Before I start though, I need to say this once

Getting your ideal body is not a) fast, b) easy or c) a destination. When you decide to go down this road, it is permanent. It is a change in lifestyle for as long as you live. Lest you want to always be unhealthy and unhappy.

On my first day at the gym, I did my body analysis to see where I stood. Being a naturally thin girl, most of my metrics were already within the normal range.

But I was still very shocked.

Despite having normal weight and BMI, my body fat percentage was 31%! High and possibly dangerous. Yes, you can be skinny fat. And yes it’s as bad as fat fat, body shamers.

body fat percentage
With reality in my face in the form of numbers, my goal had become very clear: Get my body fat percentage down to the ideal/lean level. Also get rid of the ever-present cellulite. Also be cool.

Fitness Journey – Phase 1

I started off with some basic exercises with Nike Training Club (here’s the link to download for Android and iOS if you need). This was a wonderful app and I was seeing an improvement in my stamina and endurance. And not just that, I was seeing drastic improvements in my mood and motivation.

During this time, I was also attending group classes for weight training (body pump, circuit training, body attack) and cardio (zumba, Bollywood, step) to get into the rhythm.

The most important lesson I learned during this time was that consistency is key. I knew this was just the beginning so I focused on building a routine. Going to the gym three times a week, finding the right balance between cardio, endurance and strength workouts and researching extensively about the fitness lifestyle.

Fitness Journey – Phase 2

My sister got a personal trainer because she needed weight loss and a leaner body with visibly toned muscles (so did I). I started attending her PT sessions as a sidekick and lucky for me, her trainer liked me. We primarily did functional training for about 9 months to lose fat, gain stamina, endurance and strength and then moved to dedicated weight training.

What is functional training? This is a form of exercise, which trains individuals to do daily activities more easily. Functional training mostly involves body weight with some weights to make the exercises more challenging. Doing functional training for 9 months had multiple benefits including:

  • Better posture
  • More control over my limbs i.e. less clumsy
  • In the words of my trainer “ability to last longer if I’m ever hanging off a cliff”
  • Strength to finally do a headstand. Presenting Exhibit A


Fitness Journey – Phase 3

While my body was doing great with a consistent workout routine (thanks to my sort of trainer), weight training wasn’t showing the results we had expected.

So I broke my heart and changed my diet.

With some help from Google and lots of test and learn, I figured the right things to eat and the right way to motivate myself.

So behold my ultimate eating hacks that have transformed skinny little Siham with no real body type to lean healthy Siham with nothing negative to say about her body.

Fat + Protein = 

Our bodies need fat as a source of energy for all our daily activities. Our bodies need protein to build and maintain the muscles we use to perform those daily activities. Eating fat and protein in a meal is good because your body needs to use both of them to keep you going.

Carbs + Protein = 👍

Carbs are also a source of energy for the body albeit easier and faster to digest than fats. So when you eat carbs with protein, your body gets enough foods to burn for a few hours along with the protein for the muscles.

Fat + Carbs = 👎

Now that we know that both carbs and fats are sources of energy, let’s see why eating them together is the WORST idea. Fats are more complex molecules so they take time to digest. Carbs, on the other hand, are simpler and easier to burn. So when you eat them together, your body burns all the carbs to give you the energy you need and stores the fat because you no longer need energy.

All the burgers, pastas and pizzas loaded with cheese are exactly that. Fat and carbs. Your body burns the pizza base (carbs) for energy and stores the cheese (fat) for later.

In hindsight, I’m very happy I kept track of my fitness score through these phases. Keeping track helped me see where I needed to improve and target exactly those problem areas. My body fat percentage has dropped to the ideal range (24.4%). And my overall fitness score has gone up by 6 points! And. It. Was. Not. Easy. But totally worth it 🙂

fitness analysis
My fitness timeline over two years

So all of this is great and everything but this is a very personal journey. Some of my findings though are universal and apply to all of you trying to get fitter.

  • Stop eating carbs after sunset (no bread, no rice, no pasta, no sugar). I shamelessly cheat during the day but it’s recommended you be more careful if you are looking to lose weight.
  • Protein shakes are for professionals. If your day job does not involve lifting, you will be alright with chicken, fish, lentils and mozzarella cheese (yes mozzarella cheese has lots of protein).
  • Avocados are not just a hippie millenial fruit. They are the best source of good fat you can have.
  • Ramadan is the best time to workout. My top performing months in the last two years were both in Ramadan. Gym in Ramadan allowed me to tap into those hard-to-reach fat reserves while my body starved (works best for people wanting to lose the difficult last 5 kilos)

And most importantly, consistency is key! Make a routine (like I did) and follow it strictly (even if you don’t give your 100% at the gym sometimes). Just making a habit of going to the gym regularly is a gigantic step toward a better lifestyle.

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I’m Siham - a 25-year-old Pakistani, born and raised in the UAE. Currently doing a boring desk job in Dubai - but my passion lies in reading, writing and motivating people.

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