Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 September 2019

Dubai inmate loses 37kg to win weight-loss competition

Saudi inmate stuck to a strict exercise and diet regime

Inmate WR works out in the gym at Dubai Central Correctional Facility. Reem Mohammed / The National
Inmate WR works out in the gym at Dubai Central Correctional Facility. Reem Mohammed / The National

When prisoner W R stepped into a Dubai jail eight months ago, even the largest prison shirt would not fit him.

The 60-year-old weighed 135 kilograms and could only just squeeze into a supersized top.

“I’ve been overweight since my twenties or even before,” said W R, who did not want to use his full name.

“We had to cut up a shirt and add extra fabric.”

When prison authorities at Dubai Central Prison decided to launch an anti-obesity competition, W R was their most enthusiastic contestant.

He carefully calculated his daily calorific intake and limited his diet to one cup of coffee with sugar for breakfast, soup for lunch and yoghurt with nuts for an afternoon snack.

For dinner he had a bowl of salad and sometimes, as a treat, two slices of pineapple, watermelon or melon.

“I set a target to lose 1,000 calories a day,” he said. “I trained on the gym’s CrossFit machine for 60 minutes, on the treadmill for 45 minutes, and then on the space walker, bike and rowing machine.”

While many might assume that such a strict diet is easier to follow when locked up in prison, W R said it was quite the opposite.

“We have many temptations here. The Filipino inmates are always baking decorated cakes when there is a birthday, or any occasion really.

“When there is a football match between Real Madrid and FC Barcelona for instance, they bake a cake with the logo of each team.

“We also have Mandi Thursday which is a traditional Yemeni dish made of chicken and rice.”


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On one Thursday, prison inmates collectively placed bets of 15 phone cards, each worth Dh25, that W R would ignore his diet to tuck into some cake they offered him.

“I wasn’t aware of the bet and my colleagues kept walking up to me with a piece of cake in their hand,” he said.

All of W R’s efforts later paid off, however, when he walked away as winner of the prison’s weight-loss competition last Sunday after losing 37kg.

By taking first place he received a Dh1,000 cash prize while the runner-up, who managed to lose an impressive 11kg, received Dh700, and the third place competitor won Dh500.

“The remaining seven contestants received Dh300 each for trying,” said W R, whose target is to reach 90kg. He currently weighs 98kg.

“Every day when I return from the gym, my colleagues gather around me to take a look at my notes and check how much I lost that day,” he said.

“I used to be a merchant and the merchant has to calculate every single detail before entering any deal.

“I may have miscalculated once though, as I ended up in here over a bounced cheque.”

On his release, W R plans to open a gym that offers fitness and strict dietary plans too, “so the clients can go through the same steps I went through”.

He was also one of 35 inmates who finished the prison’s yoga certification course this year.

Updated: October 26, 2018 10:44 AM