There have been tears shed, along with pounds and kilos, in the Fat Fighters group since it was founded back in January 2009. I know, as I’ve shared the highs and lows with this inspiring group over the last 18 months. But we are all winning our battle against the bulge, and none of us ever imagined that what started out as just a weight loss support group would develop into a group of inseparable friends.
With the lack of any formal weight loss group in Doha, Rachel Awad, the founding member, posted on an internet forum looking to form an ‘informal support network’ with the common aim of losing weight; and Fat Fighters was born. We agreed to meet every other week, rotating the meetings between members’ villas, in order to discuss our progress.
The group consists of a rich mixture of women of varying nationalities and ages, yet the bonds we have formed in the last year are evident, as member Marie Noonan explains: ‘This is a group of women whom I’ve come to admire greatly. We come from all over the world, with very different backgrounds, and with the only commonality being that we’re expat women who want to lose weight. Yet we’ve bonded as a circle of friends who are truly there for each other and celebrate each other’s successes. These women give me both inspiration and support.’
Although the methods of weight loss vary (some of us registering with Weight Watchers online, others using W8 and some just following a sensible diet), the results are remarkable. To date we have lost over 340lb across just 11 members. That’s an impressive figure, and as FF member Sam Taylor explains was only achieved through the support of the group: ‘Even though we’ve all followed different diets to lose our weight, without the support and encouragement of all the FF girls I would never have come this far.’ She also adds that weight loss can be a long and hard process, but she can always turn to the group. ‘Every time I have hit a hurdle, one of the girls has come to my rescue. The women are very special friends to me.’
It’s not been easy dieting in Doha, where fast food is so readily available, and Fat Fighters are always alert for low fat goods and diet food; the discovery of a new stock of Weight Watchers biscuits prompting a bulk purchase or a frantic group email. However, we have seen members not only change shape, but alter their whole demeanor, as increases in confidence are seen with the decreasing weight.
Of course, meetings are not only a discussion on continuing weight loss, but a chance to catch up and chat about all aspects of our lives – or even shoes! Lulu is a devoted wearer of the most amazing heels, and has converted even the most dedicated flat-footed Fat Fighter to the point that at each meeting we have taken to sporting towering footwear.
Rachel has now lost nearly 70lb, and is determined to carry on until she reaches her goal weight. ‘It is really hard for me to capture in words what this all means to me,’ she says. ‘I started the group a year and a half ago, but I never imagined what it would turn into.’ She describes all the members as extremely driven and motivated women, but adds that it’s not just about weight loss. ‘We have become a very tight group of friends, who support one another in so many ways. There have been times when I was ready to give up, and these women made me remember why I am doing this.’
Last year, Fat Fighters took up the Couch to 5k Challenge, a downloadable running programme which promises to turn people into runners over the course of nine weeks. As a non-runner myself I was sceptical, but after completing it many members are now hooked on running, participating in the Terry Fox Run and the Woman Today mini marathon last year. Clare McGuire is taking her running a step further by competing in a 10k run in Melbourne this summer: ‘I have reached my goal weight and stuck to it, and have also been running 5k every second day for over a year.’ There are also plans for a 10k run in Dubai early next year.
We couldn’t imagine being without each other as we continue this incredible journey, and we hope that our story inspires other women to form weight loss groups. Losing weight is hard at any time, but as expats, where we are far from our usual support networks of family and friends, it can be even harder. Sharing the journey with others means you’ll never feel alone, as Darina Walsh fondly recalls. ‘We have laughed a
lot, cried a little and supported each other through all sorts of dramas. I am so grateful to have met each and every one of them.’ Rachel sums up the sentiment of the group: ‘I know one day I’ll leave Qatar, but these women, the Fat Fighters, will be in my life forever.’
Founder Rachel Awad (RachelA) can be contacted through www.expatwoman.com.