01 March 2015 Last updated


Life Challenge Week 1: Inga Stevens

Challenger Inga Stevens on her main goals and kicking off the challenge

Aquarius magazine
8 Mar 2012 | 12:12 pm
  • "I need to change the way I am living my life as, honestly speaking, it doesn’t seem to be working for me anymore."

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM

Age: 31
Nationality: English/Finnish

My overall aim is to… Achieve health, wealth and happiness, as well as the motivation to change a lifetime of bad habits.
The area of The Life Challenge I’m most looking forward to is… The life coaching. Losing weight, getting fit and quitting smoking are all up there, but I really want to use the life coaching to focus my life and determine what’s most important to me.
The most difficult part of The Life Challenge for me will be… The six-day-a-week exercise programme that I am determined to follow. Ideally I would like less gain with minimum pain but I have a feeling it is not going to be as simple as that.

Day 1 of the Aquarius Life Challenge is looming and I can feel my palms starting to sweat. After four weeks patting myself on the back and musing about my good fortune for having made it in to this kick-ass life-changing extravaganza, as I write my first blog entry, I officially have 20 hours till my life will start to change. And I can't believe how terrified I am! It could be the 72 hours of exercise I have determinedly committed myself to over the next two months, or the horrifying BMI score of 27 that needs to be zapped down to 20, or even the 15 hours of life coaching that they say is the key to altering me from a lack-luster 'effect' type of gall to a go-getter 'cause' type of chick. Anyway, what it is that is scaring me doesn’t matter… I need to change the way I am living my life as, honestly speaking, it doesn’t seem to be working for me anymore.

Before we begin, I'd like to say a few words to the experts who have kindly agreed to take me on as 'their' personal challenge:

To my Personal Trainer at Fitness First - I haven't met you in person yet but if I ever say I hate you I really mean I love you!

To my lovely nutritionist Lily from Dubai Herbal & Treatment Center - my new mantra is 'No raw food after 4pm!'

To my life coach Patricia from Evolutionary Coaching - The organisation freak in me is uber excited about seeing the cool flip chart in your office that will help put my life on track!

Wish me luck! 

Week one, day two

A healthy heart

I write about healthcare as part of my job. I research the latest studies, I interview health experts, and I even write opinion pieces about how your health is paramount to a long and happy life. Yet, ironically, somewhere along the line, I’ve completely forgotten to take heed of my own advice. 

This morning I found an interesting study on how lifestyle choices made in your 20s can significantly impact your heart health in your 40s. This is a particularly poignant message in light of the news of the passing of a colleague. He was in his early 40s, seemingly healthy, yet he unexpectedly died of a heart attack this morning. While my thoughts are with his family and friends, I can’t help but feel that this is a wake-up call for all of us out there who take our health for granted. And I am particularly pointing the finger at myself when I say this. Not only do I have a family history of cardiac disease (as well as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol!) but the sedentary, hedonistic lifestyle so synonymic with living in Dubai, does nothing for my prospects of living a long and healthy life. 

The Aquarius Life Challenge was an unexpected lifesaver. Today, more than ever, I am sure of that. I am pleased with how my personal challenge has started off despite my nerves getting the better of me a few days ago. Following Lily’s 7-day meal plan hasn’t been as impossible as I thought. Juggling a 10-hour working day with healthy home-cooked food as never been my strong point, but Lily’s top tips of freezing meals, using Tupperware containers to give all the ingredients a home and careful planning has worked well so far. The one thing I have learnt from the nutrition side of the Life Challenge so far is not to be afraid of the word ‘organic’ and that nuts and seeds are not only snacks found on top of bar counters! 

Breakfast was a banana with organic soya yoghurt and lunch a homemade tuna salad with beetroot (my fave!). After this evening’s gym session with my PT Ahmed, I have a yummy veg soup waiting to be enjoyed at home. I just need to remember to stop drinking water with my meals. Apparently it dilutes your stomach acid which slows down your digestion. I need every little help I can get! 

Week one, day three

Pumped for PT

My personal trainer Ahmed from Fitness First is a darling. Walking into the gym for our first session was nerve-wracking to say the least but, after a 20 minute pep talk, I really think he gets me. My goals are weight loss, muscle strength and heart health, and I am super pumped that Ahmed reckons I can do it. 10kgs in eight weeks, he tells me. Three PT sessions a week, plus two extra days on my own. The smile on my face depicts confidence but the raised eyebrows betray my inherent doubt. Can I really do it?? Here goes nothing! 

Week one, day four

Food glorious food

I can’t stop thinking about food. Not about take-outs or carb fests, but about how delicious my lentil salad was this afternoon and how I don’t feel hungry all the time like I feared I would. This really is a revelation for me. I have stopped thinking about healthy eating as a diet and have finally begun to understand that this really could be a lifestyle choice for me. The problem is it is only 11am and I have already eaten my lunch. Ask me again in 3 hours how I truly feel …. 

Week one, day five

Psycho babble

Tomorrow’s life coaching session is playing on my mind. What if I just don’t get it? What if I can’t open up to Patricia? What if I start giggling nervously? My outward persona depicts a strong, self assured woman, but if I actually stop and listen to my internal dialogue I’m really rather a wuss.

Rather than freaking myself out with my internal babble, I am going to listen to someone who seemed to have it all figured out. Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” I can and I will. True that!

Week one, day six

Celebrating women

Tomorrow is International Women’s Day. Reading over my fellow challengers’ blogs, it is heartening to read about their journey through their own personal challenges. Having the opportunity to write this blog is not only therapeutic, but also a wonderful forum to highlight some of the issues women all over the world face on a daily basis.

An issue particularly close to my heart is the screening and prevention of cervical cancer. While there is no accurate data on the prevalence of cervical cancer in the Gulf region, research indicates that cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women (after breast cancer) in most of the countries in the region.


In the last four years I have been on an emotional rollercoaster with this disease. Smear test after smear test, going from negative results to high readings for abnormal cells in the space of less than a year, surgery, recovery, only to go back to the waiting game all over again. It’s stressful, terrifying and an ordeal I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

This disease does not discriminate between shape, size, religion, nationality or status. But the silver lining is that regular screening can give us a chance to avoid it altogether. Doctors advise having a Pap smear every one to three years. If you are sexually active, or over the age of 25, and you haven’t yet been screened before, do yourself a favour and book an appointment right away. It’s painless and it could save your life.

Week one, day seven: Taking note

Waking up this morning I reach out to my bedside table for my notebook. The learnings from yesterday’s life coaching session with Patricia have been whirling around in my mind all night and I need to jot down my thoughts before they get all mixed up again with the mundane routine of the daily grind. Patricia says writing things down helps clarify your thoughts and I vow to keep track of what I am feeling over the next two months.

Dear Diary….

How the heck did I turn out such a control freak? I mean, I need to take a seriously large chill pill if I am going to make it through the next 50 years of my life with all my marbles intact. Being on time to meet your friend for dinner is admirable, but you don’t need to mow down ten pedestrians to get there on time. Patricia asked me to visualize the end goal to all of this, a place where I will feel happy, loved, confident and at peace. All I could think was “Patricia’s flip chart is amazing, perhaps she would let me borrow it as I reckon a spider-diagram of my life is exactly what I need to allow myself to reach my goals.” There it is again, the word ‘allow’. Everything I do in my life seems to be under the pretext of allowing, or not allowing, myself to do, or feel, something. I have very cunningly managed to trap myself inside a self-imposed cell of negative emotions and self-doubt, and I’m starting to realise that I am the one who has had the key to the lock all along. It’s about time I learnt to just go with the flow…

Aquarius magazine

Aquarius magazine

Leave a comment

Tell us what you think by clicking on the comments box below.

Post Comment