22 February 2017Last updated

Diet Challenge

Meet the Aquarius Diet Challengers

Welcome to our Aquarius Diet Challenge! Three brave readers have signed up for three months of intensive exercise and strict nutrition in a bid to slim down, tone up and lose more kilos than the other competitors.

1 Sep 2013 | 12:52 pm
  • Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 1 of 4
  • Sasha Taktikou.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 2 of 4
  • Simy Matthew.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 3 of 4
  • Helen Lyons.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 4 of 4

Helen Lyons, 39, is a full-time mother-of-one from the UK

BMI: 43.6
Body fat: 53.5 per cent   
Height: 163cm

On weight loss “While I’ve always been curvy, it wasn’t until about two years ago that I began to seriously gain weight. Right now I’m the biggest I’ve ever been and my confidence has really suffered as I feel people just see the fat person, before they get to know me.”

On fitness and nutrition “My main problem is a lack of exercise and a poor diet. I don’t eat red meat, only chicken and fish, and I tend to snack on all the wrong things. Rather than eating a piece of fruit, I’ll reach for a biscuit. Likewise, my fitness levels are very poor. Two years ago I was exercising four to five times a week, doing things like kick-boxing, circuits and running, but I have let it slip due to emotional eating, stress and getting stuck in a rut.”

On motivation “The worst thing for me about being overweight is that I feel as though I’m being held back from participating in activities with my son. Basically, I don’t want him to have a fat mummy. I admire people like Dawn French and Pauline Quirke, who have lost huge amounts of weight. I look at them and think it’s possible for me too!”

On the Diet Challenge “I’m really excited about taking part in the Diet Challenge because I think seeing my vital stats on the page will be a big wake-up call for me. Ultimately I want to become healthier, learn new eating habits, gain knowledge of nutrition and engage in some new types of exercise. Moreover, it would be great to enjoy beaches, swimming pools and all the outdoor experiences Dubai has to offer without being held back by weight.”

As part of Helen’s plan at Balance Well-being 360°, she will have a customised diet-delivery service based on Ayuvedic principles. She will also take part in regular weight loss yoga classes, have weight loss therapy massages and meet with a slimming expert once a week. Visit

Simy Matthew, 39, is a quality manager and mother-of-two from India

Weight: 97.1kg  
BMI: 34.4
Body fat: 44.2 per cent 
Height: 168cm

On weight loss “I have been overweight all my life and at my smallest I was a size

On fitness and nutrition “I really want to feel healthier and while I have always struggled to maintain a regular exercise regime, I feel this is the incentive I need to get fit and healthy once and for all.”

On motivation “In 2008 I had a bit of a wake-up call after developing diabetes following an ectopic pregnancy. While it began as gestational diabetes, it didn’t go away after the pregnancy ended and since then I haven’t been able to get rid of it. I’ve been having treatment, but I know the only way to come off the medication for good is to get my weight under control. My doctor has advised me to lose around 20kg for the good of my health.”

On the Diet Challenge “Taking part in the Diet Challenge is both exciting and scary. I really want to be motivated to be healthy and my goal is to get down to a size 14. If I can tick that box I’m going to go out and buy myself a designer dress! The other big thing is that my brother is getting married at the end of November and I’d really like to look lovely for his big day.”

Simy will be embarking on an intensive three-month CrossFit training and nutrition plan at Burn Room in Al Quoz. Visit

Sasha Taktikou, 38, is a freelance lawyer and mother-of-two from Greece

Weight: 72kg   
BMI: 27.9
Body fat: 34.4 per cent   
Height: 160cm

On weight loss “I’m naturally petite, and when I moved to Dubai in 2007 I weighed 50kg. I got married the following year and three months after the wedding I discovered I was pregnant. With marriage and babies to consider, I put fitness and healthy eating on the back-burner, and as a result my weight has crept up over the years and I now weigh 72kg.

On fitness and nutrition “I don’t feel motivated to go to the gym, which comes down to a lack of confidence. I also struggle with portion control and sticking to the right foods. I eat quite healthily, enjoying fresh salads and fruits, but I also
like fried foods, wine, chocolate and pasta.”

On motivation “I have a vision board with photos of me before the weight gain. I use it to visualise how I would like to be again. I have a close friend who is very inspiring. She is very energetic and always tries to convince me to join her exercise classes, but at the same time never makes me feel bad about me not joining in. She is my inspiration.”

On the Diet Challenge “My ideal weight would be 53kg, and I’m really looking forward to having the push I need to get me started. It would make my year if I could go to the beach with my family, have the stamina to play all day on the sand with my two daughters, and not face confidence issues about how I look in my bikini.”

Sasha will be attending group exercise classes three times a week at Fitness First in Knowledge Village, combined with expert nutritional advice and weekly personal training sessions. Visit