In this interview with Omaima Mohammad (47 at the time of the interview) talks inspirationally about the challenges, stigmas, social constructs and cultural hurdles she faced when she decided to lose weight in April 2016.  She explains how through physical training, nutrition, mindset, and sheer determination she was able to transform herself both mentally and physically becoming a desert trail runner, and an extraordinary role model for her children, family and anyone else reading this!

Q. What is your name?
Omaima Mohammad

Q. Where are you from and your place of birth?
Sudan / UAE

Q. Kindly brief us about yourself.
A single mother of two daughters (13 & 6 years old at the time of the interview) who have a passion for reading, writing (poems, short articles) and listening to western classical music besides my biggest passion for running.

Strictly following simplicity in my life, starting from clothes, food, entertainment and methods within my family/community circle.
Very focused & following “fewer options” method. “Less stuff, more happiness”.
My favourite colour is Yellow & my favourite flower is Lavender.
Many books have touched my inner soul & affected my thinking, but the most significant are ‘Arabian Sands for Wilfred Thesiger’ and ‘The Forty Rules of Love for Elif Shafak’.

Q. What is your current profession?
Banker / Credit Control Manager at Risk Dept.

Q. What was the trigger for starting the weight loss initiative?
Once I was dropping my daughter to her classroom at school and I was walking slowly as I was always feeling tired, I realized at that particular moment that I can’t close my arms properly due to the fat. At that precise moment, it triggered me that I could not see any future with my kids if I continued being obese.

I decided to take action and change it. With the heavyweight, I have always felt that this person wasn’t me. I couldn’t in many occasion deeply touch my deep soul as a person. I couldn’t find myself. All that made me sad, day by day, and year by year… it was just increasing and not decreasing.

Q. What difficulties faced during the weight-loss period?
Community restraints: I used to run with my Abaya as I felt shy to wear a sports outfit with my huge physical size. So, I came up with an idea to wear lighter weight Abaya so it wouldn’t increase weight while running (silk material). Also, I had cut it up to the knee so I wouldn’t trip. Running with such “weird” outfit gave a chance to some people to giggle and point at me as I used to run in Neighborhood Park.  Besides, running as a sport wasn’t that familiar 5 years back as today.

Family restraints: As a working mother, I have always had a limited time to my own self without feeling guilty about it. So, I had to scarify my sleeping time so as not to sacrifice family time. Unfortunately, the support by x partner faded quickly, especially after I increased my participation in formal races.

Fear: Fear of failure. Fear of regaining what I loose was always there (and still is). Although I understood seeking comfort triggers my ‘comfort eating’, I couldn’t manage it.  I was always relating to how my emotions are. If I was sad, then I eat continuously with no restrictions.

Huge lack of nutrition information: I did not have the education about the food or even about how my body is functioning. All this built up only after I took a coach for my running in April 2016.

Q How were you able to cope with peer pressure or social pressure?
Both handled with tremendous difficulties.

Q Did you have any inspiration or stimulation which/who helped you focus?
Retaining my kids to stay with me is my biggest and single stimulation. I soon figured out that the more my physique is controlled and in athletic form, the more my mind is clear and overall stronger.

Q. Was there any moment that you wanted to quit or you had felt weak?
Always! To take away or to control the only comfortable way I know and my body has been addicted to (comfort eating) wasn’t fun at all. Since 2012 and I’ve been losing and regaining weight. Not only 2 or 3 or even 5 or 10 kilos but tens of kilos.

Q. Was there any withdrawal symptoms faced when you tried to avoid certain items on the diet?
I did not have a diet plan. I ate everything but the idea was to minimize the quantity. My coach taught me not to be afraid of food and to see it is just a fuel for the body to move. It was difficult to adopt such thinking, but I tried hard until I accepted to treat food as my friend and not my enemy. Although I had to totally avoid or take a lesser quantity of the regular things which would make me fat such as sugar, pasta, and bread.

Q. Was there any external support or helpful factor (person/thing) that kept you motivated?
Yes my Coach, Mr Lee Harris continuously & unconditionally. The better my athletic life was getting & achievements met, the more I am motivated.

Q. How has this change benefited you?
It definitely benefits me in all life aspects significantly on 2 levels; inner level and outer level.

Starting from the most important which is self-respect & believing in self, to be capable of achieving goals. It opened my thinking and mind to how beautiful the natural world is.   Also, I learned how to focus and how to put a long term plan into action.

The external factor is that people changed how they looked at me and showed greater admiration and respect. My voice became heard. Although a physical look shouldn’t matter, this is honestly how it does work in our world.  Also, it benefits me both at home and work, as I became more active in doing things.

Q Briefly explain how was your journey to success in achieving the target?
Painful, needed lots of sacrifices, time-consuming, money consuming, heavy concentration needed; but definitely, the best thing I have ever done for myself.

Q How important is it to be fit and healthy for one’s life?
Being healthy and fit = high self-esteem = inner genuine happiness & satisfaction = better personal, career, & living lifestyle.

Q Do you have any message to the people around you regarding the importance of fitness?
Yes. Fitness is not a fancy lifestyle, fitness is your whole life as a normal individual. It is SO important as it doesn’t only shape your body, but it opens your thinking and mental. It feeds your soul and the most important it gives you the solo time you need daily for your own self; which ultimately helps you to love yourself more.

Q How did the transformation period affect your family life?
I was trying to have a minimum impact around family or in the house. I tried my best to balance. Balancing is the keyword. I try to utilize my time only in 3 main things: my training, my house and kids, and my work. I don’t do other stuff which might occupy my thinking or my time. I live a very, very, very simple life. Time-wise, financially, socially etc.

Q What’s the impact of your new lifestyle on your children?
They love the “happy” version of me. When I get upset now, they ask me to go for an extra run!

They sense that I am more focused and I don’t pressurize our small family with unnecessary traditional stuff such as family visiting obligations, frequent birthday parties, etc.

I try to teach them to CHOOSE and minimize their preferable options so they can FOCUS on them.

Republished courtesy Omaima Mohammad – Originally published in the magazine Outdoor UAE



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