Back To The Future

Karen-Michaela Tan speaks to a woman whose slipped discs prompted a lifestyle revolution.

March 14, 12:00 AM

Nurhayati Mohd Fadzil’s work life was the epitome of sedentary. The 40-year-old executive would get into office and remain pretty much immobile throughout the day, opting to eat alone at her desk instead of going out for lunch. Six years of this lifestyle came with a crippling price tag, when Nur woke one morning in excruciating pain, unable to leave her bed. 
Before
“My spine problems began with back pain, which I thought was normal, considering my lifestyle. So as most people would do, I went for massages to alleviate the discomfort, but I progressed to punching myself in the back to alleviate the pain. I suffered through one year of pain before that morning in 2016 when I woke from sleep to find that I could not even turn. I couldn’t move my right leg, which I later learnt was caused by a pinched nerve. When I could finally move, I went to hospital and was told that I had a slipped disc at my L4 and L5. I was confined to a wheelchair, and needed help with everything I did. The doctors pushed for surgery, but I was not convinced,” recalls the Corporate Communications practitioner. 
Nur began joining online groups whose members had experienced slipped discs, and found out that only one percent of all those she spoke to had elected to undergo surgery. Among that small number, there were even fewer who had positive things to say about surgery. An American group then turned Nur towards homeopathy, specifically the use of turmeric as a reparative tonic. In the three months that she was away from work on medical leave, Nur dosed herself with turmeric soup, adding the root into coffee, and everything she ate and drank. 
She was to have undergone physiotherapy during that time, but the initial sessions caused so much pain that she stopped. “I knew that I needed to strengthen my inner core muscles in order to help take the load off my spine, so when I was better after enforced rest, I went online again, looking for a personal trainer to help me,” said Nur. At that time the 163 cm-tall Nur weighed 69 kg. 
“I needed a personal trainer who would do house calls, but the ones I tried out did not give me the conviction that they would have been able to help me. I went back online and found Fendi. He studied my condition, and came back to tell me about the things I could and could not do as part of my exercise regiment. He did not just give me general advice. He really looked into my condition, assessed me physically, and gave me his opinion,” the bubbly Nur recalls. 
Fendi Noh had been interviewed by Cosmetic Surgery & Beauty a few years ago, for these very same pages. At that time he had overcome a lifetime of obesity and had pledged to help others overhaul their lives. Now speaking as a qualified personal trainer, Fendi says, “Nur is my first client with a slipped disc problem. Most personal trainers would turn down clients like these because they fear complications, or making the condition worse. But Nur looked very healthy. So I read up on the condition and designed an exercise programme centered on stretching and bodyweight workouts, focusing on the abs, thighs, hamstrings and triceps.” He charged RM4,000 for 36 sessions, including diet coaching and lifestyle modification assistance. Nur has already undergone over 20 sessions.
“My body changed drastically within the first few weeks,” marvels Nur. “She was impatient. She saw the changes, but her mindset needed more work. Good bodies are built with the mind,” contests Fendi. 
Trusting that Fendi knew what she should or should not be doing, Nur gave her all to her workouts. “The doctor told me weight loss would help my back, and he said even a three kg loss would be something, but dieting did not help. I had always wanted to lose weight, but my work schedule did not permit it,” Nur antagonized. “That was because she approached it in the wrong way. To lose weight effectively, one needs to build strength. When a body becomes stronger, things begin falling into place. My programme for Nur was fat loss, not weight loss,” Fendi affirms. Nur has since dropped from a tight Large to a Medium in clothing size. 
The two began a cheerful friendship outside workout times. “In the gym I am not her friend. Outside of the gym, we can joke. Nur always wants to tell me her weight, and is always excited when she experiences weight loss, but I tell her not to let numbers rule her life,” says Fendi. “I experienced weight loss after a month of training with Fendi, along with following his diet plan. This new lifestyle took time for me to accept. I knew the weight was a big factor to getting better, so when I started dropping weight, I knew I had to stick with it. The one thing I was amazed about Fendi’s coaching was that I did not experience any pain. He never allowed me to strain, and he watched me constantly. The instant he saw me straining, he would tell me to stop what I was doing. I could feel my body change under his programme, to the point that if I don’t workout, I feel the pain in my back returning,” says Nur, who dropped from 69 kg to 60 kg in 20 over sessions, working out three times a week. “I really expected a ‘no pain, no gain’ scenario, but with Fendi’s guidance, my weight loss has been about consistency, and not just dropping weight fast.”
Food and proper eating habits are cornerstones for any weight loss programme. Nur is fortunate enough to love vegetables, coming from a family where her mother serves a salad at every meal. Hence eating vegetables is not difficult. However, the challenge Fendi had was his client’s aversion to rice. “She wouldn’t eat rice,” bemoaned the muscular trainer. “In the end we compromised by my eating more multigrain bread,” laughed Nur. 
“I’m not a binge eater. In fact, my sister calls me a boring eater. I loved chocolate though, and ice cream. I was also addicted to Maggie noodles. My sedentary life triggered my snacking habit. I could eat a whole bag of snacks at my desk, munching through the entire day. I eat nuts now, when I feel the urge to snack. I have chocolate once in a blue moon, but I cannot eat anything on impulse now, because I have to report to Fendi. Before I used to have nasi lemak and curry puffs for breakfast. And I loved kuih Melayu, all kinds. Lunch would be potatoes, various dishes and fried chicken from the nearest vendor. I work next to KLCC, and in one year I had only been out to eat about five times. Dinner would be something I popped into the oven, like pizza, or bread, or pasta with lots of cheese. Now I try to have oats for breakfast, with lunch being grilled chicken, and veggies like broccoli. I carry on snacking on carrot sticks, as I did before. I tend to eat very light dinners, but Fendi is insisting I eat more after working out,” outlines Nur. She also keeps with her meal plan even when on holiday because she knows it’s not worth giving in to temptation, especially since she has to ‘confess’ to her personal trainer. 
As far as long-term goals are concerned, Nur is hoping to reach 55 kg. Fendi will not be pushed into committing to a number. “The condition of her body will tell me if she has reached her peak. She’s ambitious, so it is my duty to control that drive. I have her optimum body in mind: lean and toned, but with curves, and flat abs. I want her to be able to look 35 when she reaches 45.”
Nur and Fendi train at Powerwork Fitness at PV128, Level 4, Jalan Genting Klang, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03 4131 5551. Fb.com/powerworkfitness.
For personal training enquiries, please contact Fendi Noh  at  012 650 0566.