x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Weight loss champion is going for gold once again

Ahmad Al Shiekh shed an impressive 26 kilograms last August and gained Dh10,000 of gold in the process. Now he’s ready to do it all over again.

Ahmad Al Shiekh, who won the Your Weight in Gold contest last year in Dubai by losing 26kg, is hoping to take part again this year.  Antonie Robertson / The National
Ahmad Al Shiekh, who won the Your Weight in Gold contest last year in Dubai by losing 26kg, is hoping to take part again this year. Antonie Robertson / The National

DUBAI // Ahmad Al Shiekh shed an impressive 26 kilograms last August and gained Dh10,000 of gold in the process. Now he’s ready to do it all over again.

Mr Al Shiekh, 28, lost the weight as part of Dubai Municipality’s Your Weight in Gold campaign, and has managed to keep the pounds off.

He hopes to take part in this year’s event, to be held in July, probably from the first week of Ramadan.

“I haven’t really gained or lost much over the last year but I’d definitely like to participate in this year’s event,” the Syrian said. “I feel like I want to lose another 10kg at least.”

Mr Al Shiekh went from 146.7kg to 120.4kg in the six-week challenge.

He admits he regained about 4kg after he stopped exercising for a month, but has since lost the extra weight by getting back into sport and committing to a “loose diet”. “At the moment I don’t eat sugar or junk food,” he said.

“It’s a diet, but it’s not as strict as it was during the competition. I just eat healthy.”

The campaign won international headlines for its unique idea of rewarding people with grams of 24-carat gold in relation to the amount of kilograms of body weight they lost.

Those who dropped between 1kg and 5kg received 1 gram of gold for every kilo. This increased to 2g for every kilo shed over 5kg, and 3g of gold for each kilo over 10kg.

All told, Dubai Municipality gave away 16.872kg of gold – worth more than Dh2.6 million at the time – to 3,224 people.

In recent months, Mr Al Shiekh has given feedback to municipality officials on the proposed format for this year’s event.

There are “two or three ideas” being considered for this year, he said, but declined to say what they were as no clear decision had yet been made by organisers.

“I do know that there is more of an emphasis this year on families, rather than individuals,” said Mr Al Shiekh, who is single.

“That would be a shame because I would like to participate. I know that obesity is particularly high among young people who don’t have families here.”

An event source said it was still possible that gold would be offered as an incentive to participants.

The price of gold has dropped from last year’s low of Dh155.87 for a 24-carat gram to Dh154.17 on Wednesday.

“The main concept will likely be the same,” the source said.

He said the event could start in the first week of Ramadan as the long fasting hours in this year’s summer holy month made it more conducive to losing weight.

The source said some people had regained the weight they lost after last year’s event, but many others like Mr Al Shiekh had kept off the pounds.

“For those for whom gold was the main motivation, they have gained some weight back,” he said. “But many others who have realised the benefits of a healthy lifestyle have continued to lose weight.”

Mark Robinson, founder of Smart Fitness gym in Jumeirah Lakes Towers, said goal-orientated weight loss was not necessarily the answer.

Trainers at his gym go as far as addressing the psychological issues that are often behind obesity.

“It’s not just a case of showing people the treadmill and then giving them a bit of gold at the end of it,” Mr Robinson said.

“People forget about the reasons why they became obese in the first place. Sometimes it’s clinical but most of the time it’s down to how they feel about themselves.”

mcroucher@thenational.ae