With the relatively luxurious and comfortable life in Qatar, it’s often difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The Doha life bulges with many dining options including fast food outlets and home delivery services, with a lack of pedestrian walkways and outdoor activities, leaving individuals with little daily physical activity.
‘People complain all the time that it is impossible to keep healthy in Qatar, but I am living proof that this is absolutely false,’ said the 28-year-old South African Jessica Bailey Ackerman, a Qatar-based Personal Trainer. ‘Yes, it is harder sometimes but it’s up to us to not become victims of our circumstances. You need to decide if you want to make a change for GOOD or not; there is no in between. I am not saying you can’t have pizza and chocolate, however you need to make an overall life change that works for you, and allows you to still enjoy yourself in moderation. Not everyone will be running around bearing ripped six packs, but everyone can have energy, make wise choices and be the best version of themselves,’ she explains.
Besides being a REPS level 3 qualified Personal Trainer, Jessica is a freelance writer and works with some of Doha’s top magazines and PR firms, ‘but I have a fervent passion for fitness and health, which is why I qualified as a Personal Trainer. I have just started offering private sessions as well as keeping up with my Living Healthy Doha Facebook page and blog,’ she said. In addition, Jessice will soon start offering tailor-made online workout programmes for those who can’t afford a personal trainer.
Jessica runs a popular Facebook page and blog called Living Healthy Doha, which she started in June 2014 to share health and fitness tips to her 3,000 plus followers. On why she started Living Healthy Doha, Jessica said:
I had spent the previous year changing my life into a fit and healthy one and wanted to share how I had achieved success specifically with people in Doha who struggle with the same challenges I faced when it came to finding healthy meal options and being active. I also wanted to start something that would keep me on the straight and narrow and by sharing REAL meals, REAL workouts, REAL challenges that I encounter in my day to day life, I would have to be accountable to my followers. It wouldn’t be right if I spent everyday lounging on the sofa, packet of crisps in hand, posting tips on keeping healthy. I want people in Doha to realise that they don’t need to succumb to the inevitable Doha Stone that plagues so many of us, and that even though we might not have plentiful access to the foods we are used to at home, being healthy is a very definite reality!’
According to Jessica, who has been living in Qatar for over three years, ‘The Doha Stone’ is when people who move to Doha begin to feel they don’t know how to live healthy, don’t have access to the outdoors like they are used to and don’t know where to shop, often falling into the trap of eating for convenience, including eating out. To avoid ‘The Doha Stone’, Jessica said:
Start by making small changes; don’t eat the bread at the restaurant, have salad instead of fries, cut out sugar, cut out sodas and avoid all refined and processed foods. You will soon see a change. This is your life, no one can change it for you, it’s up to you what you want your future to look like – do you want to be an ailing 75-year-old who struggles to get up because they are carrying excess weight or a vibrant 75-year-old that barely visits a doctor? Do you want to walk up stairs without losing breath? Do you want to feel comfortable in your own skin? Only you can answer these questions. Take your life seriously; you only have the one.
Obesity is a major problem in Qatar, named as one of the most obese countries in the world, with 73% of Qatari men and 70% of Qatari woman overweight, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
To shop for healthy food products, Jessica recommends Spinneys, Megamart, Monoprix and Carrefour, which are her go-to stores. ‘I know some are more expensive than others, so select certain things to splurge on and be frugal with others,’ she says. ‘There are also online options such as Fitness in Qatar and The Vegetarian Treehouse who make organic nut butters.’
Public gyms and fitness centres for both males and female are prevalent in Qatar. Curves, Yama Yoga, Fitness First, Anytime Fitness, B/Attitude Spa Doha, Aspire Active, Al Massa Active Gym, Contours Express and My Gym-Qatar are some of the most well-known fitness centres in the country. Jessica also recommends, ‘Ali Fit Club run by Ali Longmate in the West Bay Lagoon is fantastic for classes; my favourite is her kettlebell class. And of course, don’t forget the classes offered by most hotels; The Grand Hyatt’s new gym is positively sensational!’
Individuals living in residential apartments and compounds may be able to benefit from free access to swimming pools and gyms within their residences. ‘You can even workout at home using your body weight or buy a few weights from Go Sport; they aren’t that expensive. You can get some great at-home workouts on Youtube, my go to is Fitness Blender,’ said Jessica.
Jessica’s final advice:
‘Find what works for you, this is your life. Make your body, make your life, and make yourself. Every single change, even the smallest, is a step in the right direction.
Author: Ola Diab
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