Hitting above his weight
Article from the Sun daily by Denissa Goh (posted on 6 October 2016)
IT was graduation day for cadet pilot Saiful Bahari, but the special occasion was almost ruined by his bulging belly which was getting in the way of his uniform. Humiliated, the then 22-year-old avoided photographs like a plague on that day. That single moment of awareness, however, would change his life forever.
Most of Saiful’s family members were battling obesity, but with his own eyes he watched his brothers lost weight over time by working out or eating clean. Determined to get rid of his flab, and highly inspired by late Russian-Australian bodybuilder Aziz Shavershian aka Zyzz, Saiful practised a strict diet and consistently exercised for a year.
The incredible transformation – Saiful trimmed his 34-inch waist to 26 inches, and reduced his body fat percentage of over 20 to only eight – arrested attention. Soon, Saiful and his brothers were known among their friends as “the fat siblings who lost a lot of weight”.
Three years later, despite his hectic schedule as a pilot for a budget airline, Saiful remains passionate about helping others achieve their fitness goals. The fitness junkie runs a healthy food delivery service with his brothers and a gym in Ampang.
How did your parents react when you stopped eating what they ate?
They were surprised. We got a lot of, “No more sambal belacan/assam pedas?” or “Now your diet is mat salleh kind is it?”
So I explained what I wanted in life, and they slowly got used to it. There’s no such thing as a fat gene, that’s for sure. There are only bad habits that you pass down to the next generation. When parents don’t watch what they eat, they’ll feed their kids the same thing. That was what happened to us.
What would you like to change about Malaysians’ approach to diets?
Malaysians are impulsive, and we tend to make brash – and extreme – decisions. Sometimes they want to go on a diet and so completely cut food for one whole day, but it’s not a sustainable lifestyle and then they’d say that dieting doesn’t work. Diet and workout plans have to be sustainable because you want to do it for the long run.
What do you find difficult when it comes to convincing Malaysians?
It’s tough convincing people that they don’t need supplements. Every time I tell people that they need to go on a diet, they ask, “Okay, which pill?” People want it to be easy and they don’t believe a diet will work without a pill. Dietary knowledge among the people is very poor.
How do you incorporate a strict diet to your flying schedule?
If I were to pass a night in another state, I would opt for healthy food deliveries. In most cases, I would just pack my own food. You have to choose the right kind of food that lasts longer hours since it will be in the bag during the whole flight.
No one is too busy for anything; it’s all about time management. If you’re working nine to five, you can go to the gym after work while the traffic eases. There are no excuses.
Do you give into your cravings?
I don’t believe in cheat meals. But I believe that a chocolate wouldn’t harm once I achieved 8% body fat. I won’t say that I give into my cravings, but I enjoy what I eat because I know I’m going to work out and burn the calories the next day. There must always be a balance.
How do you deal with friends who demotivate our choices for healthier food alternatives and workouts over hang-outs?
I used to have those friends. In these situations, I keep things to myself. At the end of the day, you know what you want in life and the kind of person you want to be. If having company such as these will drag me down, then I’ll let go. I keep my social circle close because I have people that I know are good for me.
Guilty pleasures: Chocolates and Game of Thrones.
Workout playlist: House and trap music.
Biggest fear: Cockroaches.
Next adventure: Trekking Machu Picchu this month.
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