DUBAI // After 14 years spent behind a desk crunching numbers, Fahad Al Hammadi knew the time was right to make a change for the better.
The former banker, who had watched his weight balloon to 145 kilogrammes, decided to give up the comfort of a monthly salary, pension and the other benefits that come with a government job and put his health first.
The 32-year-old Emirati now works full-time as a personal trainer and fitness coach and weighs in at a much trimmer 92kg.
His lifestyle change began when he joined the UAE boxing team in 2009.
“It was the only place I could let out my energy,” he said. “It taught me a lot of discipline and this was the thing I really committed to.
“I would turn up on time, wouldn’t go out with my friends.
“It was the first thing I was really good at and it made me feel good about myself,” said Mr Al Hammadi, who went on to gain qualifications in strongman training and personal training in 2013.
But his decision to quit the office job was not without its doubters, with many of his friends and family critical of his choice of career even to this day.
“My family still don’t see this as a proper career and think I’m crazy, that I’ve lost it,” said Mr Al Hammadi.
“Even from close friends, I still have a lot of negativity and I don’t have the support I’d like.
“I’m in a constant war with my passion and convincing my community that I want to do this. Life isn’t about a pension or security, but about doing what we truly want to do.”
He said working in the health and fitness industry is still perceived as low career by many people in his community.
“It comes from an egoistic culture.
“We’ll never see an Emirati taxi driver or someone pumping petrol like you see in somewhere like Oman or Bahrain.
“For the family, it affects their pride that I’m training the people I train like it’s a service industry job and I shouldn’t be doing it because I’m local.
“My dad said this is a job for expatriates, and to the family, a bigger, better thing is a government job.”
But Mr Al Hammadi is used to doing his own thing and not being swayed by the opinions and desires of others.
His choice to study sound engineering at university in Canada, where he waited tables and took several service industry jobs to fund his lifestyle, created problems with his family in the UAE.
“I was sent to study business, but my passion was music, so I did sound engineering. My father wouldn’t speak to me for months when he found out,” he said.
Such attitudes put pressure on young Emiratis when it comes to them choosing a career path. “Many of them are working for the government just to maintain their lifestyle – the car, the travel. They’re not happy. If you’re doing something you don’t like, you’re not going to work hard or work well. There’s a big difference between a job and a career.”
Despite not earning a banker’s salary, Mr Al Hammadi said the money he earns, although meagre in comparison, means so much more. “Now, I value every penny I’ve worked for,” he said.