How great would it have been if I woke up one morning and decided – alright, today I am going to take back my life. I will be disciplined, healthy, and strong – and then it was done? If only.
The truth is, taking control of your life is a process that requires hard work and dedication. As intimidating as that may sound, I assure you that the effort is worth it and the lessons you learn along the way are invaluable.
I have always been on the heavier side. I never really focused on my lifestyle or my weight (although I frequently weighed myself and have had ‘lose weight’ as #1 on my new year’s resolutions for decades on end). However, one morning I woke up and saw my weight creep up to 103 kg (227 lbs.) I could not believe it! Was that really my weight? How did that happen?!
I had not noticed it at the time, but my sedentary, complacent lifestyle had caught up with me. I thought I was fine. I thought I was happy, but I know that there was no way I could really be happy when I was breathless climbing a flight of stairs or constantly tugging at my clothes trying to hide my discomfort.
It was time to make a change. Although I was already a member of a gym, I did not go regularly nor was I exercising efficiently/effectively. More than that, I definitely was not watching what I ate. Fast food was a treat; nightly dessert was a necessity; doing nothing but lazing around and eating all weekend was ideal.
Starting June 2009, I got serious.
I hit the gym religiously. I joined a healthy eating program that prepared low-calories meals and had them delivered to my house. I went to see a nutritionist for weekly weigh-ins.
Things were starting to improve, but I still had setbacks. Travel during the summer. Socializing with friends. The dreaded holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Years with endless dinner parties and social soirees. These types of events made it very challenging. My efforts weren’t perfect, but I was still trying.
By July 2010 (11 months since I really started making an effort) I had dropped 22 kg (just under 50 lbs.) and I felt great. It was the lowest weight I had been in ages. I had definitely caught the exercise bug and I absolutely LOVED going to the gym.
My workouts continued to be good, but I slacked off in terms of my food. I started to become too lenient. I got careless. My weight crept up to my plateau (8 kg/18 lbs. higher than my lowest) … and then with some more travel, PhD stress, another major surgery (myomectomy & attempted hysterectomy), and carelessness when it came to food, I crept up another 3 kilos (10 lbs.) and then I really put my foot down. I could not, could not, could not let it creep any higher.
I managed to get down to my plateau weight but stalled there for over a year. Even though my fitness level improved drastically and my eating habits were much, much better than before (though still not perfect), I knew I had more weight to lose – partly for my self-esteem but mostly for my health.
I continued to work, but it was tough. Just when I felt like I was hitting my stride, my usual challenges – travel, holidays, and portion control – would hit me hard. In addition, psychologically I was really struggling. After the failed hysterectomy (that I wanted due to multiple large fibroids that were causing me daily pain), it was hard for me to be positive. I was constantly fighting negative thoughts, depressing emotions, and a poor attitude.
In any case, I continued to work. In July 2011 I ditched the cardio machines and I finally started lifting weights. I had a set routine that was incredibly effective. More than that, I found my love for weight lifting. I started out lifting light weights, but as I went through my program and discovered that I was getting stronger with each session, I started to feel better and better – and what was even more rewarding was that I started to feel confident. The evidence was right there on my barbell – what an exhilarating feeling. I no longer had to pretend or try to convince myself that I was strong – I actually WAS – and it was awesome.
Completing my weight lifting program helped prepare me for my next fitness adventure which was the discovery of CrossFit in April 2012. It was through CrossFit that I really learned how to push myself, trust myself, believe in myself, and face my fears … it has been so exhilarating! Seeing my weight lifting progress to heights that I never thought were possible was an incredible high – add to that the way my body was changing and I was hooked!
The next step for me was to figure out a way to improve my performance. I wanted to do whatever I needed to do in order to make sure I could perform the way I wanted to perform. This meant eating right — food as fuel — for my workouts. In September 2012 I took it one step further and I did my first Whole Life Challenge. My results were incredible. Not only did I lose a lot of weight, but my body shape completely changed. If I had not taken before/after photos, I would not have believed it for myself! After that, my whole attitude towards food and eating completely changed.
I was no longer afraid to eat. I developed a healthy relationship with food and a loving relationship with fitness. I went on to become a Certified Fitness Nutritionist and a Certified Personal Trainer. Living healthy had truly become my lifestyle.
In addition to CrossFit/weight lifting, I found my passion in MMA (mixed martial arts). I started off with boxing and from there I progressed to Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and Kajukenbo. Currently my main focus is jiu-jitsu. I have been training regularly since January 2013 and am now a certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu instructor.
Being so involved in physical activities helps me stay focused on my fitness goals. It drives my habits and my decisions. It grounds me and makes me happy.
That being said, I haven’t reached my goal(s) yet. I still stumble. I still have setbacks. My sweet tooth still haunts me. I’m constantly making an effort. I guess the difference is that it doesn’t feel like such a drag anymore. It’s a given, just like it’s a given that my life will be chaotic, it’s a given that I will need to work for this. I don’t resent this. I accept it as a challenge – and I will keep working until I succeed. I have come to realize and accept that there really is no deadline when it comes to living a healthy life. It is something that I strive to do on a daily basis. Accepting this as a lifelong, constant mission has allowed me to have more of a balanced look of what living a healthy life and having a good day mean to me. It took me years to realize that my worth is not measured by the number on the scale and even longer to realize that happiness doesn’t come from a plate of food nor does strength come from the gym – it all starts from within.
My biggest challenge is the chronic pain, discomfort, and pressure I feel from very large uterine fibroids. The largest one is 15 x 13 cm and my uterus is the size of an 8-month pregnancy. Given the fact that I’m not pregnant and I am trying to lose weight, the physical manifestation of my fibroids has a major mental impact. No matter what, for 2 weeks every month I will sit weighing around 6 kg (13 lbs) heavier than normal and will look 8 months pregnant. I can’t escape it. I am often in terrible pain, but that is easier to cope with than the mental anguish I experience as I try to force myself to be positive and keep pushing forward. It is hard for me to look past the fibroids and see what I have achieved, but that is where I am at now. I have to remember that no matter how I physically look, I have to keep striving for better health.
Moving to England from Kuwait in 2014 added a new challenge for me. Not knowing anyone and being in unfamiliar surroundings made me remember what it is like to start from scratch – with no support system and with no direction. From relearning how to shop at grocery stores and finding the best, healthiest (and most affordable) produce for me to finding a steady workout routine to finding a new support network, I have had to start from the very beginning.
As you can see from my experiences over the years, I have been through many ups and downs. I know what it is like to wake up in the morning, step on the scale, and feel your whole world crumble. I know what it is like to be the only ‘fat girl’ in an exercise class. I know what it is like to have successfully lost weight only to see it creep up again — and then have to rebuild your entire mindset and physical well-being. I’ve gone through it all – and now I am here for you. I would love to work with you and share my experiences and everything I have learned to help you live a healthier, happier, more empowered life.