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Mohammed Al Dhubaibat weighed 196 kilograms when his sister, a doctor, told him he had to lose weight or suffer irreversible problems.
So he did – 80kg in the past year – and did so naturally.
“I want to be a person who can say I changed my life without surgery, that people will know that and be inspired to do this too,” said Mr Al Dhubaibat, 29.
“I’ve had no fat burners, no protein shakes or supplements – it’s all been natural.”
The Emirati communications executive has endured ridicule and pain on his road to healthy living.
Since April, he has dropped 50kg with private coaching. He was too big to join in group exercise classes and needed his own individual regimen.
He rides his bike, with its specially reinforced frame, 10-20 kilometres along Jumeirah Beach Road and very often trains twice a day, after work and in the evening.
On April 1, his body weight consisted of 81kg fat and 47kg muscle. This month it was 38kg fat and 45kg muscle.
This year, The National reported a rise in gastric band surgery among children as young as 12. Although confidentiality laws prohibit specifics, doctors have reported growing numbers of cases.
Last year, Al Noor Hospital in Abu Dhabi began offering 10-day starvation diets that required obese patients to be fed intravenously.
“At first, we couldn’t even send him running,” said Marcus Smith, Mr Al Dhubaibat’s coach from Inner Fight. “He could only row, but now at least he can run, too.
“He had good movement at the start but there was so much fat in the way there was only so much he could do. All the leave he’s had from work this year, he’s spent it training and sleeping.”
Mr Al Dhubaibat said his health and life had been transformed.
“People who haven’t seen me for a while don’t even think it’s me,” he said. “I feel better at work, more alert, better in meetings.
“At night, I couldn’t even breathe properly when I slept. My mum used to think I was dying because my breath was so heavy.”
In one day, Mr Al Dhubaibat could sometimes eat as many as three Big Mac meals, a breakfast of eggs and croissants, then shwarmas and pizza at work for lunch and a typical home-cooked meal of fish or chicken and rice in the afternoon after work.
It was not unusual for him to eat three Snickers bars or two lamb shoulders in one sitting.
Now, Mr Al Dhubaibat reaches for almonds as a snack, has rice only once a week, has cut out sugar and junk food and his meals are based around lean proteins, salad and vegetables.
Even his social group has changed. He surrounds himself with those in the same healthy mindset who can support him on the rest of his journey. His goal is to get closer to 80kg, a more appropriate weight for his 178 centimetres.
“Many of my friends have done gastric-band surgeries, but this isn’t good,” he said. “These people aren’t getting the benefit from the food they eat and are also losing muscle in the process.
“It doesn’t help get rid of the visceral fat [around the organs] either. These are people as young as 18 years old