As first seen on The Bloq.
I first met Mishari “Ray” Abusayyes in the audience of an Inside Quest taping, the weekly thought-leadership YouTube show that’s all about taking control of your life. Ray’s transformation tale is actually an immigrant story: He moved across the world to start a new life and built himself a stronger identity in the process. I never would have believed he was twice the size a few years beforehand, so meeting him at this show in particular was rather fitting.
Ray is the first of his Saudi Arabian family to move to America. Like thousands each day, Ray came for an education and a future full of new opportunity. Even though he moved to the U.S. Northwest to study business, he got a crash course in health and nutrition along the way.
“Back home in Saudi Arabia, people don’t associate heavy weight with being unhealthy. The more you eat, the better!” Ray said, illustrating one of the biggest cultural differences between his old home and new. When Ray moved to the U.S. at age 19, he weighed almost 240 pounds.
“When I was younger, I grew up in the capital of Saudi Arabia. I was already a little chubby, then for dad’s work, we had to move to a smaller city, right in the middle of the transition between middle school and high school” he said. “I started playing a lot of video games. I was getting obsessed with the Internet. I even taught myself English on there. But it wasn’t a healthy lifestyle.”
Ray first came to America for his freshman year of college. With our radically alternative cultural outlook toward physical fitness and body image, Ray was quick to experience some unfamiliar social judgment, as well. “It happened early on,” he said. “We were all out at a college party when someone made a comment on my weight. Something hurtful. I’d never heard something like that before … and I told myself I never would again.”
Americans’ annual “New Year’s resolutions” were a whole new concept, too. He was inspired (in assuming that everyone else actually stuck to them)! Perfect timing, as Ray was determined to make a change, not just for himself but for his family. “I signed up at a local gym in January 2010, and I committed to achieving my goal and dream of becoming fit and healthy,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to show my family that I appreciated the sacrifices that they’ve made for me and that I took nothing for granted. They provided me the opportunity to grow and learn, so I wanted to show them I could develop myself intellectually and physically.”
Ray’s transformation came in a series of steps. Though he didn’t start with the deep understanding of nutrition and fitness he has now, it was obvious enough that such a massive change was undertaken in smaller increments. “I wanted to lose 20 pounds by winter quarter, then 20 by the next, and so on and so on,” he said.
Common sense told him to lay off the heavy eating and just do cardio all the time. Seventy pounds later, he was clearly on the right track. But it’s easy to see that Ray didn’t carve out his current physique from haphazard meals and just running around all day. “I transferred to Seattle University at age 20, and that’s when I met Matt, an IFBB competitor … and my first physical trainer!” Ray said.
I could tell that’s when it really clicked for Ray. I could hear his heartbeat elevating over the phone. He was absolutely ecstatic to share with me his relatively newfound understanding of the difference between complex and simple carbs. “Once my nutrition kicked in, everything got better,” he said. “My life completely changed! By manipulating certain macros, I learned how to achieve a certain physique. Quest Bars kept me sane when I was cutting, too. I’d be going back and forth between white chocolate raspberry and cookies & cream flavors. And I LOVE the protein powder!
“What’s so great about all of it is that you can control the outcome of yours goals through your daily decisions and actions. It’s a process that requires time and patience. I became creative with the food that I ate, making sure that it was all healthy and it tasted great.
“I prep snacks for the go because I’m usually at college and my classes go three to four hours at a time. Quest Nutrition’s Protein Powder and Quest Bars helped fuel me during the times that I couldn’t get a proper meal in. It all made a huge difference. Things were so much easier because I enjoyed what I was eating.”
Despite revamping his lifestyle on the other side of the world, the long distance from home doesn’t seem to have hindered Ray at all. “Being far away from family made it so much cooler,” he said. “People were amazed when I went home, which is awesome because I want my story to inspire people. After all, I’ve got people in my new home inspiring me on a daily basis.”
“If I don’t go to the gym six days weekly, I just feel weird,” he said. “I’m obsessed with physical transformation.” Now that the fitness bug has bitten him, Ray is completely hooked. He’s been prepping four hard years for his debut physique competition, but unfortunately, it seems to be a little farther down the road than he initially expected. “I haven’t benched in five months. A while ago, I separated my shoulder during overhead presses. I’ll see the doctor in a week for another MRI, and I think I’ll need surgery,” he said.
The bum shoulder hasn’t slowed Ray down, though. He’s made some serious headway on his legs and has turned the transformation focus inward, currently in school for his MBA with a 3.9 GPA and on the dean’s list. By the end of our talk, it now became abundantly clear why he’d come all the way down from Seattle to attend an Inside Quest taping. Ray has acknowledged his former barriers and is knocking them down, one at a time.
“I was extremely fortunate to have the people in my life who recognized my work ethic and drive. I’ve met a lot of great people who educated me about nutrition and weight loss,” Ray said. “It’s awesome when you look back and acknowledge all the hard work that you’ve put into something like that. Especially when it comes to your own body, it’s your house and you’ll only live in it once.”