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Yas: Ordinary Guy Doing Extraordinary Things

He was 30 stone; now he's run the London Marathon and is aiming for an Ironman. How does he do it?

Who inspires you? It might be an extraordinary musician or a talented runner, it could be a certain politician or an innovative painter. While I admire these people, they’re not particularly inspiring to me. Instead, my motivation comes from the ordinary people I know who do amazing things, such as my friend Yassen, or Yas for short. In just a few years, he’s gone from being so overweight he faced the real possibility of dying if he carried on overeating, to becoming a marathon runner. His dedication to changing his life for the better and his desire to encourage other people to do the same is a true inspiration. Here’s his story.

 

I live in London with my family and run a successful photography business. As a younger man I was fit and healthy, even running a half-marathon in 2002. Then I suffered a string of injuries and, without the mental tools to handle the recovery process, I fell into a spiral of binge-eating.

 

At the time, I was living by myself and, in my mind at least, it seemed there was no-one to support me through my recovery and help me get fit again. I was unable to handle life’s burdens and responsibilities and blamed myself and other people when things didn’t go my way.

 

So I started binge-eating and it became a comfort mechanism, then a compulsive cycle. I’d gorge myself until I felt sick, to the point of occasionally vomiting, then was remorseful and hard on myself about it. But instead of stopping, I began punishing myself by eating even more. Living on my own, once evening came, it was too tempting to sit and eat junk all night long until I fell asleep. I didn’t want to stop; I felt comfortable over-eating when I was by myself because no-one was around to judge me.

 

Feeling guilty for this behaviour, I justified it by never eating the same unhealthy snacks two days in a row. If I bought a packet of crisps and chocolate one day, then the next day it would be biscuits and a cake. In my mind I deserved to be fat because I was always complaining about my life.

 

In 2009 I weighed 30 stone (190 kg) and was scared because being morbidly obese was dangerous for my health. I could barely do anything - I couldn’t even climb up the stairs any more, always taking the lift or escalator instead. It was depressing not to be able to do fun things like go on rollercoaster rides, and the looks I got taking up two seats on the bus made me feel even worse.

 

One day, another customer in a shop asked me: “How could you let yourself get like that?” He wasn’t being rude or aggressive; he was a concerned stranger. That’s when I realised: It was up to me to change my situation - no-one else was going to.

 

Yas in 2010 in Arizona

Photo credit: Yas

 

I’d also fallen in love: my girlfriend had moved in with me by then and we were getting married the following year; I owed it to her to do something about my weight problem. The choice was to carry on overeating and face death, or to have a life that I actually wanted. I chose life.

 

In the beginning, my lack of fitness and size meant I could only manage shadow boxing in my living room for 10 minutes at a time. Once my body could cope with that,  I built up to doing aerobics and yoga videos for about 30 minutes. Snacking between meals and in the evenings stopped overnight and I started eating more healthily.

 

By the time of my marriage in 2010, I’d already lost at least 5 stone (32 kg), was going to the gym regularly and had taken up running again, managing a couple of miles at a time. Unfortunately an injury at the gym in 2011 meant my weight started going back up. But this time was different: I’d already proved to myself that I could lose weight and was determined to carry on. This time I didn’t give up.

 

The following year, 2012, I joined a new gym and got talking to a personal trainer who suggested doing circuit training for 45 minutes at a time. The training went well but I still wasn’t losing weight very quickly and wasn’t sure why not.

 

The real turning point in my journey came when I enrolled in the London Marathon in 2014. I’d enrolled in 2012 and 2013 but circumstances beyond my control meant that I couldn’t accept my place. Completing it was one of my lifetime ambitions and this seemed like my final chance to achieve it. Many people doubted me and there was one woman in particular who just didn’t believe that I’d run a half-marathon back in 2002. How dare she judge me solely on my looks? It would be great to prove her wrong...

 

Running the London Marathon 2014

Photo credit: Yas

 

My training started again but it didn’t go well as the doubts in my head kept saying “You can’t do it”, “You don’t deserve it,” and “You’re not good enough”. Feeling unmotivated and lethargic, in desperation I went to see my doctor for help with losing weight and was referred to a nutritionist. This changed everything: she made me fully understand how unhealthy my diet had been all those years, and showed me how to regulate my food intake properly for the first time ever. It was a shockingly emotional moment. My diet changed from that day on and it worked perfectly; in 6 months I lost another 5 stone (32 kg).

 

April 13th 2014 will live forever in my memory; it was the day of that year’s London Marathon. With my weight loss printed on my marathon shirt to remind me of my achievement, and the amazing support of the crowd, I managed to keep pushing on through the pain to the finish line, something I never thought I’d actually do until I was across. I had completed my first serious challenge.

 

The hardest task I’ve yet faced was the Half Ironman in Florida in April 2015. It’s over 70 miles of cycling, swimming and running and, despite awful cramp and losing a few toenails,  I made it to the end, when many others didn’t!

 

Completing the Florida Half Ironman, April 2015

Photo credit Yas

 

My self-esteem has improved immeasurably since I’ve been taking positive steps to change my life. An important part of the process has been to compete in front of people, in order to prove my doubters wrong. As a father, it also gives me a huge sense of pride to be able to show my medals to my children. My attitude towards food now is much healthier too; if I eat something unhealthy, instead of punishing myself, my only thought is “I’ll do better tomorrow”. The whole unhealthy cycle of blame and punishment has gone. Anybody can turn their life around and being positive and taking action is the key to it all.

 

Despite my huge weight loss, at 21 stone (133 kg) I’m still technically obese, so I’m going to keep losing weight by entering more sporting events this year. My most serious challenge is the full Ironman in Wales in September (a total distance of 140.6 miles) and in preparation for this, I’m competing in four other individual events: raising money in the London Marathon for Crisis (a housing charity), a 10km run, an Olympic distance triathlon and a 5km open water swim. My target is to weigh 18 stone (114 kg) by then.

 

Change is possible at any given moment in your life, if only we can see it.  Most of us are much stronger than we give ourselves credit for, and when it really matters we have a remarkable ability to pick ourselves up and change our lives for the better. And when you truly believe that you can do something, whatever it takes, you’ll achieve it. It really is that simple.

 

If you have been inspired by Yas's story and would like to contribute to his fundraising page, please click here.

Becky Killoran

About the Writer

Becky was a TEFL teacher for many years, including two spent in Japan. A keen reader, she is also passionate about music and is an enthusiastic member of her local choir, Rock Chorus. She lives with her family in Milton Keynes.

 

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