My UAE: Daman’s Hamad Al Mehyas is putting his fitness first

Al Mehyas is the chief process officer at Daman, a position he has held since 2014, and it’s this role and the influence of his colleagues that he credits for his changing attitude towards his health.

Hamad Al Mehyas is healthier since working for Daman. Vidhyaa for The National
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With his infectious positive attitude and good humour, Hamad Al Mehyas is one of those people you’re not likely to forget in a hurry.

He looks for the silver lining in most situations and believes one of the best strategies in life is to surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on you.

Al Mehyas is the chief process officer at Daman, a position he has held since 2014, and it’s this role and the influence of his colleagues that he credits for his changing attitude towards his health.

“The drivers were the environment itself. Working in Daman is different to my previous work experience. The people here are committed to fitness and well-being,” he says of the triggers for his recent weight loss.

“My boss and CEO is very fit – he runs all the time. When you see someone – your boss or role model – you try to copy them somehow. My colleagues are all fit and I was the only big guy in the ­middle.”

These days, Al Mehyas uses any excuse to fit exercise into his day, and has found that stair climbing in his office in Abu Dhabi is an easy solution. Rather than taking the lift to a meeting on another floor, he will use the stairs, at least part of the way. He tries to recruit his colleagues to join him, but his efforts aren’t confined to the office.

“I try to burn those extra calories when possible,” he says. “For example, when I used to go to the mall, I’d keep driving around the main entrance 10 times until I’d find that spot next to the disabled parking. Today, I park at the furthest [away] possible place to walk the ­distance.”

He also participates in Daman’s ­ActiveLife events, including past editions of the five-kilometre Electric Run, which is being held again tonight at Yas Gateway Park in Abu Dhabi, .

“Before, I never felt like I could do 5K,” Al Mehyas says. “The first time I did was the Electric Run in Dubai. I was surprised – I finished the run and I was still breathing. I didn’t die. I realised I can do it. Since then, I do 5K at least two to three times a week from my house.

“That first Electric Run, I remember I was with my whole family, with their abayas and lights all over the place. It was really fun. We’ve never had anything like this before.”

Al Mehyas is one for firsts: he can lay claim to being the first Emirati forensic scientist.

“I always wanted something different, something unique. I really enjoyed it, it was something totally new,” Al Mehyas says.

“When I did my course to graduate in DNA profiling and forensics, I was one of only of 164 people worldwide registered with the International ­Society of Forensic Genetics – it’s a German board.

“When the [Boxing Day] tsunami happened in the Far East in 2004, my name was on the list to help identify the victims.”

Since then, Al Mehyas has worked for and alongside several government entities, using his skills in forensics and medicine, and even worked in ­biosecurity for three years before starting his current role at Daman.

His designation is a detailed one, looking after the medical-claims cycle from authorisation to the processing of claims, reporting to finance and ensuring the appropriate audits are carried out to comply with standards.

Despite his enjoyment of previous Electric Runs, Al Mehyas won’t be at Friday’s event at Yas ­Island, but he has promised that he will still be doing something active and attempting another first – skiing in Austria.

“It has become fashion in the last few years for Emiratis to go skiing. European people are used to it – they go every winter – but for us, this is totally new,” he explains.

“I’ve never tried it and it was never on my bucket list, but I’ll be attending a conference in Vienna, and since I’m there, I will try to give it a go.”

Do you have a favourite sport team?

Chelsea Football Club. I’m even a Chelsea Pitch Owner now [a shareholder in the freehold of the land on which the English Premier League club’s Stamford Bridge stadium stands].

What's your favourite food?

I love Emirati food.

Do you have a favourite holiday destination?

New York. For the first three days, I really regretted going there – I had a different perception of the city. But once I got used to it – the dining, shows, shopping – I loved it.

Who inspires you?

History and Sheikh Zayed. History gives us free lessons, but unfortunately most of the time we don’t heed them. If you look at what happened before you, we can learn from it. If you look at Sheikh Zayed and what the country was and how it became what it is, this is an inspiring story. He was loved, but what made him get all this love? It was how humble and modest he was. He had everything in his hand, but he was down to earth. This makes me look at myself again and again.

What’s your favourite TV show?

I have three: Dexter, American Dad and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Do you have a life motto?

I always tell my colleagues and my team: enjoy what you do. Whatever it is, enjoy it and never regret it.

What's the best film you have seen lately?

La La Land. I watched it with four people and the highest rating from my friends was 2/10, but I loved the movie. It's one of the best films I've seen in the last five or six years. I wouldn't mind watching it again.

What tips do you have for visitors to the UAE?

We have two seasons – one is hot; the other is very hot. Come between November and March, and take advantage of the Dubai Shopping Festival, our lovely beaches and nice weather.

What’s your top health tip?

Manage your time. We always complain that we don’t have time to go to the gym or don’t have time to cook healthy food. There are so many people more important and busier than we are, and they are managing their time, doing their fitness sessions. And be with positive people, it really makes a difference.