x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

With the end in sight, it's hard not to give other people advice

I've been glancing at women much younger than myself with a slightly superior air knowing that I'm putting more effort into it than they are

So near and yet so far. The last few pounds are resolutely refusing to budge and I simply have to go up a couple of gears. I'm on the home straight and less than 2kg off the target weight set for me just over four months ago. It has been an interesting journey and I've learnt more about my metabolism in the past few weeks than I have in a lifetime but it's not over yet.

My diet guru, Dr Rita Nawar at the Dubai Weight Care Clinic, was pleased that my weight was the same as it was when I went on holiday, despite a good deal of self-indulgence. The body analysis machine revealed that I had in fact lost 500 grams of fat from the waist area. That's about two centimetres and it's true, my clothes feel looser than ever despite having already been taken in. I told her that, although I ate more than I should and exercised less in the first week of my holiday, I compensated for it in the second, swimming 20 lengths of the pool on several occasions and just being careful about eating fats.

That's what maintenance is all about, she explained. It is something I'm going to have to get used to once I stop going to the clinic every fortnight. I discovered almost accidentally that it is actually possible to enjoy yourself and eat things that you love like chocolate, ice-cream and mayonnaise if you make up for it over the next few days. Foods that in the past were responsible for piling on the pounds and that surreptitiously crept onto my hips and tummy can be reintroduced as long as my fat radar system is always on the alert.

The adage "a minute in your mouth, an hour in your stomach and a lifetime on your hips" should be my motto from now on. Dr Rita urged two weeks of effort and focus with daily visits to the gym or at least some sort of exercise every day. She knows I can do it. I know I can do it and I've come too far already to fall at the final fence. I may even decide to carry on for a bit and try to hit the lower level of the optimum range for my age and height rather than just scraping in at the top end.

She suggested trying a dance class if I found visits to the gym too much work, so I'm on the lookout for a tap class, something I used to enjoy aeons ago. In fact my new gym, Shape Express, has been a revelation. I can now do three circuits of the machines in the space of half an hour without collapsing in an exhausted heap, and there's always a sharp-eyed instructor on duty to keep me motivated. She seems genuinely pleased with my progress, too. Pathetic, really, how a little praise can push you to greater heights.

In fact, my competitive nature is rearing its ugly head and I've been glancing at women much younger than myself with a slightly superior air knowing that I'm putting more effort into it than they are. My Polar heart monitor registers between 150 and 160 beats a minute, which puts me in the top level of intensity. Note to self: be careful of this. Remember the days when you used to look at those skinny Lycra-clad fitness freaks with pure hatred.

Actually, I like the women only thing. There's an unforced camaraderie about the place, a sort of unspoken knowledge that we're in this together, that it hurts, but that we will emerge the better for it. Thankfully, the women come in all shapes and sizes, some in their abayas and hijabs, others in smart tailored suits. If we're "feeling the burn" or slowing down, there's always someone on hand to give us a little boost.

My biggest problem is trying not to be too annoying about the whole thing. I can't help making comments when I see someone with their plate piled high and I want to run up to some of the kids I see at the mall stuffing their faces with hamburgers and chips. I want to tell them to stop now and change their habits or suddenly find they are fat and 50 and very unfit. Everywhere I seem to look I see overweight people and they don't look happy about it. I'm addicted to those television programmes where parents send their lumpy children off to fat camp, or where some expert comes into people's homes and turfs everything out of their cupboards. It is amazing how many people have absolutely no idea about nutrition and what their bodies need in order to function properly.

You see, I'm turning into a health fanatic. Maybe I should go and lie down in a darkened room. On second thoughts, I think I'll go for a run. pkennedy@thenational.ae