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The Dubai personal trainer who eats cheesecake for breakfast

Words by Rob Chilton

Man mountain Amir Siddiqui is the founder of Dubai’s Symmetry Gym and claims to be the most expensive PT in the city with his latest package priced at AED 36,000 for 28 days

He spoke to EDGAR about happiness, depression and his staggering food intake.

"People often say ‘abs aren’t made in the gym, they’re made in the kitchen.’ I think the opposite is true. I’ve never met someone with a perfect six-pack who doesn’t go to the gym. Imagine twin brothers, one works in an office and one is a labourer but they eat the exact same diet. Who’s going to look better?"

"Exercise is like brushing your teeth: you need to do it every day. After the age of 35 you need to move every day to slow down ageing. Thanks to modernity we’ve intentionally engineered movement out of our lives, that’s the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Our day has become completely mental and that causes metabolism problems and mass depression."

Amir Siddiqui trains a client

"We can’t survive without food, we need it to function. But everything in our lives is coupled with food – we have dinner together, we meet for coffee, we are eating and thinking about food all the time because it gives us pleasure. People are trying to get that dopamine hit and food provides the perfect outlet – it’s a free sin."

"The main thing people are getting wrong about food is that we want to make it pleasurable. We live in a world where food is made by corporations to be hyper-palatable so that we’re constantly craving it: the more we have, the more we want. These corporations are manipulating us and using our human nature against us."

Siddiqui has an unconventional eating plan

"I eat very bland food without sugar or salt for five days during the week. Typically it’s a bowl of oats and egg whites for breakfast, rice and tuna, potatoes and chicken. But at the weekend that changes. On a typical Friday I’ll start with a 5,000 calorie cheesecake for example. Then I’ll have breakfast, which is a dozen eggs, a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jam, half a pack of butter and cupcakes. Lunch is maybe Shake Shack, at least three burgers, a couple of hot dogs and a milkshake. Dinner is Indian food, a ton of naan breads and meat curries. I do the same on Saturday so it adds up to about 20,000 calories per day. It’s totally doable because I’ve created a deficit during the week and I just have so much room and space. I’m not force-feeding. The reason I do this at the weekend is because everyone wants to chill and relax and I like to follow social and cultural order rather than resist it."

"I don’t recommend this eating plan to my clients. It can cause a massive depressive food disorder because it causes a fluctuation; hunger causes anger and I don’t want my clients to get 'hangry'. We’re used to eating till we’re full. If I tell someone they can’t eat till they’re full, they panic. People in Dubai and most first-world cities literally don’t understand hunger and have no idea how to cope with it. Even if they feel mildly peckish they go for a cookie or a Snickers, we don’t restrict ourselves – it’s a side effect of modernisation."

"I don’t really get happy or sad. I’m 40 now and my goal is to be interesting. Happiness is a temporary state like sadness but people want it all the time. That’s why there’s a huge increase in Prozac usage and depression. People believe they must be happy 24/7 and that’s just not normal. I try to avoid sadness but nothing really makes me feel particularly joyous either. Above all, I’m curious. I find everything interesting and that’s why I keep going."

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