Around December of 2012, as I was sitting in the back of my friend’s coupé, the idea of starting a diet was running through my mind. It had been running for several days. When we reached our destination and I was supposed to get out of the car, I had the worst back pain of my life. I had to use my friend as support to walk. It’s not a nice thing to go through when she’s half your size.
As a 23 year old, few conditions can give me that. With no relevant family history for other conditions, I was sure it was my weight. My new year resolution was then to lose all those extra kilos posing a daily risk for increased health problems.
On January 3rd, a Thursday, upon returning from class, I decided to visit a local dietitian in Batroun called Mira Moussa. I weighed in at 118 kilos and at almost 6 feet in height, it was way above any form of acceptable value. I started the diet then after a December which was filled with junk food, Hard Rock Cafe and Roadster Diner.
My diet wasn’t too difficult even though I was told I’d find trouble adjusting at first. A few days of hunger later, I was getting in the zone. I still craved cheat food back then but I did my best not to cave. Being in Batroun with very few options to cheat definitely helped although I did indulge in the occasional burger at Crepaway or Lebanon’s best pizza at Royal.
The diet itself wasn’t restrictive. I actually restricted it more because there were so many allowed items that I didn’t eat. But there was nothing off limits. The fatty stuff could be eaten but in very small portions. I eventually decided to make do without them. I’d rather eat something I like which is fulfilling and can keep me going all day.
The weight started dropping. I lost 4 kilos in the first 2 weeks, which was expected given the change my body was going through. But I had to stick more to my diet for the weeks that followed. If you thought cheating once per week was permissible then you haven’t seen the effect it has on the weight you lose. Whenever I didn’t cheat, the weight drop I had made me proud. Whenever I cheated, be it just one Roadster meal, the weight drop would become negligible.
Soon enough, I decided to drop those guilt meals that I used to work as incentive for. Food was no longer a reward I longed to, as much as it became something that I enjoyed but didn’t work to get. My menu-choice at my favorite places changed as well. Instead of going towards the diner mites at Roadster, I’d go to the light burgers which are absolutely awesome. And with decreasing eating out, the amount of money that I saved was really high. I learned that, even if you had refrained from food all day, indulging in a super meal would beat the purpose. A smaller and lighter meal would fill you up just the same and would be so much better for your body.
And the weight kept dropping. I’d lose 3 kilos for a couple of weeks then 1 kilo the two weeks that followed. But I never let it bring me down. The weight loss eventually became more motivating and more regular as I stuck with my diet more and more.
I knew things changed around late March when I dropped below the 100kilos mark. My friend took me out to celebrate and I got convinced to try out my favorite burger at Roadster: the diner mite 220. And not only was I more than stuffed halfway through, I simply didn’t enjoy it as much as I did before. This burger which was barely enough to fill me up before was something I wouldn’t consider again.
Once people start noticing you losing the weight and the compliments start pouring in, it fuels you to keep up. Those who say people don’t matter are kidding themselves. Once you start seeing your old jeans becoming like maternity clothes on you and jeans you hadn’t worn in years suddenly fit, your motivation to keep going grows more and more.
Once the fat folds start going away and your face starts acquiring a form that isn’t double-chinned round, your confidence also starts increasing. It’s not about the body image that media wants you to have. It’s about you becoming more comfortable in your own skin because it simply feels like a much better skin to be in. And I felt healthier. I could walk for longer durations, I could do more things than before. For instance, I don’t mind walking around Achrafieh now that I’ve moved back for my last two years of medical education. I’d rather walk to Beirut Souks if the weather permits than actually take a taxi there. That wasn’t the case when I was ElieX1.5. I haven’t tried out the gym yet but I intend to do that once I’ve hit my target weight, a few kilos from now.
At one point, my friends started telling me I was taking it too far. And in a way I did. I was comfortable with how things were going but I definitely saw how annoying it was to be the only one not eating at a table or the only one worried about eating once we went out to some place that didn’t have a “light” menu I could choose from.
Many had asked if I opted in for a surgery to drop the weight. I never considered it. Any form of surgery in that regards was, to me, the easy way out of a mess I put myself into. It was also a major surgery that I didn’t want to put my body through especially when I had another option I didn’t test out. I know people who went for surgery when diet failed them. But I learned during the time since I started dieting that those people also gave themselves a very loose range of cheating. Taking pills before a Sunday meal or taking the day off from a diet just because you visited the dietitian on that day definitely defeats the purpose. It’s not a punishment as much as it is you changing into a new way of eating and looking at food. At least that was what I learned. It’s akin to all those people who visit physicians, get instructions, and never follow them because they don’t feel like it and then somehow blame the physician.
Despite it all, I kept looking at myself as a fat person. I had gotten used to that notion for such a long time that leaving it behind would prove troublesome no matter how thin people say you are. After all, people can over-compliment sometimes and this is Lebanon. You can never really know who’s kissing up. The click of me not looking at myself as a fat person anymore came very recently: this past Sunday. I had reached a point where I desperately needed to buy new clothes. Belts and whatnot didn’t cut it anymore. So I went shopping, something I despise. Surprisingly, things started fitting. I fit into “skinny” jeans that I didn’t buy. But I fit in them! And instead of going for the size 38 jeans, I fit in size 32. The T-shirts that I bought were size medium. But it wasn’t until I was passing by one of the mirrors at that store and I saw my legs that I stopped dead in my tracks and asked: is this a thinning mirror?
My friend said no, this is how you look. And the person staring back at me was not a fat person at all.
The triumph of year 2013 so far wasn’t only the weight drop but how I think I changed the more the kilos were shed. And I, Elie Fares, am not a fat person anymore.
This wouldn’t be complete without a before-after picture: