It all began last October. His joints hurt when he walked. His bones hurt when he sat down. His body ached at any exertion. At 96kg, Shairulzad Bin Zakaria who is 174cm (five-foot-seven-inches) tall felt the tug of change.
The Malaysian expat who is based in Abu Dhabi knew that to push himself, he needed to set a goal, so he signed up for a marathon – a short one (2.5km) – and then began to prepare for it. He roped in his family, who were very supportive, he tells Gulf News. They looked through diet information and promptly signed up with him for the marathon.
His wife prepared special food, chopping the excess carbs, and keeping portion sizes small so he could diet properly.
“I wanted to lose weight naturally,” says Zakaria. “Naturally means I don’t take pills, surgery and medicine for my diet,” he adds.
Instead he targeted his plate. “I just reduced my calorie intake daily by avoiding rice, bread, noodle and fast-food. Besides [this] I also minimized my sugar intake in my drink. I also reduced my food portion and stop eating after 5 on the evening daily,” he explains.
The support of his family, he explains, was integral to the process.
He began to walk. Slowly, he recalls, “When you overweight you have pain in your joints. You cannot do many things.” He persevered.
Eventually he started running three or four times a week. “5km each time. 80km per month,” he says proudly.
He made it to the finish line of that marathon and joined the list of another.
A year on, he says things have changed so much. “I can play football again and do outdoor activity. I can run,” he says.
For Zakaria who says his weight came in swaths over a period of 10 years, finally robbing him of activities he once enjoyed, the change has been freeing.
Now 30kg lighter, he regularly takes part in races and wants to run yet more. The exercise has become a part of his routine so completely that not even a pandemic can stop him from it. “Movement restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic really didn’t stop me from keeping active. I still run consistently in my house and on the building staircase to keep my endurance up,” he explains.
He adds that If someone wants to see a change in themselves they need one thing: “Perseverance for progress.”
He uses himself as an example. “I have done nothing but reduce my portion size and added running to my day,” he says. Yet things are so different now. The joints don’t hurt under the strain of his body. “And I can run,” he says. “I can run.”