When you are dangerously overweight and your diet is out of control it can seem like there’s no way back.

 

But all it takes to win back your health and change your life is belief. This is something we instil in every client who comes through the door at Ultimate Performance (UP).

UP trainer Umar Malik was in this very same position just four years ago – overweight and struggling to make a change.

He weighed 180kg (396lbs), he was eating around 6,000 calories a day and his health was spiralling out of control.

Being a 28-stone teenager came with unbearable feelings of shame, social isolation and rock-bottom confidence.

The 6ft 2in Londoner says he had gone past being morbidly obese and needed to turn things around.

He tried everything including two years of doing cardio almost every single day and eating fish and greens for every meal.

A devout Muslim, Umar’s Islamic faith helped him move mountains.

Training weights and eating right with unwavering dedication and consistency helped him lose 77kg (169lbs), dropping from a starting body weight of 180kg to 103kg (227lbs).

Now a leading personal trainer at UP City, Umar’s dramatic transformation was completed with 12 weeks of training alongside the world’s best PTs.

He lost the final 17kg (37lbs) over 12 weeks to get in the best shape of his life.

Here Umar explains:

  • The struggles he has faced going from overweight teenager to ripped personal trainer
  • The mistakes he made on his weight loss journey
  • The biggest lessons he learned
  • The diet and training that helped him achieve his goal
  • How his faith kept him motivated every single day

 

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What kind of shape were you in at your heaviest, physically and mentally

 

Four and a half years before UP, my weight was 28 stones. Physically, I was past being morbidly obese.

I remember measuring my waistline at 55 inches – prior to shopping for the trousers I was wearing in that photo, the actual shock of this was really hard to take.

I remember making a note in my workout log diary which read ‘Today I was ashamed of how I looked with my top off. I never want to feel like this again.’

I remember going to the store the next day and optimistically asking for a ‘48 long’ which didn’t button up; not even close.

The sinking feeling of asking the girl on the shop floor for a bigger size was horrible. Later, I actually started working in that store and found out the sizes were actually marked as smaller than they actually were, I had walked out with a 54-inch that day.

Mentally, prior to that day, I wasn’t aware of how big I was. I remember friends telling me I didn’t realise how large I actually was. I honestly remember thinking I was a similar size to a friend who was around the 12-stone mark; I was more than double his weight, which is crazy to think back on. Mentally, you could say I was in denial about the whole thing.

I knew something had to change after I saw myself in photos and actually felt a deep sense of shame.

Physically, I had found my focal point in the gym. It was somewhere I felt I could be unapologetically raw and really take out the frustrations from other areas of my life. Being socially awkward, and not having much confidence really anywhere in my life, led to me really clinging to the one place I felt at ease.

Across a whole two-year stretch, I probably missed 15 days where I didn’t go to the gym. Once there, I was very capable compared to most, which lead to a lot of attention from pretty much everyone at the gym.

Being the strongest in the gym and really being a kid was a nice feeling. In a way, it gave me a sense of purpose and made me feel obligated to keep going and to continue pushing myself to do more and more.

At college, as I gained the weight, I remember avoiding friends and almost wanting to leave early on days just to be back at the gym sometimes training for 3 to 4 hours.

The same went for family gatherings; I’d actively avoid them for fear of people talking.

This, for me, is completely out of character, as growing up in a home with 15 family members, I’d always loved the vibe I’d felt from being around family.

In my head, I knew something had to change, but I really didn’t know how.

 

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What was your lifestyle like that made you that way?

 

The lifestyle that made me like that was one where I’d be sedentary for most of the day and eat in excess at every meal. I remember making shakes after training which would be 500ml of full-fat milk, 100g of oats and 50g of ground almonds, and then whey protein on top.

I took comfort in eating, for sure, but then when I got to the point where I’d begun to feel ashamed because of what I looked like, this began to change.

 

Could you run us through a day’s eating back then?

 

I’d start the day with something close to a full English, with chicken breast, six eggs, a can of beans and sweetcorn and two baked potatoes.

Meals after weren’t that terrible, however, snacking in between on crisps, chocolates and apple pies was a daily thing. I may have even snuck some custard on top for good measure.

I’d say the real kicker for my diet was the volume of food at each sitting, seconds and thirds were a regular thing.

Even when you’re eating relatively well (chicken and rice) having three helpings multiple times a day will for sure push you over the edge.

 

What changed and motivated you to start getting in better shape?

 

Put simply; I didn’t want to feel like I did anymore. Being socially awkward and not having the confidence, I wanted to actually experience life in ways other kids my age did.

I knew something had to change after I saw myself in photos and actually felt a deep sense of shame.

I remember before I actually got into shape I had made the choice to drop out of university. As simple as it sounds, at the time I really attribute this decision as one of the first times I took control of a major area of my life.

I can look back and draw parallels between the two choices; I knew it wasn’t for me to be in the position I found myself in, and I knew I needed to act sooner rather than later.

 

Where did you begin getting in shape?

 

As corny as this may sound, I believe I started getting into shape long before I actually did anything towards it and dropping body fat. Mentally, visualising myself pretty similar to how I look now was honestly where I started.

Now, looking back, I’d pinpoint having a clear vision in my head as the first step to change. The power of visualisation has time and time again been shown to impact the lives of so many from sports stars to entrepreneurs; I personally had the same experience.

I was not necessarily seeing myself in the image of another, but rather seeing myself as a confident, capable man who had taken control.

In essence, I tried to out-work a bad diet; an age-old mistake. But still as foolhardy as I was, I persisted for a while to little avail.

Visualisation, of course, only takes you so far. Physically, I actually started by doing loads of cardio after every one of my gym sessions.

I’d stick the treadmill on its highest incline and walk as fast as I could for 30 minutes, and sometimes longer. This hardly worked, as I’d go home with a bigger appetite and just eat loads more.

In essence, I tried to out-work a bad diet; an age-old mistake. But still as foolhardy as I was, I persisted for a while to little avail.

Soon after a move to London, I released what I was doing wasn’t giving me the desired outcome. At this point, I’d read enough bodybuilding magazines to know that fish and greens 6-8 meals per day was the preferred diet for those looking to get into the best shape.

So I did it for eight months straight. I didn’t deviate once; I can honestly say hand on heart. Put simply; the weight began to fall off.

 

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What mistakes did you make on your weight loss journey?

 

I made so many mistakes that I eventually had to find the thing that actually worked.

Doing crazy amounts of cardio, changing my workouts to doing hundreds of reps with light weights, eating nothing but fish and greens, eating hardly anything at all and still trying to train my ass off. All of this eventually led me to find out that I needed a set amount of protein, fats and greens for where I was on my journey.

 

When did you really start making significant changes?

 

I saw significant changes once I really decided to get serious with my diet, before that it was almost like I’d try to work around the diet to do everything else, from training crazy hard to doing hours of cardio per week.

Once I had worked out that all I really needed was a good amount of protein and greens spread throughout my day, I really began to see consistent results both in the mirror and on the scale.

 

What were your motivations in this final 12-week phase of training?

 

Before starting UP, I wasn’t in the worst shape as I’d already lost 75% of the weight and had been training the whole time. I started UP at 120kg and 20% body fat.

What I hadn’t been doing and what UP gave me was the discipline I needed to get the last 25% off. I had to prove I could get into photoshoot-ready condition, as many of our clients do, within my first year of working here.

Having set the date for me, November 25, I knew I’d really have to be more disciplined than ever before. Moreover, this time it wasn’t just me I’d be doing it for; it was the whole team at UP, as well as my UP coach who carefully guided me through my final transformation.

I went from being 180kg, waist 55-inch waist, 5XL clothing and a bodyfat of 35-40%, to today weighing 103kg, with a 33-inch waist, 2XL clothing and a body fat of around 10 or 12%.

The last phase of training to complete my 12-week transformation at UP prior to my photoshoot was fuelled by the very same images I had in my head from the start of my weight loss journey.

I hadn’t yet realised my full potential, physically. Mentally, I was there, but I hadn’t yet done the work. Knowing that I still had more to do kept me going. The added pressure of working in a gym where everyone is in shape and trains hard, from the trainers, to the receptionist Marta, to the clients themselves, really adds to the fuel.

There were too many people to see on a daily basis to not let down. My younger brother sent me a quote the week before I started at UP which stated: “If you want to be a diamond in your industry, get ready to face 50,000 times more pressure than you ever have before”. That’s UP.

 

What have your results been like since you started your fitness journey?

 

I went from being 180kg, waist 55-inch waist, 5XL clothing and a bodyfat of 35-40%, to today weighing 103kg, with a 33-inch waist, 2XL clothing and a body fat of around 10 or 12%.

 

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How did you achieve this incredible new body?

 

This may sound a simple answer, but it’s all in the doing. I stuck to my diet. I trained my ass off. I got my results.

Everything was clearly outlined for me through the whole process from the reasoning behind the diet changes to the intricacies of the training. In the end, it was on me to execute on a daily basis.

 

What was training like during your final 12-week transformation?

 

The training for the last 12 weeks was intense. My trainer had me weight-training 5-6 days a week with an additional 5 days of cardio at the end.

I’d train ‘upper-body push’ followed by ‘upper-body pull’ and then legs; a day off after that, then a full ‘back-body session’ followed by a full ‘front-body session’. The rep ranges varied across the week, as did exercises, tempos and rest periods.

 

What was your diet like during the final 12-week transformation?

 

I can’t state this enough; I really enjoy food. You don’t get to be over 180kg and not, I guess.

This made the diet the hardest factor in the transformation for me.

Before starting, my trainer had asked me for a food diary to gauge how many calories I’d been eating on a daily basis. Off the top of my head, I’d assured my trainer I had been eating roughly 3000-3500 calories per day, and at this amount, I’d been maintaining my weight.

I feel the biggest difference from before is now I’ve really taken ownership of my life as opposed to letting cravings and hunger take control of me. 

Hearing this, my trainer put me on a diet capping calories at 2800 introducing a slight deficit which should have made me drop weight slowly.

In reality, after seeing the amount of food 2800 calories actually was, I realised I’d been eating close to double what I had originally thought. This was a wake-up call for sure, as I hadn’t realised at all how much I was actually eating.

Pre-diet, I’d have eaten steak more than once a day and perhaps salmon too. For the majority of my diet, I had to limit my fat intake meaning the fattier meats had to go and in their place were leaner white fish and poultry, allowing me to get in my protein without the added calories from the fat.

 

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What does a day’s eating look like now?

 

Everything is regimented; I know my week in advance in regards to food and supplementation.

I feel the biggest difference from before is now I’ve really taken ownership of my life as opposed to letting cravings and hunger take control of me.

By extension, the change in the rest of my life had been huge. Starting with the food and training, and then work and home life, everything is so much more in order and supportive of my vision for myself.

Meal 1 is 200g steak with greens

Meal 2 is salmon and greens

Meal 3 is chicken and rice

Meal 4 is whey protein and rice as a pre-workout

Meal 5 is the same as Meal 4 with added berries

Meal 6 is steak and greens

 

What are the key lessons you’ve learned about losing fat, building muscle and getting in shape?

 

Losing fat can be as simple as consistently keeping a log of calories. MyFitnessPal was so important on a daily basis to ensure I wasn’t overeating.

Building muscle comes down to understanding that training is one hour a day; it’s the hardest most exhausting hour of your day.

After it’s up, the rest of the day is actually relatively routine. Use that hour for all it’s worth; go as hard as you can because those reps don’t come back, tomorrow is a new session so get today done as best you can.

Be consistent and don’t let anything get in the way of your goals, find a way to tick the boxes you need to today.

 

How does this fit in with your religion?

 

Islam speaks at great lengths about the importance of keeping oneself in good health and physical fitness.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had stated a strong believer was better than a weak believer, speaking in regards to faith and character, while still outlining physical strength, optimum health and fitness as just as important.

Muslims are urged to place emotional, spiritual and physical health all in equal regard. The understanding that our bodies are given to us by God and are to be cared for is an obligation for every Muslim.

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. 

The daily performance of five prayers is in itself a form of exercise; its prescribed movements involve all the muscles and joints of the body, and concentration in prayer can aid to relieves mental stress.

In addition, good health is necessary if one intends to fast the month of Ramadan, and the performance of the Hajj (or pilgrimage to Mecca) is an arduous task that requires many days of hard physical effort.

A quote from the Quran on eating healthily:  “The Prophet said God is pure and accepts not, except that which is pure. God said: ‘eat from the pure and wholesome of that which we have harvested for you and be sound of conduct and body’” (Hadith).

 

Are there any religious holidays or practices which made your prep more challenging?

 

Coming home for Eid can be tricky as all you want to do is enjoy a home-cooked feast. However, a little planning goes a long way.

I’d pack my Tupperware all the same and try my hardest to avoid gorging on samosas and Biryani.

 

Are there any ways your faith helped you on your transformation?

 

I feel faith is a very personal thing. It teaches me to stay motivated on a daily basis, reminding me that I’ve been given an amazing opportunity to have the life I do.

I use my daily prayer as periods of reflection or projection either at the end of beginnings 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 the moments after the final prayers of the day (Isha) to reflect on the day’s results kept me in a constant state of evaluation and progression.

 

Have you got any advice for other young Muslims who are struggling with their body, their health or their diet?

 

I’d adopt a similar approach to the practice I used. After prayers, give yourself a two-minute period of reflection in order to plan out the next few hours between prayers and what you’d do in that time to get that little bit closer to your goal.

Whether it be knowing by your next prayer you’d have made a good meal choice or carved out time for cardio or a walk, or even a workout or meal prep for the next day.

I can see this being really helpful for the older generation who particularly in my culture can become almost burned with free time later in life, leading to a much more sedentary lifestyle.

 

What would you say to others who think it’s not possible to make this kind of transformation?

 

I’d say take a look at the transformations that UP deliver on a daily basis and don’t see those individuals as any different to yourself.

I’d say if this is something you are sceptical about, come to UP and see how everyday people literally transform their lives under the guidance of their trainers by emphasising the fundamentals and managing life; it’s a very achievable feat.

 

 

What do you say to all the people who cry ‘PEDs’ or who think this kind of physique can only be achieved with ‘assistance?’

 

I’d say that’s a person who hasn’t been exposed to the real depths of weight training that is taught to all the clients at UP.

Training for muscle at its core can be seen as placing a demand on the body after which the very anatomy of the individual is so diminished by the load placed upon it that it is forced to develop into something more to cope with those imposed demands should they arise again.

Repeating this process over a week, then a few months, and then the span of a few years and the results are going to be evident.

 

What do you think when you look back on your ‘before’ pictures?

 

I feel really proud. I remember exactly who I was back then and the daily struggles. I now have faced them all and more. I wished I had started sooner if anything.

I am in a place where I hope someone reads this article and is inspired to believe that they too can fairly simply start to see massive changes in their lives.

 

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