At age 42, Abduswamad Shariff Nassir, the Mvita Member of Parliament could hardly carry his own weight. And when his feelings were wounded by an offhand remark about his appearance, he knew his life needed to change. By Vivianne Wandera
I was born big, and I had been overweight since I was a boy. That said, my eating habits fueled my weight problem. I’d eat two loaves of bread in one sitting. I once fell ill and when I was taken to the hospital, the nurses couldn’t locate a vein. Now I am mighty proud that I can see my veins from afar. I was living a very unhealthy life, my only regret today is that I didn’t start my weight loss exercise earlier.
My self-esteem suffered immensely. The most difficult thing was looking older than I actually was. Imagine walking with your wife and someone asks her if I was her dad because of how I looked. That was a low blow for me. I’d also struggle to find clothes that fit me perfectly. My waist was Size 44 back then but today I’m a Size 34. I’d walk into a store and see an outfit that I liked but it wouldn’t fit me. At times, I’d visit over 10 stores and find nothing.
I once traveled abroad and I wanted to go skydiving but I couldn’t. I was told that I would defy gravity because of my weight and I had to go and lose it then come back and try again. The realisation that I was at a very bad place motivated me to change my lifestyle and start working out. I thought to myself that this wasn’t the kind of life I wanted to live and I had to do something about it. Three years down the line, I have lost about 47kg. I used to weigh 130kg but now I am 86/87kg.
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My weight somewhat impacted my work as a parliamentarian. I couldn’t be in a lot of places because being overweight and obese makes one lazy. My job involves a lot of travelling and attending several functions in a day. I couldn’t sleep well because I’d snore so loudly and it was also hard for me to be around my friends because I couldn’t do a lot of things that they could do. I didn‘t feel like I fit in.
I always had medication around me. It could be for headaches, ulcers and heart burns. I couldn’t even eat oranges without getting an acid reflux. I had antacids everywhere. I had them in my office, my car, in the house and I needed them all the time. Since I started working out, I do not remember the last time I took any kind of medication. When you lose weight you become a better version of yourself and there is nothing more satisfying than being a better you.
My wife motivated me to start my weight loss journey. She has always been into fitness and works out in the gym. She encouraged me to join her whenever she went to the gym and that’s how it started three years ago. My children also played a big role in my weight loss journey. I have three boys and one daughter. My daughter is 17 and very proud of me.
The beginning was very hard. Sometimes, I couldn’t even do a single press up because I couldn’t push myself up. Everyone in the gym was looking at me like I wouldn’t make it. Today, I can do up to 60 push-ups with up to 20kg of weight on my back. My son can sit on my back and I can comfortably do the push-ups.
I work out five to six times a week. In one session, I lift weights for about 20 minutes, rope skip and do some highly intense interval training. I used to drink protein shakes before I started my work outs but they didn’t really give me the kick I needed. Now I drink coffee before a session.
Many people say that I underwent surgery and that is why I don’t have sagging skin. Well, I lost my weight naturally. When you work out your skin tightens because you are burning fat and building muscle. When I started seeing results I was motivated to keep going. When my clothes didn’t fit me anymore and I had to start changing my wardrobe, I was pushed to work harder and better. There were times when it was hard but I kept going. I am not a quitter and when I start something I must finish it. At the moment, working out has become an addiction. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world; I always find a place to work out. The gym being far has never been an excuse to me.
My diet includes fewer carbs and more proteins. When I wake up, I first drink a half a litre of water, then another half after breakfast. While training, I drink about two litres then another half litre afterwards. I eat lots of egg whites and natural organic foods like sweet potatoes and vegetables.
I’d advise anyone who intends to start working out to get a nutritionist. It is very important to have someone who guides you in what to eat. Having self discipline is also very important, I attend a lot of events especially when I have to be back at home in the constituency where every event has cake, so I eat cautiously.