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Indian chef loses weight for a Navy career

While the New Year brings up many health-related resolutions, for a Hamilton (NZ) chef fond of unhealthy food, the fitness regime started a few months earlier, with his selection in the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Thirty-seven year old Ordinary Chef Sharfuddin Shaik credits his weight-loss to the five-week long training at Auckland’s Devonport Naval Base of RNZN which started in August.

The former chef at a restaurant bar in Hamilton admits to leading an unhealthy lifestyle. “I was a chef with bad eating habits,” Sharfuddin says. “A lot of deep-fried, greasy food.”

All that changed when he had passed the RNZN’s physical tests, but he had to overcome one more barrier – getting fit and losing weight.

After a rigerous training and strict Navy diet, he had lost nine kilograms and was very happy about it.

“My weight bothered me,” he says, as he looks forward to his training to be a chef in the RNZN. “In civilian life I was 82 to 84 kilograms. I would check it, and I knew what my body mass index (BMI) ideal should be. Now I’m 75kg. It makes me feel younger.”

He credits the physical training required of Basic Common Trainees, with 5km runs and swimming every second day, as well as the cross-country runs, physical evaluations, and marching.

“And it’s eating healthy food every day.”

His extra weight and the unaccustomed rigors caused him initial problems early in his training, with knee pain and minor injuries. But as he lost weight and got fitter, those issues faded.

“No pain, no gain,” he said.

He had always wanted to join the navy and when living in India applied to join that country’s navy. He had been watching documentaries of the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan and was interested in the Indian Navy’s role.

“I applied when I was 21 but I failed my exams,” he said. “Twenty-one is also the upper age limit for applications in India.”

He came to New Zealand in 2007 and gained his citizenship in 2013 NZN chefs.

“I saw that there was no upper age limit – you just needed to pass the fitness and aptitude tests. So I applied in 2016, the processing took a year, and then I was here.”

He said his wife had been very encouraging about his move to the RNZN.

“In the first two weeks, everyone got homesick, but you bond as the days go by,” he said.

He is aware he is older than a lot of his classmates, and he knows if the weight goes back on, he won’t keep up.

“I’m very careful now and my fitness is comparable to the others. I want to stay at this level all the time.”

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