A man’s journey to losing weight sees him winning the support of friends and family, writes Aznim Ruhana Md Yusup
FAKHRUL Azman’s impetus for losing weight came in 2016, when his only son received a warning from school over his Body Mass Index (BMI), which had hit obese.
Muhammad Iyadh Uqail, who was 12 at the time, had to be referred to a government clinic and his father came along for the consultation.
“At that point, I weighed around 100kg and my BMI was also obese,” says Fakhrul, 48.
“Exercise was never in my dictionary, though by that time, many friends had started running. I didn’t think I could do it but little by little, the idea caught on.”
He, his wife, Macitah Zakaria, 47, and son Iyadh, began walking at a park in Nilai, Negri Sembilan every weekend.
Macitah had no problems. She’d been an athlete since her student days and represented her office in volleyball and the team had won the state championship three times.
“It was my son and I who struggled in the beginning,” says Fakhrul. “At first, we only walked. Then we progressed to brisk walking, then jogging and now, we can run pretty consistently.”
ADVENTURES IN RUNNING
Fakhrul and his family join running events regularly, averaging about twice a month. Their first was an event at Universiti Putra Malaysia in Serdang.
“The date was Nov 26, 2016,” Fakhrul recalls. “It was a trail run and we didn’t know what that was. We had no idea there were different types of running! We encountered dirt roads, mud and cow dung, and it was a shock because at that point we’d only run at the park.
“But we persevered. We were the last to finish, and everyone cheered for us. There was no looking back after that.”
Fakhrul credits his schoolmates from Sultan Alam Shah Islamic College (Kisas) in Klang, dubbed KIKFIT87, for his running pursuits. They encouraged him and gave him tips. Running became a way for them to stay close after all these years.
“When you are with friends, it’s different,” Macitah notes. “There’s a feeling of camaraderie. They look out for him and don’t leave him behind.”
Fakhrul and his friends have signed up for the 10-kilometre leisure run at the Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon on April 8.
It’s a compromise, he says, since some are experienced runners while others have only just started. The important thing is that they do it together.
“Besides, we have people coming from all over the country and there’s a lot of catching up to do. We plan to eat and hang out. You need discipline if you want to run faster or longer distances.
“I used to join them in meet-ups but only to eat. I would see them before and after the run. This year will be different,” he says.
Fakhrul’s record for a 10km run is one hour and 22 minutes. It’s not great, he admits, but he’s only just beginning and wants to master the basics before getting ahead too much and possibly injuring himself.
“I don’t aim to be fast. My goal is to be able to run consistently, for 10km, 15km then 21km. This is what I want to achieve and I do this together with hiking.”
Fakhrul climbs Melati Hill in Nilai almost daily after work. The three-km hiking track is the closest outdoor trail to the family home in Salak Tinggi, Selangor. But they have ventured far. Last year, they climbed Bendera Hill, Penang; Mount Jerai, Kedah and Mount Irau in Pahang. In September, the family plans to climb Mount Kinabalu.
But it’s not just the running and hiking. Food also plays a big part in Fakhrul’s weight loss journey. “We have cut down on rice a lot,” he says. “We used to eat rice for lunch and dinner, and we’d have dinner as late as 10pm.”
The family doesn’t eat rice at night anymore and they have dinner right after Iyadh is home from his afternoon school session. They eat mostly fish instead of beef or chicken, with lots of fruits and vegetables.
“We have also cut down on sugar. For instance, if I’m drinking coffee, I won’t put sugar in it. We only have cakes and sweet things occasionally. The only time we have chocolate is when we’re out running or hiking to give us energy,” says Fakhrul.
Macitah adds: “It’s not something we force ourselves to do. But when you exercise a lot, you naturally want to eat healthier and you don’t feel like eating so much anymore. Iyadh used to sulk when we told him to stop eating but now he knows when to stop.”
From a 12-year-old who weighed 70kg, Iyadh is now 63kg but he’s also taller and has a normal BMI level.
Meanwhile, Fakhrul used to suffer from joint pains on his knees and ankles due to his weight. It was one of the things that stopped him from exercising. But now at 73.4kg, he no longer has that problem.
“Some colleagues who don’t know me wondered if I’d lost weight because of diabetes. But I’m healthier than before and it’s all due to diet and exercise. You can do it too. It’s never too late. You don’t need pills or supplements. You just need to start working out.”