DEARBORN, Mich. - The before and after shots of many since the pandemic began may not be the prettiest. People likely had more sedentary lifestyles when their jobs kept them at home while public health officials urged us to avoid gatherings.
But that's not the case for Sam Ali. The Dearborn man had other plans on his mind.
"I don’t even recognize this person. I mean, the size of the head on him - I looked ill," said Ali.
Ali's weight loss journey started last year with a Covid infection and an additional 110 pounds. He has a photo of himself on his phone he says looks nothing like how he does now.
"At that time I was 420 pounds, I felt like I was dying," he said. "I couldn’t move, I had arthritis in my knees, I limped everywhere I went and I was determined that if I beat Covid, I was going to change my lifestyle."
If he could overcome the pandemic, Ali told himself he was going to commit to a healthier life. Since then, it's been trips to the gym five days a week. In his eyes, "it's probably one of the biggest accomplishments of my life."
Once recovering, he walked into the gym and started weightlifting, doing burpees, and leg lifts - workouts that now feel second nature.
"I didn’t think I could do this. Now, I know I can do anything," said Ali.
"Everything is different for me now. I almost don’t have to shop at a big and tall store anymore. I’m on their last size and I move better, I sleep better, I live better," he said.
Public health has been a trendy topic for many these past several months. Not just because of COVID-19, but all the comorbidities and negative components that unhealthy lifestyles can contribute to a worse health outcome.
The pandemic renewed a focus on the importance of everything from washing hands and eating healthy, to exercising and breathing cleaner air. For Ali, the traumatic 16 months of the pandemic produced a healthier person and an example for his kids, he says.
He's also become an inspiration for his coach.
"It’s a great feeling knowing that we’ve gained that confidence in Sam and I know it can be easily replicated into a lot of other individuals as well," said Ali Sayed, the founder of Hype Athletics, where Ali works out.
His friends are also proud of him.
"It’s actually exciting to watch what he’s gone through and to be next to him through the process," said his friend Mikey Nasser. "It's great, it’s motivation."
"I think just the camaraderie of everybody coming together really creates an excellent environment for the mental aspect," said Sam Jawad.