Dubai slimming support group helps best friends lose 27kg between them

Emma Pearson and Emma Graffagnino both decided to join a slimming support group after each put on weight when they moved to Dubai.

L-R: Emma Pearson and Emma Graffagnino have lost a combined 27kg since taking part in the Good Habits UAE weight-loss group, seen in the Zayed Sport City area of Dubai. Christopher Pike / The National
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DUBAI // Meet two best friends who share not only a flat and a name, but also a remarkable weight-loss journey in which the pair shed an astonishing 27 kilograms between them.

Emma Pearson and Emma Graffagnino both decided to join a slimming support group after each put on weight when they moved to Dubai.

Ms Pearson, 31, relocated in July 2014 and, within a year, had gained 9.5kg. “I have been lucky and never really had to worry about my weight. But hitting 30 and moving to Dubai, I seemed to gain weight, probably due to the endless brunches available and the ‘drive-thru ATM’ lifestyle,” said the Briton, who works as a propulsion planning officer with Emirates airline.

“I knew I had to do something to get back to a happier and more confident me.”

Ms Graffagnino, who at her heaviest weighed 112kg, was equally unhappy with her weight. “I had reached a point where I couldn’t fit into anything in my wardrobe and it was starting to affect my confidence in all aspects of my life,” said the 1.7 metre-tall Briton, who used to wear a UK size 20.

Side-by-side, the pair walked into their first Good Habits UAE weight-loss group in July last year.

“I remember leaving my first meeting and bursting into tears, thinking, ‘I’m not going to be able to eat or drink anything I want’,” Ms Pearson said. “But that has not been the case.”

Ms Pearson managed to shed 11.6kg by starting an exercise regime and planning portion-controlled, healthy meals. She swapped her previous diet of pasta, bread and fizzy drinks for salads and healthier carbohydrates, such as quinoa and breakfast oats.

Ms Graffagnino was equally strict and lost 16kg.

Losing the weight has changed both their lives. “I feel so much better about myself,” said Ms Pearson, who has reached her goal weight. “I am focused during the week and allow myself the weekend to unwind and relax with a few of the luxuries I don’t have during the week.”

At a wedding in January, Ms Graffagnino, who works for Snoopy Pets Dubai, a pet relocation and grooming service, faced people she had not seen in months. “People were commenting on how great I looked and how much I had lost, which was visible from the new dress I had bought for it,” said the 37-year-old. “I used to dread being invited to parties and wedding celebrations because I would have worried what I looked like. Now my weight doesn’t restrict what I can do.”

Both women feel attending meetings – and having a “diet buddy” – provides the motivation to shed weight.

The flatmates plan their weekly food diary every Saturday so there is no temptation to deviate.

“It is great as we also encourage each other with our work-outs,” Ms Graffagnino said. “We often do some form of exercise together, which seems to push each other that little further, so it becomes a little competition to who can do more.”