The final word: Overweight and struggling to get motivated, how family get me on the right track

I am lucky to have escaped the catch-22 I had found myself in: while being around for my family became my primary motivation to get healthy, actually having a family had also contributed to my sorry state.
Mustafa Alrawi is now feeling healthy enough to keep up with his two small children. Christopher Pike / The National
Mustafa Alrawi is now feeling healthy enough to keep up with his two small children. Christopher Pike / The National

Let’s get the ugly part out of the way first. In the summer of 2012, I weighed in at 133 kilograms – my all-time high. But unlike a peak for stock markets, there was no good news for anyone invested in my health. I was beginning to show signs of physical deterioration, and given I was only 37, this was obviously a very worrying direction for me to be going in as far as my family was concerned.

Since then, I have lost more than 20 kilograms, and in the past year I have cast aside my Heavyweight Overeating Champion of the World title (I don’t miss it).

At 40, I can keep up with two high-energy toddlers, and generally feel better than ever.

I am lucky to have escaped the catch-22 I had found myself in: while being around for my family became my primary motivation to get healthy, actually having a family had also contributed to my sorry state.

When my wife first got pregnant in 2011, I was the one who ate for two, three and, sometimes, four. Given that my natural state is blob-like, it was easy to give up any pretence of trying to stay active. When I saw the big number on the scale a year later, I knew something had to give.

But even after such a shock, when I could no longer deny the truth to myself and any hope of hiding it from my loved ones had become impossible, I still struggled to exercise regularly and cut back my eating. It was stop, start for months on end. This was probably the most hellish time for me. I was demoralised.

When my second son was born almost two years ago, another ready-made excuse to give up was on offer. I clung on to it for a while amid late-night feedings – for him, not me – little sleep and frayed emotions. For a while I wallowed.

In the end, it was my wife, looking to shed one or two kilos post pregnancy, who got me on the right track. She gently encouraged me to join her down at the gym. I did it, but only because I’ll do anything for a quiet life. Then something happened that I did not expect. I began to actually enjoy the discipline of it all. Call it maturity, call it luck, better to call it a miracle really, but I became invested. I watched what I ate, worked out almost every day and started to feel better about myself.

It grew quickly from there, as long as I took it one day at a time. Thinking about it in any time-frame longer than that made my head spin and my hand reach for the snack cupboard. Eventually I found I was able to keep up with the kids in the climbing frame, that I could fit into my favourite pair of jeans and that I actually missed the Work Out of the Day at Haddins gym whenever I didn’t go. I have even managed to call time on my personal war with the bathroom scale. I wouldn’t say we are friends, but I am much more relaxed about meeting with it once a month, and it doesn’t have quite such horrible things to tell me anymore.

I cringe at how corny this sounds – but it does fill me with pride and joy to know that I have done my best for my wife and kids, and that I have given us all a better chance of spending many more years together.

Mustafa Alrawi is business editor for The National

Published: September 20, 2016 04:00 AM

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