Tips and Tricks for Dining Out

Eating out shouldn’t be considered as an excuse to sabotage your whole diet, especially if you eat out regularly. Eating out can still be a fun experience filled with delicious, but healthier, choices. Here are some tips and tricks for staying healthy at the restaurant:

 

Have the right mindset

Take some time to prepare before going out to eat. The first thing you want to do it’s create the right mindset. Don’t think of it as one big ‘cheat night.’ I like to allow myself a small treat every day, rather than dedicating a whole meal or day to binging. Surly you can enjoy yourself, but instead of choosing to most unhealthy meal you can think of, choose a balanced meal that is still healthy, but can also be considered a treat.

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Plan ahead

Choose your restaurant ahead of time. Most restaurants have their menus available online. Check it out and make your decision before you even get there. This way, you don’t have to look through the menu while you’re hungry and ready to eat. Not only telling yourself you will make a smart choice, but committing to a meal before you get to the restaurant will make you more likely to stick to that goal.

 

Don’t starve all day

Many people make the dire mistake of skipping meals before a night out to eat. They think they can make up for missed times. Skipping meals will only make you hungrier and more inclined to crave the fattier options. Think about it; you’re starving and you’ve been waiting for a good 30 minutes for your food to come out…would you be excited for a grilled chicken salad? Not so much. Eat like you normally would any other day. Try to plan it out so that your last meal is a light snack about 2-3 hours before going to the restaurant.

 

Control portions

Make sure to control your portions, especially if you decide to treat yourself with your meal. Here are a few tips for portion control at a restaurant:

  • Order from the kids menu if they have one
  • Split a meal with a friend
  • Turn an appetizer into a meal with a side salad
  • Ask the waiter/waitress for a to-go container so you can put half of your plate out of sight to take home
  • Ask the waiter/waitress not to bring bread to the table

 

Substitute

Make substitutions when necessary. If you’re going to treat yourself to a cheeseburger, you probably don’t need the fries on the side. Order a side of salad or veggies instead and order a vinaigrette dressing, or oil and vinegar, over creamy salad dressings.

 

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Dessert?

The most important question, should I have dessert? If are out to dinner for a special occasion, and you don’t do it often, I say go for it…only if you have room for it of course! If you ordered a healthy meal and were good with your portion sizes, a little piece of dessert on a special occasion is perfectly fine. Be sure to split it with at least one other person. On the other hand, if you tend to eat out often, and/or you decided to treat yourself with your main meal (maybe you ordered a cheese burger or a creamy pasta dish), then I would say skip the dessert for the night.

 

Remember that healthy eating is all about balance. Going out and treating yourself to a delicious dinner is fine,  just find your balance by choosing a meal that is well-balanced (meaning it contains protein, carbs and fats), watching your portion sizes, and substitute with healthier options when you need to.

 

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Sticking to Your New Years Goals Part 2: “I want to cut back on sugar.”

If you’re looking to cut back sugar this year, then you are on the right track. Excess sugar, particularly added sugars, can not only lead to weight gain but also diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay. In fact, even if you are thin and eating reasonably, you may still be consuming too much added sugars without even knowing it, which can harm your health regardless of being at a healthy weight.

Before we get started on how to cut back our sugar intake, let’s make a distinction between added sugars and natural sugars. Natural sugars are found in healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. These foods are healthy and contain water, fiber and various nutrients. Added sugars, on the other hand, are those that are added to foods; foods which typically have little nutritional value.

Thus, in order to lose weight and optimize health you should do your best to avoid foods with added sugars. However, some sugar in your diet is unavoidable. According to the American Heart Association, men should get about 150 daily calories from sugar (9 teaspoons), and women should get about 100 daily calories from sugar (6 teaspoons).

Here are some ways to start reducing sugar:

1. Don’t add it to foods

The easiest way to cut back on sugar is to simply not add it. The biggest targets for adding sugar is cereal, coffee and tea. Instead, try to substitute with natural sugar substitutes. Use things like organic honey, agave or stevia in the raw.

2. Eliminate fruit juices and soda

Juices and sodas can seem harmless, but they contain tons of added sugars that benefit you in no way. While a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice may be OK once in a while, for the most part you want to eliminate soda and fruit juices. If plain water isn’t your thing, buy some all natural crystal light packets, or add some fresh fruit or even vegetables and herbs like cucumbers and basil, to your water to add a fresh flavor.

3. Limit fruits

While fruits contain fiber and good nutrients, they also contain quite a bit of sugar. Therefore, fruit should not be eliminated from the diet but rather limited to 1-2 servings per day. Go for lower-glycemic choices like grapefruit, apples and berries.

4. Read food labels

If you want to reduce sugar consumption, a good place to start is by knowing where all that sugar is hiding in the first place. Start reading food labels and avoid foods that have a lot of added sugars.

You may want to consider tracking your sugar intake for a few weeks. You will start to realize how much sugar you have actually been consuming and where you need to cut back. You will learn which types of foods are better and which should be limited or avoided.

5. Cream over milk

Believe it or not, milk is filled with more sugar than cream. Whole milk has 12 grams of sugar per cup, which is equal to 3 teaspoons of sugar (that’s half of the recommended daily sugar intake for women!).

And don’t be fooled by skim milk. Once all of the healthy animal fat is taken out, skim milk is essentially a sugary water. It may have less fat but it doesn’t have less sugar. Next time your drinking coffee or tea, add cream instead of milk. Unsweetened almond milk is also a good choice but may not give you the sweet taste you are looking for.

6. Contemplate complete avoidance

Some people are great with moderation. Other people have a hard time exercising willpower and can’t stop at just one. If you are one of these people, you may consider completely avoiding sugar altogether.

Sugary foods stimulate the same areas in the brain as drugs do. For this reason, people who would consider themselves ‘sugar addicts’ may lose control upon consumption. Instead of cutting back, consume healthy versions of your favorite sweets. You can use things like cocoa nibs, mashed banana, whole wheat flour, nuts and dark chocolate to make up healthy desserts.

7. Reduce or eliminate processed carbohydrates

Most processed carbs – like white bread, pasta, rice, crackers etc. – are loaded with added sugars and spike blood sugar levels quickly. Complex carbohydrates – things like brown rice, sweet potato, and whole grains – have less sugar content and release a longer lasting energy, so you don’t see that spike in blood sugar. Replacing simple carbohydrates (processed carbs) with complex carbohydrates will help reduce overall sugar intake.

8. Kick out trigger foods

Stay away from foods that will make you lose control! Nutella and ice cream are my triggers and I cannot keep them in the house. 1 tbsp of nutella turns into half of the jar and a bowl of ice cream turns into 4 heaping scoops. Get these foods out of your house and stay away from them at all costs.

9. Cut back slowly 

Unless you are a sugar addict who can’t control themselves, your best bet is to cut back slowly, otherwise, your cravings may worsen. For example, if you can’t imagine life without soda, start by drinking half regular soda and half diet soda. As time goes on increase the diet soda until that’s all your drinking, then start cutting back on that until soda is eventually eliminated from your diet altogether.

If you like your coffee sweet, start by using half of your normal sugar amount and half stevia or truvia. Use the same process with the soda and eventually you may even come to enjoy a sugarless cup of coffee.

In conclusion

While sugar may taste delicious and give you a temporary feeling of pleasure, it’s not worth the health risks. Cutting back on sugar and getting as close to the recommended daily servings as possible is one of the best things you can do for your health.

11 Ways to Stay Healthy All Year Round

It’s that time again; time to get ready for the New Year. Out with the old and in with the new. It’s really a refreshing feeling to be able to reflect on the previous year and look ahead to something new and exciting and different. Write out goals, create a plan, take advantage of a fresh start, begin your journey and start the things you haven’t gotten around to.

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The New Year is not about becoming a new you, rather it’s about becoming a better, healthier version of you. We often get confused by the word health and think it means weight loss or exercise. In reality, health encompasses all aspects of human nature from physical and mental health, to spirituality, to human relationships, even to hygiene. An important New Year’s resolution is to cultivate a well-rounded health plan to help you look and feel your best. Here are 11 ways you can maintain complete health and well-being all year round.

 

Eat right

Commit to healthy eating. Choose real foods over packaged foods, cook with fresh herbs and spices rather than overloading dishes with salt, cut back on sugar, drink more water and shop at your local farmers market whenever you can. Want help getting started? Download my Free E-Book here which includes everything you want to know about healthy eating along with a Free Meal Plan!

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Exercise

That’s right it’s time to get moving. If you’re already into working out, set some goals that will keep you motivated and challenged throughout the year. If you’re new to the game, commit to at least three times per week of any type of workout you enjoy. The fun part is exploring. Try a yoga class, hit the weights, take a fun group fitness class, get together with some friends for a hike and a picnic. Make it enjoyable and you will be more likely to stick to it year round.

 

Sleep well

A good night’s sleep is essential to your health. Sleep is your body’s time to recharge and to build the immune system back to where it should be. Sleep helps ward off fatigue, depression, anxiety and laziness. Turn off your phone, drink a hot cup of sleepy time tea, and devote 8 solid hours of your night to sleep.

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Floss daily

Flossing once a day is extremely important in terms of dental hygiene. Not only does it help with fresh breath, but it removes plaque from the areas between your teeth that your toothbrush doesn’t get. This helps to prevent cavities and gum disease. It doesn’t matter when you floss, as long as you do it daily and do a thorough job you are on your way to having healthy teeth.

 

Skin care

Developing a regular skin care routine will help you to look and feel beautiful and clean. You can even develop a regimen based on your personal skin care needs. Everyone should wash their face twice per day (morning and evening) and should use a minimum of a face wash and moisturizer. Adding serum and toner to your skin care routine will provide added benefits. For oily skin use gentle cleansers as harsh ones that dry out the face can trigger the production of more oil. For dry skin use gentle, fragrance-free washes and use warm rather than hot water. Anti-aging products are great to slow down the appearance of those unwanted lines.

 

Stay hydrated

Water is not just important during the hot summer weather. It’s imperative to stay hydrated all year round. Water acts as a lubricant in the body and helps ease the process of digestion. It also regulates body temperature, removes harmful toxins from the body and transports oxygen and other valuable nutrients throughout the body. Everybody is different and may need different amounts of water, but in general it is recommended to drink about 2 liters of water per day (this is equal to ½ gallon or eight 8-oz glasses).

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Care for your hair

Hair care is crucial not just for keeping it looking nice but to avoid damage to hair that may result in hair loss. So how do you take proper care of your locks? It is recommended to trim dead ends every 6-8 weeks to prevent the look of unhealthy and frizzy hair. Use a shampoo that is designed for your hair type. Brush your hair daily but do it gently by starting with a wide-tooth comb and never brushing while it’s wet. Avoid using a hair dryer, curler or flat iron as much as possible. A healthy diet will also promote healthy hair.

 

Grow spiritually

Don’t just use Ramadan as the one time of the year where you work on your relationship with Allah (swt). As Muslims we should be in a constant state of becoming better, seeking more knowledge, and getting closer to Allah (swt). Set some goals that you can perform all year round, such as reading Qur’an every day, not missing prayers, making dhikr, and memorizing some Qur’an.

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Fix relationships

Relationships and human interaction are an important part of our health. Use this year to work on those relationships. Fix broken friendships. Apologize to those who you lost touch with. Visit your relatives, especially those that are old or sick. Develop strong trust and communication within your relationships. Foster new friendships by introducing yourself to new people when you’re out or at social events. Good, healthy relationships play a key role in mental health as well as influencing our actions. Surround yourself with those who you can learn form but who also share some common values and interests.

 

Perform good deeds

There is a reason why zakat is among the five pillars of Islam. Charity and good deeds have been linked to health, happiness and longevity. Not only do good deeds help you grow religiously, but they are beneficial to your health, subhanallah! While zakat refers specifically to payment to the needy, Islam stresses the importance of all types of righteous acts. Performing good deeds all year round is very easy. Visit the sick, volunteer at a local children’s hospital, set up a fundraiser, donate to your favorite charity, adopt a cat that has no home. Let your year be filled with kindness and good acts.

 

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Keep your mental health in check

This is the aspect of health that is often left to the side. With our busy schedules, stressful jobs and heavy responsibilities we forget to tend to our emotional well-being. This coming year, pay attention to how you are feeling. Take some time each day to do something for yourself. Whether it’s lying down for 15 minutes in silence, reading a book with a cozy pair of socks and a hot chocolate, spend some time caring for yourself. Use some relaxation tactics when things are getting stressful, talk to someone you trust when you’re having a tough time. Pay as much attention to your mental state as you do your body.

 

May we all constantly work to become better in each aspect of our lives. May the New Year bring on an abundance of health, happiness and laughter…and many more years to come. Ameen.

7 tips to gain weight the healthy way

The words “fitness,” “health,” and “dieting” are often associated with weight loss, although they do not apply only to those who want to drop pounds. Fitness and health refer to keeping the body and mind in a state where it can function optimally, and dieting is defined simply as the types of foods one eats, whether healthy or not-so-healthy.

Whether one wants to lose weight, gain weight or simply maintain their current state, these goals can all be reached through the fundamentals of a healthy diet and exercise.

 

1. Define your why

The first thing you want is to identify your why. Why do you want/need to gain weight? Some people are naturally thin and want to increase their weight, while others may be recovering from an eating disorder or other disease.

Do you want to put on muscle? Do you want to reach a healthier weight? Are you trying to overcome a bad relationship with food? Defining your reason will give your journey a purpose and thus make it more meaningful.

If you suffer from an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorder, or any other medical condition, you should always consult a professional first. These are tips that are meant to be used as a general guideline.

 

2. Set small and realistic goals

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Setting small and realistic goals can help you to stay on track without overdoing it. Acknowledge each goal you reach by giving yourself a reward.Gaining weight may not be as easy a task as it seems. Just as with weight loss, weight gain can be a  slow process. Take everything step by step and rather than trying to reach one big goal, set small, reachable goals along the way.

Don’t try to go from eating 1200 calories to 2,500 in one day. Increase your calories slowly and overtime you will reach the larger goal.

Setting small and realistic goals can help you to stay on track without overdoing it. Acknowledge each goal you reach by giving yourself a reward.

For example, your goal might be to increase your calorie intake by eating 200 more calories everyday for a week. Once you hit this goal you might ask some friends out to dinner or go shopping and buy yourself the outfit you’ve been wanting. This will help you to stay motivated and keep going.

 

3. Supplementation

I’m not a huge advocate of supplements. Sure there are some out there that are great, and individuals who experience nutritional deficiencies can certainly benefit from supplementation. But in general a healthy individual can usually get what they need from their diet.

However, for individuals who are underweight supplements can be a great tool to start with until you build up your diet. For example, many people who are under-nourished often experience iron, potassium and calcium deficiencies.

I recommend getting a check up from your doctor to identify any nutritional deficiencies, if any. From there decide if you need to take any supplements until those levels get back to normal.

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4. Exercise

To exercise or not to exercise? Depending on your starting weight, you may want to hold off. If your body is quite weak I would suggest starting with a few days a week of exercise. Definitely stay away from any high-intensity cardio as that burns a lot of calories.

I am a huge advocate of yoga as it is low-impact and works on strength, flexibility, relaxation and endurance all at once. Start with some easy beginners yoga workouts. If you’re not a yoga fan then start with some light weight-lifting and/or bodyweight exercises.

Once you’re body starts getting used to the extra calories you may feel your strength is improving as well as your energy-levels, sleep, skin, hair and mental state. Once you get to this point, maybe after about one or two months, you can begin to add to your workouts. Start to do more intense versions of yoga such as ashtanga yoga or power yoga, or begin lifting heavier weights.

Make sure you are still taking it slow and work your way up over time. It’s still a good idea to stay away from high-intensity training or long bouts of cardio.

 

5. Eat frequently

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Eating frequently, about 5-6 meals a day will help ensure you are getting in enough food. There will be times when you don’t feel hungry but want to make sure you are eating enough calories. Eating every 3-4 hours is a great way to not only get all of your calories in but also to get your body used to eating regularly.

Here is a sample meal plan:

  • Breakfast: 2 whole eggs, oatmeal with all natural nut butter, piece of fruit
  • Snack: whole fat Greek yogurt, sprinkle of granola, some berries
  • Lunch: lean beef, sweet potato, side salad
  • Snack: handful of nuts with fruit
  • Dinner: salmon, brown rice, vegetables
  • Snack: glass of milk and a dark chocolate bar

6. Go for full-fat

In weight loss diets you are always hearing about “low-fat” “non-fat” and “sugar-free” options. Remove these words from your vocabulary for the time being and focus on full-fat yogurt, milk and cheese. If you enjoy juice go for the sugary variations rather than the chemically altered, sugar free drinks.

 

7. Healthy but dense foods 

Although you want to nourish and repair your body with healthy foods, you always want to get the best bang for your buck. Choose healthy foods that are rich in calories and pack a lot of protein, carbohydrates and fats into a small amount.

Here are some options:

  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Healthy oil
  • Dried and fresh fruit
  • Starchy vegetables

For a quick and delicious snack make a homemade trail mix by combining some nuts, seeds, coconut flakes and dark chocolate chips.

 

A few last words

Weight gain will take time. The best advice I can give is to go slow and let the process happen with time. Listen to your body and never move onto a bigger goal until you’ve mastered the smaller one.

If you end up gaining a little too much weight, just cut your calories back by about 200 until you get where you want. You can also add in some HIIT training and cardio if too much weight gain occurs.

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7 Principles of Healthful Eating

The key to maintaining a healthy diet is understanding how to eat right in the first place. The diet industry could not be more confusing with its conflicting views, fad diets and continuous altering of information.

In reality, a healthful diet is actually quite simple. Once you know the basics you can alter it to fit your lifestyle and your taste buds. Here are 7 principles of healthful eating.

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Eat Real Food

In general, you want to be sure you are consuming whole, nutritious foods such as in-season fruits and veggies, whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, etc.), whole grain bread/pasta, lean meats, Greek yogurt, hummus, nuts and seeds, all natural nut butters, organic eggs, beans, and water.This is not a definite list but a general idea of good foods to consume.

For the most part try to avoid processed/boxed foods, sodas and other sugary drinks, fast food, fried food, white bread, refined pasta, canned foods, chips, and candy.

The 80/20 rule

While it is important to get the majority of your calories from clean foods, there has to be some room for treats, otherwise you will be miserable and probably won’t last too long on the diet. A general rule of thumb is to eat clean 80% of the time and treat yourself the other 20% of the time. Allow a small treat every day or every other day, or allow for a big treat a few times per week.

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Eat Less Meat

While meat offers a good source of protein, iron and vitamin B12, it also packs a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. For this reason, meat should make up a small majority of your diet. For the most part the baseline of a healthful diet should consist of grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables; think Mediterranean diet. Nuts, beans, and whole grains are all great replacements for meat as they contain a lot of protein with better (or no) fats and a lot of fiber.

Reduce Sodium and Sugar Intake

While both sodium and sugar are essential parts of the human diet, it is safe to say that most people get more than enough. How can we avoid eating too much? First of all, staying away from the boxed foods is a start. These foods typically contain a huge amount of added sodium or sugar, especially if the labels read “low-fat” or “non-fat.”

Try to avoid adding extra salt while cooking; remember that a little bit can go a long way. Use flavorful spices and a lot of fresh herbs to count for a lack of salt.

It is also wise to limit fruit intake to 1-2 servings per day, as many fruits contain a lot of sugar. Instead of reaching for an apple, go for a serving of berries as they are known for their low sugar content.

Wholesome Grains

Replace refined grains such as white bread, white rice, white potato, white pasta with whole grains. Whole grains are foods like steel-cut or rolled oats, brown rice, sweet potato, whole wheat bread/tortilla/pasta, quinoa, couscous, whole grain barley, lentils, etc.

Instead of white toast in the mornings try having some oatmeal and berries with your eggs. Instead of croutons add some quinoa to your salad. Try some brown rice on the side for dinner.

Healthy Fats

245470Many people are confused about fats. Fats are an extremely important energy source for the body and the brain. There are two important things to know about fats.

1) You want to know which fats are good for you. The “bad” fats are saturated and trans fats which are found in foods like dairy, beef products, palm and coconut oil, butter, and fried foods. The “good” fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which are found in foods such as nuts and seeds, nut butters, vegetable oils, oily fish like salmon, avocado, olives, etc.

2) You need to know that fats contain more calories per gram than do carbohydrates and protein. So, although fats are extremely beneficial, you need to ensure you are not over-eating them. I will discuss this next.

Watch Portion Sizes

The easiest, and really only, way to gain extra unwanted weight is by eating too much. While unhealthy foods may be the culprit of various diseases, calories are the one and only culprit of weight gain. No matter what you are eating you need to have an understanding of healthy portion sizes. Does that mean you need to measure everything you eat? Certainly not. Here are some general tips.

  • Women should have about 3-4 oz of meat or a portion of meet the size of your palm
  • Carbohydrates (rice, beans, quiono, etc.) should be between ½-1 cup or a portion the size of one cupped-hand.
  • Because they are so low in calories yet high in nutrients, there is no limit of vegetables. In general about 2 cups, or two cupped-hand sizes is recommended. Shoot for a lot of leafy green vegetables.
  • Have 1 medium sized whole fruit or 1 cup (or size of a cupped-hand) of berries
  • Consume about 1 oz, or a serving the size of your thumb, of nuts/oils.
  • The portion size for nut butters is 1 tbsp per serving.
  • Listen to your body: eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full.

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To sum it up 

The majority of your diet should consist of real, whole foods

Limit processed and junk food but do not completely cut it out. Follow the 80/20 rule.

Try to consume less meat and more beans and whole grains.

Be aware of your salt and sugar intake.

Replace refined grains with wholesome grains.

Pay attention to the type and amount of fats you consume.

Be conscious of portion sizes.

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Lessons from Experience: Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle

My knowledge of health and fitness stems far less from any education or certification than it does from my own personal experience. I will never consider myself a master in this field because I believe that there is always more to discover. However, I have learned quite a bit through my journey. The road to where I am today was long and hard. I started off not knowing a single thing about healthy eating or exercising, and just began learning on my own, step by step. I experienced many falls and discouragements. There were times when I didn’t believe in myself at all. I even fell into some very unhealthy habits in a desperate attempt to look good. But each time I fell I got back up. And these falls have taught me some of the most beautiful lessons.

 

I truly believe that the lessons and the strength one gains through a healthy lifestyle permeate into even the most intricate facets of life to allow for growth in all senses of the word. For this reason, I want to share with you some of the important lessons I’ve learned on my path to a healthy lifestyle.

Lesson 1: Listen to Your Body

 

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Beginning a healthy lifestyle is really a decision to respect your inner body. It’s about a desire to feel good, to age well, to set an example. We should always take the greatest care in paying attention to what our bodies are telling us. Whether you get injured, or are feeling discomfort in a certain area, take the time you need to recover. Don’t ever force your body into something that doesn’t feel right. Injuries, pulled muscles, pain and other restrictions are inevitable with regular exercise. Be sure you understand your body and treat it with the respect it deserves.

 

Lesson 2: Practice Consistency

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If you are not consistent with diet and exercise, your results will be inconsistent as well. Fitness is a lifestyle, which means it needs to become a habit in order for us to reap it’s amazing benefits. Coherence to a regular routine of balanced eating and exercising is what will get you feeling your best. Practice a healthy lifestyle everyday to form that habit. Of course you will get off track from time to time, maybe a lot at first, but keep bouncing back and with time you will start to notice the changes to both your inner and outer being.

 

Lesson 3: Find Your Why

 

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A healthy lifestyle is not possible without a why. You need a reason, a motivation to push your body and mind to their limits. What is your why? Try to find a deep-seated incentive, rather than a superficial one. Of course, we all want to look good, but there needs to be something more. If it’s all about looks, trust me, it won’t stick. Maybe you want to be in-shape so you can run around with your children. Maybe you are at an unhealthy weight and you want to become healthy enough to live a longer life. Maybe you want to set an example for your children or your family. Maybe you want to feel more energized and full of life. Whatever your reason, make sure it is unique and important to you.

 

Lesson 4: Be Patient

 

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Patience is a virtue. There is a reason why Allah (swt) puts so much emphasis on sabr. Patience is the key to unlocking opportunities and doors; it is the foundation of a deep-rooted faith. In terms of fitness, the most common reason for giving up is that people don’t see results quickly. There is nothing fast about change; it happens slowly, overtime, with a lot of effort, hard work, persistence, and PATIENCE. The body needs time to adapt and grow, and in listening to our bodies as we’ve already discussed, we need to give it the time it needs. Be patient and don’t give up on yourself.

 

Lesson 5: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

 

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Please, don’t stress out about small things. So you ate a chocolate when you weren’t supposed to. SO WHAT? We all make mistakes and no one can be perfect, no matter how much they might seem so from the outside. A healthy lifestyle is no easy task, and by adding unnecessary stress into the mix it becomes dreadful. Enjoy it, have fun, and don’t sweat the small stuff. Missed a workout? No problem, make it up later in the week or, if you don’t have the time, try to improve yourself the next week. Cheated on your diet? That’s OK it happens, food is delicious! Don’t use it as an excuse to beat yourself up and ruin all of your hard work; simply start fresh with your next meal. Take the edge off and enjoy the ride, no matter how bumpy it may get.

 

Lesson 6: Love Yourself First

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Don’t begin a healthy lifestyle because you hate your body, or you hate something about yourself. Begin a healthy lifestyle because you LOVE yourself so much so that you want to become the best version of yourself that you can be. It’s fine to have ideas of what you want to work on, but counteract those negatives with some positives. Make a list of things you want to change and also a list of things you love about yourself, or things you are good at. You will never treat yourself good if you do not like yourself. Find your beauty and watch yourself blossom.

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Fitness Beyond Looks; Hijab Beyond the Scarf

Up until the hijab went on, my world of fitness wasn’t what it is now. I preached that a healthy body meant more than appearances, but the words never resonated in my heart. I expressed to others the importance of focusing on how they felt, rather than the number on the scale. But here I was stepping on the scale every day to check if the number went down, making myself miserable by following restricting diets, and beating myself up if I didn’t feel like my workouts were ‘good enough.’ I was missing out on the number one piece of advice I was giving everyone else: having fun!

Once I started wearing hijab, not only did my life change, but fitness took on a whole new meaning. When you embrace hijab, you embrace it for reasons far beyond the concept of a hair covering. It becomes your identity, your protection, your safe place. It’s not about hiding behind the loose clothes and long sleeves, rather it’s about letting your personality, intellect and true self shine through. Exercise and nutrition have always been a big part of my life, and hijab has allowed me to grasp its due importance.

I won’t say that looks hold no significance when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Of course, we all want to feel good about ourselves; to look in the mirror and like what we see, and there is no shame in that. But this is just a small part of the fitness equation. First and foremost we need to learn to enjoy the ride. Fitness is truly a lifestyle, so let’s make it a lifestyle that we love! Since I began wearing hijab, which was almost 1 year ago, I’ve stepped on the scale maybe 2 or 3 times. I’ve lost interest in how much I weigh. I focus on how I feel, I focus on doing workouts I love, and I focus on keeping my inner body healthy for the sake of pleasing Allah.

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Most importantly, I can truly say that I love my body. It’s the same body that I had before I covered, it has the same flaws it has always had, but I’ve somehow managed to appreciate even those. I love it because it’s no longer subjected to society’s harsh beauty standards. I no longer allow my body to be seen, thus judged, by anyone other than myself. I no longer base my workouts on how many calories I can burn. I no longer avoid the foods I love in order to look like the women on magazine covers. People can no longer call me too thin, too muscular, or too much of whatever they see. For once, I am my only judge.

I fell in love with Nashata sportswear because their products allow for modesty, but show sportiness at the same time. I feel beautiful and liberated when I put on my modest workout clothes. Many people think covering up makes for more obstacles, or that it forces one to give upon certain aspects of life, like working out. But in fact I’ve found it is quite the opposite. Hijab has renewed the passion within me, the passion to inspire women through my experiences with health and fitness. It has allowed me to dig into my inner self and develop a complete and balanced sense of fitness. I’ve found a spiritual nature to my workouts and I am able to interconnect a healthy lifestyle with my faith. Hijab has allowed me to attach fitness to something higher than myself. I now keep my body healthy for myself and for the sake of Allah, and no one else.