Ramadan or the Holy month of fasting for the Muslims ended on 25th June, this year and that’s when I did write this post. However, ended up posting it only now as I have been on holiday.
With shorter working hours and amazing iftar buffets in the city (the meal that Muslims have after they break fast), it’s hard not to put on weight. For Non-Muslims in the Middle East, this month is like an extended holiday with shortened working hours- you go home early, you have lunch, you take a nap, in the evenings you head out to one of the many restaurants serving Iftar meals and you don’t resist because it’s simply too hard to and at the end of the month, you’ve gained a few pounds that will take you a life-time to shed.
This year, we decided to do something different We decided to use the strength of team-work to help us remain fit during Ramadan and with the entire team doing it- Muslims and the non-Muslims, it did not seem difficult. We managed to motivate a lot of other teams in the office to do the same.
“ A healthy team is a happier team which means a more productive team”.
Nothing official about what we did as a team and yet it helped the organisation as it increased team-spirit and made working fun.
So this is what we did, on the first day of Ramadan, we put all our weights on the white board in my cabin and we put in the target weights (what we wished to achieve at the end of the month). One of the team members even got a weighing machine to the office that was taken out of the cabinet at the end of the week,so that we could measure ourselves. We took our weights every week for the next 4 weeks and put it up on the board. Somebody in another team asked me if there was going to be a gift at the end of it.The truth is no matter how much weight one lost, everybody would be a winner.
How working in a team helped?
- It was fun and it got the team to work together for their personal goals rather than just work goals thereby bringing them closer together.
- Knowing that we were part of something and that we would have to stand on the weighing scale in front of everybody on Monday (we started with Mondays and then moved measuring day, to Thursdays so that we could have a cheat day on Friday which is the weekend in the Middle East), made us more conscious.
- My teens wanted to be a part of it as well. I have had a million arguments with my older one to reduce her intake of sweets and chocolates during the past one year but with little success, so when she volunteered to take part on her own accord, we welcomed it with joy. The younger one who doesn’t seem to be putting on weight agreed to take part but she had to do the reverse as compared to us. As parents, we were thrilled at their willingness.
- Having acknowledged publicly that we were part of the competition made us feel answerable and hence more committed to getting fit.
- Sharing our experiences on the temptations, what worked and what did not work every week, made it easier because you knew you were not alone in this battle but with others who also found it equally, if not more difficult.
- We were a group of professionals who had the same lifestyle, had similar stress, working hours and if somebody in the team could do it, why not us. No-one was super-fit like the people one sees on T.V. We were real people who saw each other every day.
- Send the right instruction to the brain: It’s funny how the mind works. Just the day before the competition, I had found it difficult if not impossible to avoid chocolates, ice-cream and cake, knowing that it would make me gain weight but telling myself that I would exercise and get it off me. As most people, I procrastinated the next day if I was too tired. But once the competition started, it became so much easier not to indulge in foods that are necessary killers. Why? Because the human race is competitive and we are all in it to win. Because it’s all in the mind.
- You haven’t lost the game until the end- Believe in Yourself. Nothing’s impossible: At the end of the first day, my older daughter decided to quit. It was far too difficult to resist. She said, ” I have already lost the competition even before I began. I am sure I will not win because it’s so much easier to gain weight than lose weight. I am sure she (as in her younger sis) will win”. I just said, “she has as much trouble gaining weight as you have losing it but the only difference is she’s telling you that she’s surely going to win”.
- It’s easy to give up in between. Every group needs a leader who manages team morale: As a mom, my job was to be as competitive enough so that everybody felt encouraged, to cook the healthiest options for the three of us who wanted to lose weight while making milk-shakes, adding extra dollops of butter, cheese and cream to my younger one’s food so she could meet her goal of putting on weight. At work, to keep the team on track, we spoke about road-blocks, temptations and weaknesses. We even shared what worked so others could benefit from the same. It was just important not to give up until the end and to ensure each individual gave it their all during the challenge just as they would do for an up-coming audit or a project. This of-course was easy because a great team has all the necessary ingredients to take up any challenge.
- White bread, white sugar is bad : If you want to lose weight, the easiest is to reduce your intake of sugar and bread. Working in a team helps simply because you’ve told a lot of people that you’re going to do it. Somehow, this makes it easier to resist. When you have resisted for 2 weeks, you will find you actually lose your sweet tooth. I am writing this from the experience of 10 people who love sweets and who love food.
- Begin your day with water, a spoon of virgin coconut oil or olive oil : We’ve all heard of it but two of us in the team tried it and it worked for us. In fact, in the office, we were the ones who lost the maximum weight.
- Know your metabolism slows down with age : Everybody knows it and yet everybody disregards it. That’s the reason, you do the same exercise, you eat the same food and you find it still adds inches to your waist-line. Two ways to counter it, increase the amount of exercise or manage the quality of food in-take. Test your hormones. Those with a thyroid problem will find it harder to lose weight but that’s no excuse to putting on weight. I have a number of friends who’ve put on weight and the easiest is to blame it on the thyroid. I have it too, I know it’s hard but not impossible so stop giving yourself the “thyroid excuse”.
- Exercise : Moderate exercise is good enough to begin with. You can do what suits you most- walk, go for a run, go to the gym, yoga or just go on the net and select any of the millions of videos available and do it in the comfort of your home. What’s worked for me may not work for you but try out different options; just don’t give up. Going to the gym is not my thing. Somehow I end up paying for it but never end up at the gym. Exercising in the comfort of home is my thing and I swear by Jillian Michael. Also, keep changing the exercise you do because your body tends to stop reacting if you do the same thing over and over again.
- Don’t stop when you hit the wall: It’s very easy to give up when you control your food, you exercise and you don’t see the weight going down. In fact you see it going up. Well, I like to remind myself that it goes up initially because your fat’s turning to muscle. Muscle is heavier hence the increase in weight. You lose weight when you start losing muscle.
- Don’t be a slave of the weighing scale but Don’t ignore it: It’s been more than a year that I stood on the weighing scale though it’s at home. Why? Because I couldn’t take the added stress of seeing the number. Life was stressful enough without having to think of some number that the scale showed. Ignorance is bliss. So when I did stand on the scale at the beginning of the challenge, the numbers showed me what my heart always knew and my brain tried not to think about. I had increased by 5kgs. Some in my team and had added on 12kgs over 3 years. These were people who were excellent performers at work but just believed that they did not have the time or it did not matter. Health matters and honestly, it’s the only thing that truly matters. So take care of it.
You are responsible for yourself. The organisation cares about work goals. It will not care if you ruin your health. You are expected to be sensible about it.
- Celebrate small victories : Don’t set very high goals that are difficult to achieve. Instead take small steps and celebrate those steps so that you stick to the goal. Since I am currently on holiday, I am enjoying my clothes fitting me well and enjoying all the treats and goodies back home.
Last but not the least, why you should follow the above is because I am one of you’ll- I am on the journey to getting fit but far from it. I find it hard to resist sweets so I know how it feels and like you I dream of getting fit but then give up in between. We could get on this journey together and make staying fit as a way of life. If you have any suggestions that would help do share it.