After losing so much weight, Aqilah’s real challenge was keeping it off – and staying healthy. As told to Deborah Lin.
Weight lost 15kg in 3½ years
Social fitness mission Aqilah hopes to help others become fit, lean and happy through her website, www.15paw.com.sg.
Fed up with being teased for being obese, I finally snapped and went on a weight-loss rampage when I was in university. Following the exercise and diet plan in a book by a renowned personal trainer, I pushed myself hard. I did an hour’s worth of high intensity interval training (HIIT) six times a week, and ate only 1,200 calories daily. It was pure torture, but I lost 20kg in eight months, and reduced my body fat to only 10 per cent.
Everyone congratulated me on my successful weight loss, but my confidence did not grow. In fact, I never felt good enough about myself. Keeping the kilos off was even tougher. I tried all kinds of diets – Paleo, intermittent fasting, low carbs, and more, but was always hungry and craving treats. I would work out hard on one day, and then binge the very next day. I had no idea it was harder to maintain the weight than to lose it!
This went on for two years before my sister, my biggest supporter, became concerned that I had become weak and pale. My goal was to be skinny, but she helped me realise I had to stop obsessing about my size.
After graduating, I went on to study fitness and nutrition as I genuinely wanted to learn the science behind weight loss. Applying what I had learnt, I began a more sustainable routine – one good habit at a time.
Instead of going all out, I resolved to exercise in moderation, doing cardio and strength training four times a week. And I ate lean protein, unprocessed carbohydrates, and lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts. Occasionally, I had ice cream and fries, and gradually felt less guilty about my food choices.
I went on to work as a gym trainer and bootcamp instructor, but was always judged for not being as ripped as other trainers. I felt like giving up at times, but my sister’s unwavering support helped me through everything.
The most difficult part was accepting myself – and believing that I didn’t need to have a perfect body. Being happy and healthy is very important.
I am still on my weekly exercise routine – HIIT, heavy lifting and yoga – and am eating healthily without resorting to fad diets or counting calories. The quality of my sleep has improved as well.
Overall, I’m much happier and have regained my confidence. Weight is no longer an issue, as I’ve realised that health matters more. So, instead of obsessing over having a flat tummy, a six-pack or a low body-fat count like before, I am now hoping to empower other women to become fitter and leaner, without compromising their happiness or well-being.
WEEKLY WORKOUT SCHEDULE
40-minute sessions of bodyweight HIIT (twice), heavy lifting (twice) and yoga (once).
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