of producing nutrient analysis as well. I have targeted to lose only 500g per week by eating healthy food and doing exercise. (Note: There were weeks where I overachieved or underachieved the target depending on my discipline.)
- Massive change in my food consumption/ eating habits. Definitely, this is the main attribute to the weight loss (like 70% to 80%). I have started consuming more organic products, stopped eating rice on weekdays, drinking water only and minimized consumption of chicken skin and fatty portions. I do not have a dietician, but Google is so helpful. Here is a 1 week menu from Kcal to get you started. (Again, this is not a sponsored post.)
- I am not attending any gym classes. I have to be realistic and practical. Going to the gym, currently, is not really for me as I am only good when I am starting (ningas cogon) and I find it quite difficult to find extra time to go to the gym considering my present commitments/ situation. However, I do exercise at home. I brisk walked on the treadmill for an hour thrice a week during the first two weeks. When I got bored and the weather started to get a little cold, I started to brisk walk/run with my dog (she needs to be healthy also) twice to thrice a week for an hour at the mini park near our flat/apartment.
- I am still relatively a couch potato. I watch series, news, etc. It is ultra different now though. I am hulahooping for 15 to 30 minutes while I do my CNN/BBC viewing (and recently The Crown). I do my Netflix indulgence while on treadmill. I catch up on podcasts while running.
- As much as I do not want to spend, fitness deserves some allocation (as compared to gym membership which I know I will never fully utilize). I got myself a yoga/exercise mat and ball and dumb bells. I use those as I follow/ watch the several helpful videos from Youtube (I am appreciating more the smart TV nowadays because of my sort of fitness journey). No spending for the hulahoop and treadmill because they are available and were just resting for a long time.
- I have increased the walking/ moving time as much as I can. For example, to park the car as far as possible particularly that winter is here, minimal worry for sweating out, setting a reminder to move/ stretch at work every hour. My favorite is using the (fire exit) stairs for at least 2 minutes.
The list is very much doable, isn’t it? The key consideration though is consistency. Personally, I do become inconsistent when I start to lose interest. Hence, I keep on trying new stuff (to me) like doing the walkathon, beach run (and soon the color run), and integrating physical activities to my old couch potato lifestyle (hulahooping, lifting while watching). As for the food, I still have cheat days. I find myself moving to the ‘cheat day only’ level soon and who knows, ‘cheat meal only’ level. For now, there is no pressure. Just to stick to my main goal of stabilizing a healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels and everything else would be a bonus.
I look forward to writing about my fitness journey again maybe after a month or two. For now, I need to get ready since my dog is hinting that it is time for her run in the park.