MIS­SION TO IN­SPIRE HEALTHY YOUTHS

Busi­ness­man men­tors pupils af­ter shed­ding half his body weight

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Shoshana Ke­dem @B_shosh shoshana@7days.ae

At 25 years old and a mem­ber of a wealthy, influential UAE fam­ily, Essa Al An­sari could prob­a­bly do just about any­thing he wanted.

But the young Emi­rati is choos­ing to channel his spare time talk­ing to school­child­ren about the dan­gers of binge­ing on snacks and junk food - a lesson he knows only too well.

Al An­sari says some­thing must be done about our rank as the world’s 15th most obese coun­try.

“I want to in­spire the next gen­er­a­tion,” he told 7DAYS. “We have an easy life in the UAE where we don’t have to walk any­where, we can get food de­liv­ered to the car, any­where if you like.

“I want peo­ple, young­sters, to at least think about what they are do­ing. And by reach­ing the kids, they might go home and tell their par­ents they want a healthy, balanced din­ner.”

Al An­sari spent years strug­gling with obe­sity and tipped the scales at 130kg dur­ing his time at univer­sity in Switzer­land, be­fore un­der­go­ing a gru­elling weight loss and train­ing regime to turn his life around.

In a lit­tle over two years, the young hos­pi­tal­ity ex­ec­u­tive has lost more than half his body­weight, 70kg. Al An­sari is giv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions to teenagers at schools across Dubai.

His “jour­ney” has not been easy, as he told hun­dreds of stu­dents at Emi­rates In­ter­na­tional School in Jumeirah this week.

“The meals we had at home were healthy, but the prob­lem was when they all went to bed I would go into the kitchen look­ing for snacks - crisps, choco­lates, candy,” he said

“I would of­ten bring a box of cup­cakes to school for my friends. They loved me for that.”

His predica­ment hit home when on a trip back home to Dubai from univer­sity in Switzer­land, weigh­ing 130kg, he de­cided to join his brother in a spot of cir­cuit train­ing.

“My twin brother was al­ways re­ally fit and told me one day that I had to get fit, be­cause it was dan­ger­ous how over­weight I was. I was the big­gest loser,” he said, re­fer­ring to a new Amer­i­can re­al­ity TV Show, which he hopes to one day bring to the UAE.

“I lit­er­ally trained for five min­utes and I was dy­ing. I couldn’t move. I think my brother pur­posely did that to make me re­alise how bad I was. So I de­cided to change. I started with a per­sonal trainer, and gave up the snacks,” Al An­sari told stu­dents.

“The most im­por­tant thing is set­ting goals,” he said, adding that he set tar­gets to lose 10-12kg per month, work­ing out for two hours a day.

One of the things Al An­sari hopes to in­grain in kids is that eat­ing a healthy diet and keep­ing fit is the only healthy way to lose weight.

“If you do it nat­u­rally it takes years. A lot of peo­ple go for the eas­ier op­tion, for the by­pass op­er­a­tion.

“Surgery food is very com­mon here in the UAE,” he said, re­fer­ring to wide­spread gas­tric by­pass op­er­a­tions in the Mid­dle East.

“It’s at a huge num­ber, it’s in­sane and keeps on in­creas­ing every year, be­cause it’s the easy way out,” he said.

The na­tion’s pref­er­ence for surgery food is rooted in a cul­ture of cos­metic fixes and lack of parental re­spon­si­bil­ity, said head of phys­i­cal health ed­u­ca­tion at EIS, Laila Freck­le­ton.

“It’s pure lazi­ness. Kids skip PE class be­cause they think ‘why should I ex­er­cise?’

“‘If I get over­weight I can just get a gas­tric by­pass or a per­sonal trainer’.

“And their par­ents are happy to pay for it,” Freck­le­ton said.

In 2015, more than 30 per cent of the UAE pop­u­la­tion was obese, while over 60 per cent are over­weight, ac­cord­ing to In­dex Mundi world sta­tis­tics web­site.

“I want to change the cul­ture here. I’m not say­ing don’t treat your­self to junk food, just limit it to once a week, as a Fri­day treat,” Al An­sari said.

AF­TER

BE­FORE

LESSONS LEARNED: Al An­sari speaks to pupils at Emi­rates In­ter­na­tional School

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