Dozens of people collectively lost more than 1,500 kilograms while taking part in a weight-loss challenge that rewarded participants with money.
Ten weeks ago, some 2,000 people signed up to the RAK Biggest Weight Loser Challenge but this week only 7 per cent of them returned for a final weigh-in. The winner of each category were awarded Dh5,000 each while the two runners-up took home Dh2,000.
Ghazwan Dakak, a 44-year-old Syrian, took home the top prize after losing 35.5kg – going from 148.6kg to 113.1kg - since the challenge began on February 17.
“I knew when I first registered in the challenge that I will be the first winner, I was mentally and physically ready for this, I reached a point where I couldn’t bear my weight any longer,” he said.
For Mr Dakak, the challenge was necessary to give him the final push he needed to live a healthier lifestyle.
“I live in Sharjah and work in Dubai. My life is somehow active and I swim but my daily consumption of food was totally wrong and I needed to change that and add more exercise to my daily routine,” he said.
Prior to the challenge, Mr Dakak would eat one meal a day before bed and didn’t make much time to frequently exercise but starting the challenge wasn’t as simple as he expected.
“It wasn’t easy at all. I would gain weight one week then lose some the next.”
He got his weight-loss under control with help from RAK Hospital which gave participants dietary advice. Mr Dakak cut out sugar, salt and carbohydrates and would exercise daily by either swimming or walking.
“It needs determination and persistence and I had both plus the spirit of challenge. I still have 23 kg to go to reach my goal of 90kg,” he said.
In the women’s category, an Iraqi mother-of-three won Dh5,000 for shedding 19kg, going from 101kg to 82kg.
She took on the challenge so she could play with her children more.
“My weight adds more pressure to my legs and made me less active. I gained all the weight while being pregnant with my children as I had to lay down and not move during the whole nine months of pregnancy and with all three,” said Sura Azziz, 31.
“Determination is everything. It’s the hardest thing to establish and everything else comes after it,” she said.
She too benefitted from the help of doctors at RAK Hospital.
“Following their instructions and advice helped in achieving the goal,” she said.
Ms Azziz adopted a healthy diet for the duration of the challenge but said she intends to make her changes permanent.
“My husband encouraged me and ate everything I made although it was without rice or bread and cooked with less salt. We got used to it and I don’t think we will change these new habits with walking and exercising being on top of them,” she said.
Ms Azziz’s husband also lost 17kg, dropping to 97kg from 114kg.
“The prize means a lot for all of us in the family, we need to be healthier to teach our children how to live a healthy lifestyle,” she said. “It’s also becoming easier for me to now reach my goal of losing 10 more kilogrammes”.
All participants had their weight, height and BMI recorded when they registered. One third of those who registered were found to be severely obese, just over a third were classed as obese and the final third were categorised as mildly obese.
“We have seen an alarming rise in obesity world over and the situation in the UAE is no different,” said Dr Jean Marc Gauer, RAK Hospital’s chief executive.
“Recent research even claims that millennials – babies born between early 1980s and mid-1990s – are the most overweight generation on record, with 70 percent most likely to be overweight or obese when over the age of 30,” he said Dr Jean Marc Gauer.
“This alone should give a clear picture of where we’re heading, and we need to take active measures to reverse this scenario.
“The statistics acquired through the Biggest Loser Challenge also gives a general picture of the obesity level in the UAE with one-third population being overweight.”