Essa Al Ansari has a truly inspirational story to tell – we sat down with him to find out more:
Q: What kind of role has food played in your life?
A: A few years ago (when I was overweight), food was something I used to make me happy. Now that my lifestyle has changed, I have a different relationship with food; yes it is important but only when it’s healthy.
Q: How has your attitude towards food evolved over the years?
A: I’ve done a complete 180. I went from eating junk food three times a week to having it once every month or two.
Q: Was there a key moment that made you decide to change your lifestyle?
A: When I reached 130 kg I realised my life was far from healthy.
Q: What's the best piece of advice you could give to someone in a similar situation to the one you were in?
A: Start the change now by setting goals – take baby steps in order to reach them.
Q: You've attracted a huge following – are you surprised by the reaction to your story?
A: Absolutely! I have been getting great feedback since I began; I had no clue that it would happen so quickly. Being an Emirati is important to me, and so is inspiring the younger generation; I’d like to get into the corporate world and become a motivational speaker – that’s my number one goal.
Q: Sometimes getting fit and healthy can seem like a mountain to climb – have you got any methods to make it easier for people to achieve?
A: It’s never easy but there are ways you can help yourself. Taking small steps to reach your ideal weight is key – seeing the results kept me working harder and harder.
Q: If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?
A: Get off the couch, start training and live a healthy lifestyle from early on.
Q: How can people treat themselves without going overboard?
A: First and foremost remember that it’s a cheat meal rather than a cheat day! Have one meal where you can eat what you want – this will help with any cravings. Having more than this defeats the point of training.
Q: Was there anyone in particular who inspired you to take the first steps on your fitness journey?
A: My twin brother specifically, but my entire family was very supportive.
Q: If you could sum up your experience in three words, what would they be?
A: Amazing, life-changing experience.
Q: And finally, what’s the one thing you want people to take away from your story?
A: Have a positive mindset and remember that these are healthy changes you’re making to a lifestyle, not a diet; don’t force it – see it as a part of your life.
We teamed up with Essa to devise an Eid menu that draws on the influences running through the heart of his life; broad bean, tahini and lemon dip, muhammara salad and labneh with cardamom and vanilla strawberries are among some of the delicious recipes. You can also visit his website, fitnesswithessa.com, or Instagram account for his latest fitness tips.