Tape measure on bathroom scales on a white tiled background with a bath robe and copy space.Click on the link to see more of my nutrition and medical images
Many people may be a 'healthy weight' but have fat between their organs. Getty

From fat to fit: Facing the hard truths

My wife is a fitness instructor and has long since given up "encouraging" me to get active. So my resolve to do something about my health is something she won't allow me to forget in a hurry. The night before my first scheduled fitness session, she makes sure my alarm is set for the morning, and I'm told in no uncertain terms that she will be turfing me out if she has to.

No need for that. I get up early, put on my trainers for the first time in what seems like forever and head to the gym. My coach, Hannes Loubser, turns out to be thoroughly agreeable. I like him and he looks normal – something I hadn't realised until this point was an issue for me, but I have definitely felt intimidated by previous trainers I've met, many of whom look like Mr Incredible.

Loubser just looks fit and healthy – and crucially for me, doesn't come across like someone who high-fives and fist-bumps at the end of a session. He talks me through what I will be doing during the coming eight weeks as part of Iconic Fitness's Lower Back Fix (LBF) programme and explains a bit about the diet I will be on. "First, though," he says, "we need to take your measurements." This is the moment of truth, where I find out irrefutable facts about my physique.

There is nothing I can really refer to as good news here – not that Loubser is in any way judgemental as he tells me the results. My weight is 95.3 kilograms and my waist measures 108 centimetres (42.5 inches). That is bad enough, but my hips measure 108cm, and having a waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) of 1 puts me in what he refers to as "high-risk health category".

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He says the optimal ratio would be between 0.8 and 0.85, and that this should be achievable by eating differently, essentially "cutting out all the starches like crisps, bread, pasta, potatoes, sweets, cakes and fizzy drinks". He advises that any WHR above 0.9 is a cause for concern, but that he expects me to reduce my waist measurement by 3cm in the next four weeks. "The WHR represents your overall health. If you are very stressed, eat unhealthily and have a sedentary lifestyle, you'll have a high score."

The bad news keeps coming. My body fat percentage is 30.6, and apparently the ideal for a man my age with my kind of job would be between 20 and 25 per cent. “A six-pack is visible at 12 to 14 per cent body fat,” he adds, “but that is not our aim. A healthy flat tummy is our goal for now, and that’s possible in the low 20s range.”

My lean body mass is 66.13kg, which is how much I weigh without any fat, and I’m told to expect this to go up slightly, by 300 to 400 grams per month, as a result of my training. “Your IDM – ideal body mass – is 80.15kg and you are 15.14kg from this,” Loubser tells me. “You’re a working man, not a professional athlete who can spend all day training in the gym and taking supplements, and losing 15 kilos is a daunting task. So I suggest losing half that, which will be just under 8kg of fat mass.”

Pre-empting my disappointment when I next step onto the scales, he reminds me that muscle weighs up to three times more than fat, so as my training starts to take effect, my reading might not immediately paint the correct picture. "Don't worry too much about what the scale says. As long as the centimetres drop and your clothes fit more loosely, we are heading in the right direction," Loubser insists.

You might be wondering what all this has to do with back pain, but to sort that out I need to strengthen my core, which means I need to lose weight and get fitter. The results should translate into a svelter, healthier, pain-free and longer-living me.

But as I head home for a final ceremonial breakfast of hot, buttered toast and blackberry jam, I mumble to myself: “This, Hackett, is going to hurt...”.

The Mandalorian season 3 episode 1

Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Stars: Pedro Pascal and Katee Sackhoff

Rating: 4/5 

match info

Southampton 2 (Ings 32' & pen 89') Tottenham Hotspur 5 (Son 45', 47', 64', & 73', Kane 82')

Man of the match Son Heung-min (Tottenham)


Starting at 10am:

Daria Kasatkina v Qiang Wang

Veronika Kudermetova v Annet Kontaveit (10)

Maria Sakkari (9) v Anastasia Potapova

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova v Ons Jabeur (15)

Donna Vekic (16) v Bernarda Pera 

Ekaterina Alexandrova v Zarina Diyas


Director: Jim Strouse

Stars: Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Sam Heughan, Celine Dion

Rating: 2/5

All The Light We Cannot See

Creator: Steven Knight

Stars: Mark Ruffalo, Hugh Laurie, Aria Mia Loberti

Rating: 1/5 


Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods

Stars: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, Chloe Coleman

Rating: 2/5

Signs of heat stroke
  • The loss of sodium chloride in our sweat can lead to confusion and an altered mental status and slurred speech
  • Body temperature above 39°C
  • Hot, dry and red or damp skin can indicate heatstroke
  • A faster pulse than usual
  • Dizziness, nausea and headaches are also signs of overheating
  • In extreme cases, victims can lose consciousness and require immediate medical attention
Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5


Director: Damian Szifron

Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ben Mendelsohn, Ralph Ineson

Rating: 2/5

Mina Cup winners

Under 12 – Minerva Academy

Under 14 – Unam Pumas

Under 16 – Fursan Hispania

Under 18 – Madenat


Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Stars: Dwayne Johnson, Sarah Shahi, Viola Davis, Pierce Brosnan

Rating: 3/5


Director: Rajkumar Hirani 

Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu, Vikram Kochhar and Anil Grover

Rating: 4/5


Through Her Lens: The stories behind the photography of Eva Sereny

Forewords by Jacqueline Bisset and Charlotte Rampling, ACC Art Books

Terminator: Dark Fate

Director: Tim Miller

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis 

Rating: 3/5

The specs

Engine: 4.4-litre, twin-turbo V8
Transmission: eight-speed auto
Power: 617hp
Torque: 750Nm
Price: from Dh630,000
On sale: now


Touareg Highline

Engine: 3.0-litre, V6

Transmission: 8-speed automatic

Power: 340hp

Torque: 450Nm

Price: Dh239,312

Switching sides

Mahika Gaur is the latest Dubai-raised athlete to attain top honours with another country.

Velimir Stjepanovic (Serbia, swimming)
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, he finished sixth in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 200m butterfly final.

Jonny Macdonald (Scotland, rugby union)
Brought up in Abu Dhabi and represented the region in international rugby. When the Arabian Gulf team was broken up into its constituent nations, he opted to play for Scotland instead, and went to the Hong Kong Sevens.

Sophie Shams (England, rugby union)
The daughter of an English mother and Emirati father, Shams excelled at rugby in Dubai, then after attending university in the UK played for England at sevens.


All times UAE (+4 GMT)

West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur (3.30pm)
Burnley v Huddersfield Town (7pm)
Everton v Bournemouth (7pm)
Manchester City v Crystal Palace (7pm)
Southampton v Manchester United (7pm)
Stoke City v Chelsea (7pm)
Swansea City v Watford (7pm)
Leicester City v Liverpool (8.30pm)

Brighton and Hove Albion v Newcastle United (7pm)

Arsenal v West Bromwich Albion (11pm)

Uefa Champions League last 16 draw

Juventus v Tottenham Hotspur

Basel v Manchester City

Sevilla v  Manchester United

Porto v Liverpool

Real Madrid v Paris Saint-Germain

Shakhtar Donetsk v Roma

Chelsea v Barcelona

Bayern Munich v Besiktas

Other acts on the Jazz Garden bill

Sharrie Williams
The American singer is hugely respected in blues circles due to her passionate vocals and songwriting. Born and raised in Michigan, Williams began recording and touring as a teenage gospel singer. Her career took off with the blues band The Wiseguys. Such was the acclaim of their live shows that they toured throughout Europe and in Africa. As a solo artist, Williams has also collaborated with the likes of the late Dizzy Gillespie, Van Morrison and Mavis Staples.
Lin Rountree
An accomplished smooth jazz artist who blends his chilled approach with R‘n’B. Trained at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC, Rountree formed his own band in 2004. He has also recorded with the likes of Kem, Dwele and Conya Doss. He comes to Dubai on the back of his new single Pass The Groove, from his forthcoming 2018 album Stronger Still, which may follow his five previous solo albums in cracking the top 10 of the US jazz charts.
Anita Williams
Dubai-based singer Anita Williams will open the night with a set of covers and swing, jazz and blues standards that made her an in-demand singer across the emirate. The Irish singer has been performing in Dubai since 2008 at venues such as MusicHall and Voda Bar. Her Jazz Garden appearance is career highlight as she will use the event to perform the original song Big Blue Eyes, the single from her debut solo album, due for release soon.

The biog

Name: Marie Byrne

Nationality: Irish

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption

Book: Seagull by Jonathan Livingston

Life lesson: A person is not old until regret takes the place of their dreams

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