Whatever you want to achieve in life, all it takes is a little faith. Faith in yourself, faith in your abilities, and faith that you have the strength to realise your ambitions. Faith is something I’d lost along the way as a 28-stone teenager and practising Muslim, but it helped me lose 80kg, become more confident and outgoing, and even build a career as a personal trainer with Ultimate Performance, where I now help other people with their own body transformation journeys.
It was back in my late teens and early twenties when I felt the least connected with my faith. Thinking back, it began with the breakdown of my little nuclear family with a messy divorce. I did not deal with it very well. I had seen the steady erosion of my home over a two-year period, and through a mixture of not controlling my diet, while finding comfort in food and feeling uneasy at home, I found myself escaping all contact with those around me.
I would take my aggression out at the gym, I would avoid friends, and I would eat. I would start the day with something like a full English, with chicken breast, six eggs, a tin of beans and two baked potatoes. My meals weren’t terribly unhealthy – but it was the sheer volume of food at each meal. Seconds and thirds were a regular thing. Then I’d snack on crisps, chocolate and apple pieces in between.
This finally led me to stepping on my bathroom scales one day and the word ‘error’ flashed up. The scales were telling me at over 28 stone that I was too fat to even measure. During the previous years, I had turned to my faith in the way I understood it at the time. I had asked for the situation at home to be resolved. Sadly, as we learned in Bruce Almighty, God doesn’t deal in free will.
Over the following periods in my life I blamed my faith and God for allowing what was happening at home to go on unchecked.
What changed? I reconciled with why I fell out with my faith in the first place. I saw that it was natural at that time for a kid in my situation to feel angry and unheard. I was, after all, at the will of whatever would occur in the lives of my parents, and when I turned to my faith for help, nothing changed. So I turned away. This made sense to me for the first time; I saw I was angry at God for the wrong reasons.
I had a lot of work to do on my own self. I knew I had to be in my own corner first, and believe without knowing, that I could see myself with a real quality of life that I had never known. Thus began my rekindled relationship with faith. I changed my view on the life I had been exposed to. Rather than seeing a God that let me go through what I had, I saw a God that showed me I could overcome all obstacles. I acted on this belief and saw my life change for the better.
I realised that the life I had lived gave me the strength to get through difficult times and still see that it could get better. This in itself is faith and belief in action. This led to me praying consistently in the conventional sense for the first time. I again saw the benefit of having structure to my day. Structure around how I broke my meals up, eating smaller, healthier and more frequently. As the weight loss continued, so formed the bond I feel today with my faith.
Now I don’t wholly attribute prayer to me losing those 80kg and being in shape today, but the act of doing so gave me more structure to my day. Structure in this setting was provided to me by my faith; first in myself, then in God. I was dropping weight, feeling and looking better, I was socialising more through work, and at the end of the day I’d take stock while praying and breathe a little easier, literally. It took me four and a half years to get where I wanted to be, but I got there. I went from being over 180kg with a 55-inch waist and 5XL clothing, to being 103kg with a 33-inch waist and body fat of 12%.
Islam speaks at great lengths about the importance of keeping oneself in good health and physical fitness, and Muslims are urged to place emotional, spiritual and physical health all in equal regard. I use my daily prayer as a period of reflection or projection either at the end or beginning of my day. In this way, my faith’s practices allow me to check in with my goals for the day, which during this period of getting into shape were centred around intense dieting and training.
Using the moments after my morning prayer (Fajr) to make sure I had all my meals for the day, as well as a clear idea of when I’d be training around my clients. Then I used the moments after the final prayers of the day (Isha), to reflect on the day’s results, which kept me in a constant state of evaluation and progression. Faith, in whatever form you find it, can help you move mountains and day by day inch towards the goals that seem insurmountable.
Have a little faith and see where it takes you.
Read more about how I lost almost 80kg here