Weight loss: How I became a big fat-loser!

Published: July 31, 2013

I wasn't unhappy because I was fat; I was fat because I was unhappy. PHOTOS: NABEEL KHAN

If the human body is an input-output system, that is, what you put in, you shall tuck out, why is being overweight such a pervading problem in Pakistan? Countless people, myself included, yo-yo between weight loss and weight gain throughout their adolescent lives.

While policymakers look to Turkey for solutions to dispose of our waste, who in the health ministry is turning to solve our growing waist problem? With the government not budging on its ‘top priorities’, the problem and its remedial measures ‘wrest’ with the individual.

I have been a victim of a lack of resources and care when it comes to weight loss here at home. Luckily, I was able to enact several positive changes and realise that weight loss is not impossible; it is possible with the right mindset and lifestyle.

I lost 15 kilograms in the first three months. To date, I have a lost 23 kilos and gone from a 44-inch to a 36-inch waist size. I now run a Facebook group called Big Fat Losers to motivate others to lose weight, not their mind.

Let’s take a look; what are some problems an average Joe encounters in the herculean task of losing weight?

I am not fat, I am well-fed!

While I am no statistician, I will take the risk of making a generalisation that for most Pakistanis, a bulky body is considered a sign of a khaata peeta gharana (a well-fed household). Being ‘healthy’ (overweight) is seen as a sign of fertility; case in point, our plump Punjabi actresses who attract every jumbo jatt out there.

Of course, the bodacious booty/beauty is hard to miss; after all, her waist occupies its own zip code!

Being overweight is the price one pays for living life to the fullest. These attitudes, pre-dominant in rural areas, also resonate in the streets, mohallahs and neighbourhoods of our cities. While access to health information is closer to richer households, so are fast food joints. It is definitely an epidemic that deserves attention.

As I struggled to overcome this attitude, I realised something; I was not unhappy because I was fat; I was fat because I was unhappy. It was not before I took some time off to meditate and clear my mind that I realised that excess weight is a foe, not a friend. As my perception of weight loss changed, I was able to prioritise my health.

So where can I find some weight loss strategies?

Let’s agree that most of what we eat today, our grandparents won’t even recognise as food. The simpler, closer to nature foods have left us – whole grain has been replaced by processed white flour, and ghee by hydrogenated oil. Given the caloric value of our meals, people are becoming the perfect targets for heart attacks – target killing in the real sense of the word!

Additionally, dietary information online does not cater to the South Asian diet. Neither does the public know about Kale, Quinoa and Chia seeds nor are they locally produced.

What about our nutrition experts? Other than peddling unhelpful ‘diet plans’, their contribution to a discourse on healthy living is insignificant. Consequently, people diet temporarily before resigning themselves to their fate. After all, if God wanted us to be thin, mosquitoes would suck fat instead of blood right?

From multinational giants to small dawakhanas (medicine stores), there are several self-proclaimed weight-loss experts confusing us even more.

“Ate too much? Missed a day at the gym? Have a cup of XYZ brand green tea!”

Well, you can’t ‘green tea’ yourself out of bad eating habits.

Sadly, we can’t blame the nutrition industry alone. They simply cater to our demand for speedy, painless weight loss.

Every day, you hear things like:

“How can I lose 10 pounds in 10 days?”

“A double patty burger with extra cheese and a diet coke please. I am dieting you know!”

Simply put, there is no shortcut to success. You cannot drop pounds and not expect to gain them back without putting in the struggle.

To establish well-formed opinions on what is healthy and what is not, I conducted personal research on how to lower my overall calorie intake and switch to healthier yet tasty options. I followed an ‘eat this, not that’ approach. I ate chappatis but I switched to whole wheat flour. I preferred grilled chicken over fried chicken. While I controlled my portions, I ate after every 2-3 hours keeping my food cravings at bay.

Exercise and fitness:

The physical labour of our fore fathers’ work has been replaced by our sedentary desk jobs. Lack of exercise, added to our calorie-dense, nutrient-zero diet is a disaster waiting to happen. Exorbitant gym membership fee turns most people towards parks for physical exercise.

Women have it much worse. From their primary societal role as caregivers to regressive attitudes and relentless eve teasers, they face endless obstacles to being more active. I salute the women who come out and exercise, some covered in burkas despite the heat.

Personally, I made small adjustments to inculcate an active lifestyle. From watching dance shows on TV to signing up for dholkis, I always kept my fitness gear handy to avoid giving myself poor excuses and I experimented with various forms such as jogging, cycling, Frisbee and resistance training. Needless to say, it worked!

Yes I sleep late, but what does that have to do with weight loss?

From Karachiites enjoying their late night baithaks in the City of Lights, to Lahoris who take pride in their all-night nihari houses, we are a nation that likes its dinner late, with plenty of snacks to follow. The result: less sleep and more calories.

Numerous studies associate the benefits of sleeping at proper timings with lower body weight. That should be reason enough to hit the sack early.

In my attempt to remedy my sleeping habits, I started exercising in the morning, giving my body signals to close shop by 11pm. I reduced my socialisation after hours so I could be in bed by 12, to clock my six hours of sleep.

Positive role models:

Our politicians, sportsmen, and our glamorous media persons are hardly people we look up to as role models exemplifying healthy living. A realistic motivator among us would be a person who you can associate with, juggling everyday priorities of work and home, whilst leading an active lifestyle. Such a person allows one to challenge their own beliefs. If someone like me can do it, then why can’t you or if someone like him can do it, then why can’t I?

My inspiration came from a combination of close acquaintances, and well, my own self! I looked at previous photos of my slimmer self and gathered steam from active people in my circle. As people saw improvements in my physique and complimented me, it became a positive reinforcement.

So what is the takeaway here?

Toiling each day to build an illustrious career, successful relationships, an income that would afford us all luxuries, would all be for naught without proper health and peace of mind. A healthier lifestyle is not only possible, it is mandatory for personal fulfilment. So self-educate yourself to be healthy, happy and active, and push others to achieve their best as well.

Nabeel Khan

Nabeel Khan.

Samaj sevik, marketeer, conversationalist. After shedding half the man he used to be, following his departure from his biscuit industry job, he now runs a fitness consultancy called Beyond Fitness (www.facebook.com/beyondfitpk), giving a no-nonsense advice on matters pertaining to health and wellness.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Zahra Haroon

    You have been an inspiration for many. Your suggestions and motivational talks on the Facebook page make us all feel special in our own very special way :). Thank you Guru G :) A well written piece indeed. Thumbs Up!Recommend

  • Nandita.

    I think it’s wrong to call an overweight person a ‘Loser’. You’re free to label yourself and call yourself whatever you want but why brand all fat people ‘Losers’ ? Seems awfully rude and unfair.Recommend

  • Atif

    Good stuff Nabeel. Recommend

  • Bridezilla

    Getting married in 6 months…..you just woke me up! (y)Recommend


    @Nandita: you have it wrong….by loser he means someone who lost weight….so it is in a good sense. You must have heard about the book of famous Nutritionist; Rujuta who helped Kareena Kapoor lost her weight…her book was titled, “don’t loose your mind, loose your weight” so the writer here is referencing to something similar; people tend to loose their mind in an effort trying to loose weight in an un-healthy or un-natural way, therefore he is motivating them to becomes successful losers. I weight more than the writer did before his weight loss, but I am not offended :-p

    @writer: you make it all sound so easy whereas it really is not….I am therefore still waiting for a mutant mosquito that can just suck the fat out of us :-pRecommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    (Groans) Not this again..

    Listen, I’m glad that you achieved what you did. But for you cannot wave a before-after picture of yourself at the faces of millions of ordinary overweight people and shame them for not being able to do the same.

    That’s like Zuckerberg throwing his bank statement at you, and calling you a loser for not being able to make that much money. “Hey, if I can do it, so can you! Stop being so lazy and useless, and become a billionaire like me!”

    You see the problem here, don’t you? The assertion that all humans are your clones, sharing your work schedule, genes, personality, psychological structure and medical conditions….therefore, any success you’ve achieved should be easily replicated by everybody else.

    It’s one thing to hold yourself as an inspiration for obese people to continue their battles against their weight, and to offer advise (if asked); but to mock them for failing is just reprehensible.Recommend

  • Nandita.


    Well, I think I interpreted the author’s words just the way he meant them.I have no reason to be offended dude – I am at the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m nowhere near being fat.Recommend

  • Maham Faraz

    LOL @ samaj sevak!

    Ho tou sahi tum weseRecommend

  • Sehar

    @Faraz Talat:

    I don’t think the writer is shaming anyone. His article is clearly about his own journey to a better, healthier self which is more than skin deep. And there is no mocking, just a reminder that with the right mindset and discipline anyone can achieve their dream weight/ self. It’s not reprehensible at all. Recommend

  • Nabeel Khan

    @Nandita I understand how this could be taken the wrong way.. however, Like Shagy pointed out my purpose was to make it being a big FAT loser.. akin to the Biggest Loser show you might have seen on TV.. it was a pun intended.. on how fat people view themselves! More often than not they view themselves in a positive light with the same connotation but when some lean person says it.. its considered offensive..

    like the N word! Which is alright for the blacks to call themselves in their songs but if a white rapper says it.. he/she is considered racist

    I think its time we stop giving power to labels..and to take things in a lighter tone rather than being uptight.. Something is just not right when we start taking our comedians seriously and our politicians as a joke!

    More power to you for being on the opposite side of the spectrum and I hope you contine enjoying a healthy mind over a healthy body :)

    @Shagy – Slim is really simple dude! And you can’t keep waiting for Professor to mix Sugar, Spice and Everything nice! :)

    @Faraz – I am not mocking anyone. I am just saying I had an epiphany that I wanted to share with people. Everyone is different of course.. they have different motivation but health to many people is not a motivation! Being long enough to be with their kids is not a motivation.. and that may come from being under bosses that don’t have a life.. to employees that don’t want to live a life.. and to your Mark Zuckerburg point.. I would say consider Brad Pitt.. he came to the industry with 250 dollars in his pocket and he is what he is today.. goes to show that the American dream is still alive for a few people..but you can’t really whine when you didn’t even try! Whats stopping you!? And no the answer is not that Gagnum Style chips! Recommend

  • Good work !

    @ Author

    Congratulations at your weight loss. Long life and good health to you .Recommend

  • Athar

    @faraz talat:

    What a STUPID, and i mean EXTRAORDINARILY STUPID comparison.
    Bravo to you Sir.Recommend

  • Nazia

    Jahanpana, tussi great ho!Recommend

  • ptr

    It is very rude to call fat people “Loser”Recommend

  • Hak

    Just want to share my story.Exactly one year ago i was 89 kg.I was miserable,nothing looks good on me. I get exhausted very easily n i snored..So i decided enough is enough.So i started my not so strict diet which mainly eating lots of vegies n fruit chat.I cut out rice ,roti,sugar,milk n my favourite ice cream,coffee n tea from my diet. (once in a while i do give myself a treat) .And i started my daily 1 hour exercise. ( 40 mins when im tired, but i make sure i never miss) So here i am now a happy n very proud 67 Kg .Recommend

  • Parvez

    Big Fat – Losers, is the title and also the handle of your Facebook group …….. just seems out of sync with you claiming to be a motivational guy on the subject of loosing weight.
    How can you motivate someone by talking down to them ?Recommend

  • Spelling anyone ?

    No one here seems to know the difference between ‘loose’ & ‘lose’… Lol

    A reflection of the Pakistan education system ?Recommend

  • Rabia Shahid

    Looking forward to becoming a Big Fat Loser ;)
    Proud of you NapsRecommend

  • sana

    @Nandita.: you obviously havent heard abt shows like The Biggest Loser, so I dont think you get where he is coming from!Recommend

  • Ali Syed

    @Spelling anyone ?: You’re a reflection of a GO GET A LIFE, LOSER!Recommend

  • C. Nandkishore

    The easiest way to loose weight is stop having oil and sugar. Thats it. Anything that has come in contact with oil should not be touched. Anything that has come in contact with sugar should not be touched. Eat every 3 hours. Eat only that much that you stay a little hungry. No exercise is required. No medicine. Try for two months . You loose weight by at least 6 to 8 kgs.Recommend

  • Sana

    Great motivational write up nabeel! Hope it helps us think before we stuff our faces! :)Recommend

  • Nabeel Khan

    @Parvez – read my comment on the same above! Please read before you judge

    @spelling anyone – What is with you being a grammar/vocab Nazi? Hopefully you will sleep better tonight knowing you have done your bit to correct someone! Recommend

  • H

    love you for this!!!Recommend

  • gp65

    @Nandita.: There iwas a reality show in the US called ‘Big fat loser’ , basically the people who lose the most weight are awarded this titile. IT is a pun on the word loser. I doubt that the aithor used the term loser in the way you think – given that he himself was overweight.Recommend

  • Tehniat


    I think you haven’t read the name of the whole group. It is Big Fat Losers. People who are fat and want to lose weight. just put that in a creative manner. Recommend

  • Insaan

    You are what you eat. Recommend

  • Shehlah

    Excellent piece. Its about making small changes in your lifestyle. I’ve started making ghee at home from fresh milk’s cream and chucked all “oil” (except olive oil) out of my cooking. I’ve started taking heartier breakfasts, inducted more milk in my diet, coupled it with more nuts, prunes, olives, fruits and other ‘good’ things in life. Sodas are out and so is junk to a great degree. Moods are happier, skin is fresher and everyone in the family feels more energetic. Hitting the gym is next which I am procrastinating but reading this article has strengthened my resolve. Thank you so much! Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Spelling anyone ?: Thanks for pointing that out, the double oo was a slip but hopefully the point I was making got through……….or did you miss it ?
    I don’t think its fair to blame the private educational system in Pakistan because a few idots like me, have poor spelling abilities or possibly their keyboards have sticky keys or their spell-ckeck refuses to work. A little grace, a little tollerance………..works wonders. Cheers !

  • Shehlah

    Btw, speaking of healthier lifestyle, I’ve recently noticed a lot more fat on the fresh chicken I buy. Was never like this before. Layers on fat even on drumsticks! I’ve read abt the terrible feeds and dark environments where chickens are kept and it saddens me that when we don’t grow/treat our food with respect, it will not treat it us well too :(Recommend

  • Schehzad

    I keep fit by dancing. U all should too.

    Well done NabeelRecommend

  • ABC

    yes ur right fat people need to LOSE fat so they are not really LOSERSRecommend


    @Pervez: I have been member of BIG FAT LOSERS since the beginning and trust me no one looks down or makes fun of each other in that group. Everyone shares what works for them and help each other out like a family. You can join and see for yourself :)Recommend

  • Mohammad Farooq

    Nabeel nice to see you writing brother. You were always on the heavier side, even during our A-Level days but nice to see you fit and about. I shed 20 KG’s due to my rheumatoid arthritis and now my waste is 28!! Luckily, I did not need to undergo any strenuous exercise session except the fact that having restarted bicycling has helped me regain my mojo and it gives me satisfaction and makes my body feel good.

    Keep up the good work, inspire a lot of other people with your experiences. Take care.

  • Maryam Khan

    Phenominal Nabeel!
    Unfortunately people ib our society have a lot to criticize and too little to appreciate.

    Sadly, they all are here to debate on your page’s title and article but they do not understand the nere difference between loose and lose.its such an irony that we can are inspired the reeality shows like the big fat looser on tv channels, wait for its seasons while working out at our gyms but can’t appreciate an article that is written by someone from our own country.

    Thanks for sharing your story with us Nabeel.i am really proud of you that you have started a page where we are motivated perhaps that’s the first thing a person needs.

    Health was never taken seriously in Pakistan. You are right too many waistlines went wasted.
    We have the highest rate of heart attacks and various diseases.

    Someone needs to take an initiative somewhere.we have no marathins in our country , no fitness week.

    Kudos nabeel

    And all of us out there pull up your socks and hit the gym


  • Syeda

    What about our nutrition experts? Other than peddling unhelpful ‘diet
    plans’, their contribution to a discourse on healthy living is insignificant.

    Well Mr.Nabeel you have no right to put questions on role of Nutritionists/Dietitians. Every individual body type vary and respond differently to each diet plans. I am a Dietitian and i know much better what are the dietary requirements of the patients. Secondly if you have achieved your dream weight within a few days/months so you can share it with people but don’t raise questions on work of dietitians. May be in life you have not met a good dietitian who could truly guide you towards your dream goal of weight loss, so it’s not necessary that every dietitian is not expert in her/his field. So my humble request to you is never insult other people professions in your blogs.Recommend

  • Umar Farooq

    Good work Nabeel :) really enjoyed reading it :)Recommend

  • 007

    @Nabeel Khan:
    I was about to compliment you for the article, but then saw your arrogant response to Spelling anyone’s comment. You could have responded in a much ‘happier’ way. Watch out, this little bit of unhappy reaction may result in a few extra inches around the waist.
    Besides, a spelling mistake can cause a lot of misunderstanding. Message may become Massage, Waist may become Waste, and of course a Guy may be declared a Gay.
    NB: Pls don’t pick my mistakes. I’ve not been to some elite English school. Peace!
    By the way, nice article!Recommend

  • S

    err Nandita, Big Fat loser means the person who lost a big fat chunk of weight. it’s not that loserRecommend

  • Murthy

    I am 64 years old and have always been health and diet conscious. At no point of time in my life have I been overweight. I have been doing regular exercise at least for the past 37 years and fully know the benefits of healthy eating and exercise. I am writing this not to boast of my exercise and diet regimen! I am worried about my software professional son (aged 24) who has become obese in the past four years and takes offence at my advice to reduce. I don’t know where he will get motivation or inspiration from despite seeing me. I have given up, yes, I have given up on him, out of sheer frustration. What should a parent do?Recommend

  • Farhan

    I want to become a fattar and i would be a happy if i got the fatness please anybody can tell me how i can improve my wieght because i am so thin Recommend

  • Yuri Kondratyuk


    I am curious to know the change in body composition (body fat percentage).Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat


    You basically added weight to my own analogy by highlighting Brad Pitt’s meteoric success. Why aren’t you as rich as Brad Pitt? Hey, if he can do it, so can you! Work harder, please.

    Not that simple, is it?

    There is a grave misconception that if you’re fat, then you haven’t honestly tried to lose weight. Every year, an unspeakable number of people attempt suicide because of obesity, and it’s not because they’d rather kill themselves than eat salad. It’s because losing weight is more complicated for them than it is for others, and they feel trapped despite working hard to get fit.

    We have more than enough before-after inspiration pictures on the internet (not a slam against you! I’m sincerely happy that you’ve fixed yourself). What we need more direly is awareness that obesity doesn’t always signify lack of self-control or determination, while continuing to educate the public on the health hazards of this condition.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @ASMA MAJID: As far as the group and its objectives are concerned I don’t doubt you for a second. I commented because after reading the piece and seeing the titles I just thought they did not fit………nothing serious just an honest comment and obviously Nabeel Khan must be doing something right because he has a following.
    On me joining the group, thanks but that’s a laugh as I’ve spent a fairly long life much of it trying to put on weight…………an then I just gave up.

  • Nabeel Khan

    @Yuri Kondratyuk:

    I initially didn’t follow the whole body fat %age approach but now i have gotten the tools to measure exactly that.. I now look more at inches rather than pounds. So nearly 8-10 inches off the waist, and about 2 inches off the neck. I will begin to start measuring the neck, chest, thighs, shoulder and waist :)

    @Faraz – I being fat had almost all the information of losing weight but still struggled. I think weight loss or a shift to a healthier lifestyle requires more than just looking at numbers but also peace of mind. However, when motivating people to lose weight, I think people look more to examples rather than theories and set reference points. Your comment brings about an interesting question though – what makes some succeed while others struggle and we have to look beyond self control/determination and look to factors in the environment that are conducive for one over the other, role of motivation/cheering up and what causes some of these very people to re-lapse.

    @007- Oh noes! Measures waist again! :( You didn’t! You are right, I could have been more prudent in my response which was not out of arrogance but more out of annoyance. Could it have been possible that one person could have honestly misspelled loose for lose or that he/she is trying their best to be part of a conversation in a language which is not their mother tongue. For another person to comment that to be a reflection of education in the society at large sounded more elitist to me. And spelling mistakes actually make for a more interesting conversation due to the dual meaning of the words ;) (Pun intended) Recommend

  • Hassan

    All your comments on ET blogs are negative. He didn’t mean loser in the literal sense, so please for once don’t be negative.Recommend

  • Dp

    @ Parvez

    Your comment in response was nice…about being graceful in the face of accomodating mistakes…but the it may be better aimed at Mr.Nabeel’s vicious lash out comment calling someone a Nazi.Recommend

  • Teeb

    I switch to “clean eating” early this year and i am loving it! I wish people more people could educate themselves on the foods they eat and we will have less medical problems in the world.

    Keep it up bro!Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Parvez: On me joining the group, thanks but that’s a laugh as I’ve spent a fairly long life much of it trying to put on weight…………an then I just gave up.

    An overactive mind can consume lot of calories.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Syeda: Every individual body type vary and respond differently to each diet plans.

    Is there information on Internet that supports your statement?Recommend

  • Syeda

    @Insaan: Kindly checkout this link, http://www.mrfitnessinc.com/nutrition/BodyTypesDescTrainingDiet.pdf. This link definitely support my statement. As i mentioned earlier i am a dietitian and in my clinic several patients with different body types come and i have made different diet plans according to their body types and dietary needs and they respond differently to the diet plans. Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Insaan: Thanks for that………but I was told it was due to an over-active metabolism but I suppose the mind does control most things.
    Anyway it doesn’t matter anymore.Recommend

  • Parvez

    @Dp: ……calling someone a Nazi.
    Sorry but I missed that ……….still can’t find it……..could you help ?

  • http://green-coffee-bean-max-review.webs.com/ [email protected]

    The distinction between being fat and being well fed has been brought out clearly.Recommend

  • rabiya khan

    You are an inspiration. Enjoyed reading it.:)Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Syeda: Psychologist William Sheldon divided body types into 3 categories. He said that most people fit into one of three categories: ectomorph, mesomorph or endomorph.

    I think for most people weight problem is because of overeating, sedentary life style.
    Learned some thing new about body types. ThanksRecommend

  • optimist

    Losing weight is a difficult and maintaining is almost next to impossible.
    I am thinking of starting a new diet called Fasting diet. I seriously think that it is the only sensible diet available. Permanent self pitying and dieting is simply impossible.
    Watch this video and advise me:
    The Fast Guide to the Fast Diet – for people too lazy to read the book

  • http://allanabolicsteam.org safe anabolics

    How soon do you gain weight and collect fat after you eat a bunch of junk food?Recommend