Ghazwan Dakak knows a thing or two about losing weight. In just four years the Sharjah resident has shed more than 70kg by cutting out bread and getting more active.
After losing 36kg — dropping from 151kg to 115kg — Mr Dakak was awarded Dh18,000, or Dh500 for every kilogram he lost during the 10-week challenge.
“All my life I have struggled with my body,” he said. “I am someone that constantly has to work hard to maintain my weight.
“No exercising was my crux and I like bread, I like it too much.
“I won this challenge before, in 2018. I lost 35kg, but my son passed away just a few months later and I lost all motivation to work out and live healthy, so I gained the weight again.”
After coming to terms with his tragic loss, Mr Dakak, who works in the electronics industry, said he was determined to emulate his success from the 2018 challenge and last year decided to get serious about his health again.
He started swimming for hours a week and walked for two and a half hours each day.
“I will never be skinny, I know that, but now I am motivated again,” he said.
“I eat salads, white meat and fish, lots of vegetables and I do intermittent fasting too.
“Eating with my family has changed because I eat different food to them now.
“They eat lots of oily, delicious Arabic food but the biggest change for me is that I have cut out bread, for the most part at least.”
The four biggest losers of the annual weight loss event, hosted by RAK Hospital, lost a total of 126kg between them.
The average weight loss of the more than 10,000 people who participated was 10kg.
Joshua and Crystal Fisher, a husband and wife duo from Canada, entered the challenge together.
They lost 36kg between them, with Mr Fisher shedding the bulk of it — going from 153kg to 125kg.
The couple, who moved to Ajman five months ago, said they both gained a lot of weight after the Covid-19 pandemic started back home in Canada.
“I work a lot of hours, pretty much from when I wake up to just an hour before I go to bed, so living and working from home during the pandemic I did very little exercise,” said 40-year-old Mr Fisher.
“Back home, with family and friends so close, almost every weekend we would be at someone’s house for a celebration.
“Because of that it was always hard to stay on top of weight loss.
“I was at my heaviest when I entered this challenge and it was the push I needed to change my lifestyle.”
Since joining the initiative in December, the couple said they have improved their eating habits and have hugely increased their activity levels.
“Now, when we go out, we go to places like Expo or Global Village so we can get our steps in. That works better for us than a gym,” said Mr Fisher.
“My goal is to lose another 20kg by the end of the year and maintain it.”
Dr Ferdaus Nalladaroo, a GP originally from India but living in Abu Dhabi, managed to lose 27kg in just 10 weeks, going from 94kg to 67kg.
For him, diet and exercise were non-negotiable. Some weeks he would train for 2.5 hours a day, six days a week.
“I have always been classed as fat since I was a young boy,” he said.
“Food was my Achilles heel. I would eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted.
“During this challenge I restricted my diet to two salads a day with no meat. I drank a lot of water. For me it wasn’t a big challenge.
“For a whole month I also did the watermelon fast, where I would only eat watermelon when I felt hungry. I wouldn’t recommend this to people as it is not sustainable but it helped me lose weight quick.”
The challenge was organised into three categories; physical, virtual and corporate teams.
Mr Nalladaroo won top spot in the virtual category, weighing in regularly with RAK Hospital via video calls, and Mr Dakak won the top prize in the physical category, beating off competition from 5,655 participants.
The winners were announced on Friday, which also marks World Obesity Day.
Handing out the awards, Dr Raza Siddiqui, executive director of RAK Hospital, said that, statistically, obesity continues to be the most significant health crisis in the UAE.
“The UAE is ranked fifth in the Global Obesity Index,” he said.
“Obesity is the root cause of hypertension, the root cause of cardiac problems, but during the pandemic we have seen that if obese people get the virus, their chances of getting complications is very high, their chances of going on a ventilator is very high.
“Very sadly, many of the people who have lost their lives to Covid-19 have been obese.
“Now that Covid-19 cases are going down we wanted to restart this initiative after a two-year wait.
“Our body is our temple and we want to teach people not to misuse and abuse it.”