So Nazri, growing up, were you always a big guy?
I was a sportsman during the teenage years, and I represented my school in both volleyball and soccer tournaments. I was as fit as any of my teammates. In fact, I have vague memories of owning a set of abs when I was 15! I did struggle with cardiovascular exercises but I took it in my stride. I was more interested in the game-play aspect of the sports. Where fitness and training were concerned, I did what I could to get by without being whipped by my coaches.
However, due to the stress of GCE O Level, and the subsequent cessation of training, I started gaining weight. I deal with stress by eating. Only junk food will quell my cravings when I’m stressed up. Even though I was going down a slippery slope, it wasn’t clear to me at the time: In my mind, I thought I was eating like how I had always been eating.
It’s not an excuse, but I do believe genes play a part. Some thin people can eat and eat and eat and won’t ever gain weight. Is it the same case with you?
My dad is tall and maybe slightly overweight now. My mum has been piling on the weight over the years. But no, they weren’t always big. So my road to obesity was entirely my doing and nothing to do with my genes (laughs).
Did you have self-esteem issues back then?
I’ve always struggled with self-esteem and self-confidence issues. I am aware of it and truth be told, it is a daily battle. It is no different now, mind you. Things are better but there are days when I really struggle with it.
When I was dating my wife, I was very conscious of what people might say. She is slim, enjoys running and can eat like a lion and not gain weight. Shopping was a chore because nothing fit. At the same time, I didn’t think anything could be done to reverse the situation. In my mind, it was an insurmountable task and thus, I continued to binge eat — it seemed like it’s the only thing I could control.
When did you meet your wife? How was the courtship?
My wife and I were actually primary school mates. We lost contact for the longest time before having a chance meeting. We then chatted regularly on the internet and via text messages. We went on a few dates and subsequently got together. I knew I wanted to marry her the day we got together.
Your wife is slim; you were still a big guy when you started dating/first got married. Did you experience any kind of pushback?
Nah, not really. She was cool and still is. My wife didn’t see my size as a hindrance or an annoyance. She was more worried about the unhealthy aspect of obesity. She wasn’t interested in how I look (thank God). HAHA.
Did she help you along your weight-loss journey?
Yes. I cannot thank her enough for being so understanding. After I made the decision to lose weight, I worked out nearly every day. That meant spending less time with her. It continued when Mika was born too. She always urged me to “just go”. Be it heading to gym, going on a long run or cycle, she has never said “no”. She is my rock. I honestly don’t think I could have achieved so much without her.
You were very vocal about how your motivation stemmed from the arrival of your first-born, Mika Ilhan. Tell us about that defining moment when you decided to lose weight and get healthy.
Initially, both my wife and I were not keen on having children. We see students on a daily basis and the behaviour of some can truly send shivers down your spine. So for the longest time, having a kid was out of the picture. It went on until we were talking to a few friends and we learnt they’re having trouble conceiving. So we both thought that we got to try for one and then try our best to be the best parents we can be and inculcate the right values in our child.
The day my wife confirmed that she was pregnant — I made her take the test twice, then go to a general practitioner’s for another test — immediately the switch in my mind flipped. I decided that I need to take charge of my health to be fair to this child of mine. I want to be able to keep up with him, live to a ripe old age and provide for him in the best way that I can.
I didn’t tell anyone of my decision. I didn’t tell my wife. I just slowly and consciously changed my eating habits. I cooked and packed food to work. I stopped drinking sweetened beverages. I stopped snacking. And within a month of doing that, I lost five to six kg.