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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15 Ways to Make Exercise Fun and Productive

Working out is no easy task. We get busy, tired, lazy, stressed or simply have other things we would rather be doing. But getting in a good workout is actually the best remedy for all of the above. It gets your blood circulating and heart pumping, it gives you energy, helps you to sleep better at night and can act as a great stress reliever.

The goal with a consistent exercise routine is to knock out all excuses. One of the most common excuses is, “I hate to exercise.” I find that the general population hates to exercise because they don’t really know what exercise is.

Let’s clear up a few key points about exercise before moving on:

  • 60 miserable minutes on the treadmill is not the only form of exercise
  • blood, sweat and tears does not equal exercise
  • you do not need to be in shape to start
  • a gym is a great resource, but is not the only answer
  • a 10 minute workout still counts
  • exercise can be fun!

Here are some exercises that are so fun you don’t even feel like your exercising:

 

1. Short Workouts

Ever tried HIIT training or Tabata? If you’re short on time these workouts are perfect for you…they can be as short as 5 minutes! The trick is to push your body to limits you never thought it could go. Spike your heart rate by quick, short bursts of exercise, and then follow it with a short active rest period. The cool thing about these workouts is you can do so much; sprints, plyometrics, strength training, rowing…just about any form of exercise you can think of can be turned into a HIIT workout.

 

2. Walking/Hiking

You don’t have to be dripping sweat and out of breath for your workout to be considered effective. Go for a brisk morning walk, even grab a coffee on the way, or get together with a group of friends and enjoy a beautiful day on the hiking trail while stopping for a picnic. That doesn’t sound like exercise to me!

 

3. Biking/Rollerblading

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Whether you’re into hardcore biking or just enjoy a leisurely ride, biking or rollerblading can be great exercises. You can enjoy the outdoors on a beautiful day while getting your workout in.

 

4. Yoga

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The great thing about yoga is there are so many different types that you’re bound to find something you like. From beginners to advanced to yoga therapy, yoga for relaxation, yoga for flexibility, strength training, even hot yoga or power yoga where you’ll find yourself wiping the sweat off your mat. Do your research, try a few different styles and decide which one your enjoy most, or even mix it up.

 

5. Group Fitness Classes

Group fitness classes are amazing! Not only do gyms typically have a wide variety of classes to choose from but they provide a great atmosphere of camaraderie and motivation. Typical gyms will offer classes in zumba, aerobics, kickboxing, kettlebells, spin class and more. You might like a mix throughout the week or you may search for a studio that specializes in the type of group class you enjoy.

 

6. Crossfit

A lot of women are afraid of weights. Crossfit is definitely an exercise that will get you over that fear. Learn proper form and push your muscles to their max with squats, deadlifts, weights, pushups and more.

 

7. At-Home Workouts

You may enjoy more solitude while you workout. There are countless DVDs out there ranging from total-body workouts to exercises targeting particular muscle groups, to dance and more. Pop a DVD in while your dinner is in the slow-cooker and you’re good to go!

 

8. Adult Sports Leagues

Were you active back in school? Do you ever miss being part of a team and competing? Join an adult sports league. Choose something you may have never tried like volleyball, softball, tennis or rowing, or kick it old school with something you used to do back in grade school like running, soccer o basketball.

 

9. Races

Races can be a fun way to get your exercise in, and many runs are set up as fundraisers for great charities. Try an adventure run, a color run, or simply run for a charity that you are passionate about.

 

10. Swimming

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Swimming is a low-impact exercise that is great for your heart, muscles and joints. Get in a pool and start swimming some laps, or if you don’t know what to do on your own, try a water aerobics class.

 

11. Get Active

Next time your friend wants to meet for coffee, suggest something active instead. Go for a walk, throw a frisbie, fly a kite, go bowling, or anything else that gets you up and moving.

 

12. Play with the Kids

Don’t just bring your kids to do fun activities to sit and watch. Spend some time with them and engage in those activities. Play tag outside, bring them to the playground, an indoor trampoline park or bring back your childhood games and play with them. Not only is it your exercise but it’s setting a great example for your kids to be fit and active.

 

13. Clean

Don’t feel like working out? Well I’m sure you don’t feel like cleaning either but remember those tedious house tasks that you keep saying you will get to but never do? Skip a day at the gym and instead get some house-cleaning done, especially the tasks that you’ve been putting off for months. You can also make cleaning time Qur’an time. Most of us probably don’t read or listen to Qur’an as much as we should. I like to play it in the house while I’m cleaning to be extra productive and feel good.

 

14. Ditch the Car

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Ditch the car whenever possible. If you work or go to school close by, swap the car for a walk or bike ride. If your gym is close to your house, jog over as your warm-up. Always take the stairs instead of the elevator and choose walking or biking over driving whenever possible.

 

15. Stop Sitting

If you have a desk job it’s a good idea to take a break and get some movement in every hour or so. Studies show that sitting all day can not only lead to back problems but also heightens the risk of heart disease, even if the person is thin and exercises regularly. Take a short, 1 or 2 minute walk around the building, or, if you have a private office or cubicle, you might even throw in some squats, pushups and stretches every hour. You can also use your lunch break to get active. Take a walk or go up and down the stairs a few times.

 

You see, the possibilities for exercise are endless. You don’t have to have a treadmill or a sweat rag. Any type of movement truly counts. It’s not about the calories you burn but it’s about getting the heart pumping and staying active for long-term health.

 

What types of exercise do you do for fun? Did I miss any that you want to add to the list? Comment below!

 

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6 Sunnah Foods to Incorporate Into Your Diet

Faith and fitness; what do they have in common? I believe wholeheartedly in the importance of connecting our quest for health with our spirituality. This makes out path to wellness much more meaningful and full of remembrance. One way that we can do this, as Muslims, is by incorporating sunnah foods into our diet. Sunnah foods hold so many amazing blessings and benefits. Here are some easy ways to eat sunnah foods on a daily basis.

 

Honey

The Prophet (saw) said, “Upon you is the two cures: the honey and the Qur’aan” [Ibn Maajah]

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Honey not only has a high nutritional value containing vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but it has medicinal uses as well. It can treat nausea, cough and cold and has been shown to be effective against advanced cases of stomach and bone cancer.

Honey can be easily integrated into your diet by having one tablespoon every day. You can eat it plain, mix it into your tea or drizzle it over some toast with peanut butter. It is also popular in baking as a natural sugar substitute to table sugar or artificial sweeteners.

 

 

Dates

Allah’s Apostle said, “He who eats seven ‘Ajwa dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.” [Bukhari]

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Dates are a very low-fat, nutrient-dense food that provide a great source of energy and a natural sweetness. They contain a rich amount of dietary fiber, antioxidants and minerals. Dates aid in healthy digestion, heart problems, admoninal cancer and more. They are also great for providing natural energy.

I like to eat 1 or 2 dates just before a quick, HIIT workout. It provides me with the short burst of energy I need. Dates are a great, natural replacement for processed sweets like candy or chocolate bars. Lastly, it’s sunnah to break your fast with dates. This is effective because they give you energy after a tiring day of fasting, and they hold you over to perform your prayer before eating your larger meal.

 

 

Citrus

The Messenger (saw) said, “The example of a believer who recited the Qur’aan, is that of a citron which smells good and tastes good.” [Bukhari]

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Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit etc) are rich in vitamin C which can help protect against the cold and other illnesses. They also contain anti inflammatory and pain relieving properties, can relieve heartburn, can help maintain a healthy mouth and act as a natural remedy for bad breath.

Lemons/limes are probably the most common and popular citrus fruits and I personally always keep them in my house. They are great to have around for cooking. Adding the juice and/or zest of these fruits can brighten up the flavors of your dishes. Squeeze some lemon/lime juice on top of fish and other seafood dishes or add them to your salad to make it extra refreshing. They are also commonly used in dressings and can be used in baking as well. You can also cut up citrus fruits and use them in your water for added flavor and freshness.

 

 

Pomegranate

Rasulullah (saw) said, “Pomegranate and its rind strengthen digestion(stomach).” [Abu Nuaim]

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This amazing, bright and delicious fruit has many benefits. It can help to lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and has anti-cancer effects. It can also stem a cough.

Throw some pomegranates seeds onto your salad for a beautiful presentation and delicious crunch. They pair particularly well with arugula. You can also throw them into a blender with some of your other favorite fruits to make a smoothie, or simply eat them plain with a side of nuts or low-fat cheese.

 

 

Vinegar

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Allah has put blessing in vinegar, for truly it was used by the Prophets before me.” [Muslim and Ibn Maja]

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Vinegar is pretty well-known for its benefits, particularly apple cider vinegar. Vinegar has antioxidants which can help to prevent cancer, it is heart healthy, it may improve insulin-sensitivity and it may help with diabetes.

Vinegar is another thing that I always have in my house, specifically balsamic and apple cider vinegar. They are great for homemade salad dressings which are much cheaper and healthier than buying them in the store. A basic vinaigrette recipe is 3 parts oil and 1 part vinegar. To add more sunnah foods throw in some honey for sweetness and squeeze lemon or lime for citrus flavor.

 

 

Thyme

Prophet Muhammad (saw) said, “Fumigate your houses with Mugwort, Myrrh & Thyme.” [Kanz-ul-Ummal]

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Thyme is not only an herb with a distinctive taste, but it has medicinal benefits as well. It can help to lower blood pressure, suppress cough, boost the immune system and mood, and is used in many skin care products for its wonderful scent.

Right next to basil, thyme is one of my favorite herbs. I think it has a very warm, minty taste and is such a great way to add flavor to dishes. It pairs very well with lamb and also many vegetables. I like to roast my Brussles sprouts, tomatoes and sweet potato with some thyme and a dash of salt and pepper. Next time you are cooking lamb or vegetables, consider the addition of this wonderful herb.

 

 

 

 

References

http://www.cabdirect.org/abstracts/20103251958.html;jsessionid=C266DAEDD072D290284CF60877B4E516

http://www.natureword.com/properties-and-benefits-of-citron/

https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/article19.aspx#ref2

 


 

 

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5 Ways to Stay Motivated

If you’ve ever started a fitness routine and quit, you are not alone. Many people have no problem beginning a routine; they feel motivated, excited and ready to tackle anything. But the hard part is keeping that motivation up and continuing on in their fitness journeys for the long term.

Trust me, even those who seem to love the gym life have trouble staying motivated all the time. Here are some ways you can keep your motivation up and actually stick to a routine.

 

1. Set a goal

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to set a specific goal or goals. If you just say “ah I want to lose a little weight” but don’t have anything specific to work towards your likely to fall off of the bandwagon. Make your goals personal. Here are some examples:

  • I want to lose X amount of pounds/kilograms to get to a healthy weight
  • I want to lose weight because my doctor said if I don’t I won’t live long
  • I want to live a healthy lifestyle to set a good example for my children
  • I want show God that I am thankful for the health and body He has granted me

Setting specific goals in this way will really make it about so much more than the number on the scale or the way you look. If your goals are meaningful and close to your heart you are more likely to reach them.

 

2. Schedule a workout time

The key is to make exercise a habit, rather than something that you simply ‘should do.’ You want to think of exercise as a normal part of your day, like going to work or taking a shower. One way to do this is by scheduling a regular workout time. If you workout around the same days and time each week it will start to become a part of your everyday routine.

Sit down each week and plan your workouts to fit into your schedule. If you say to yourself “I’ll try to get my workout in after before dinner time” but have no set plan or time, you’re more likely to let excuses get in the way of fulfilling that workout. But, if it’s written down in your calendar you are more likely to stick to it.

 

3. Make it fun

Although there are numerous benefits to regular exercise, it’s still no easy task. If you do not enjoy the workout you are doing it will be nearly impossible to stick with it. Don’t just do a workout because you think it will burn the most calories or make you sweat more. There are countless different types of workouts to choose from that you’re bound to find something you enjoy.

If you’re a very outdoorsy person and nature lover, you might enjoy walking, jogging, hiking or biking. If you’re social and get really motivated by others, group fitness classes might be best for you. If you like to feel powerful then try picking up some heavy weights.

Variety is also important. It’s not only easy to get bored with the same routine day after day, but our bodies adapt rather quickly and need change to avoid a plateau. Mix it up throughout the week. It’s important to get a combination of both strength training and cardiovascular exercise.

 

4. Find your inspiration

While it’s important not to compare yourself to others, it can really help to have a little inspiration. Find someone who really inspires you, not just because they may be in shape but because they share your values, beliefs and concerns. Maybe they have an inspiring story that teaches you that you can accomplish anything.

Inspiration doesn’t just have to come from people. Other things that can be really motivational, especially during the times when you don’t feel like working out are quotes, motivational talks, or simply just putting on your workout clothes and starting your warm up to get in the groove.

 

5. Accountability

Accountability can be huge in keeping you motivated. Tell your close friends and family about your goals and what you will be doing to reach them. Ask them for their support. Next time you go out to dinner with those friends or have family over for brunch, you will be more aware about making good food choices because they are now watching you.

If you enjoy writing or keeping up with social media you might even start a blog or Instagram page showcasing your journey. Not only can you update your followers about your progress but you will find a lot of support which can be super helpful. Another option is to begin working with a professional, whether a nutritionist, personal trainer, wellness coach, etc. It can help to have a professional to design you a plan and help you track your progress. The fact that you would have to spend money on a professional is also a good form of accountability.

 

So stop telling yourself that you can’t and start telling yourself that you CAN! With some hard work, strong goals, and a little motivation you can start and keep a fitness routine, and it will be one of the best things you can do for yourself, inshallah.

 

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The Perfect Workout for Your Fitness Goals

When people think of diet and exercise, weight loss is usually the first thing that comes to mind. However, there are countless reasons why people engage in a healthy lifestyle and weight loss is just one of the reasons. People may decide to take up exercise to build strength or muscle, to get faster, to improve overall health, or even as a means of socialization and keeping busy. Whatever your aim may be you need a proper workout plan that will help you reach your specific goal most effectively.

One Size Fits All

Here are the best ways to reach five of the most common fitness goals.

 

Goal: Weight Loss

Plan of action: When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, there’s a lot to think about. It is recommended to dedicate 3-6 days a week to cardio for 30-60 minutes. It’s also a good idea to incorporate strength training into your routine about 3 times per week. Building lean muscle tissue will aid in the fat-burning process.

If you really want to burn a lot of fat but don’t have the extra time HIIT workouts can take as little as 8-20 minutes. It involves short bursts of energy followed by an active rest period. Examples of HIIT workouts are sprinting and plyometrics.

 

Goal: Build Muscle/Strength

Plan of action: Although I’ve grouped muscle building and strength building together they are actually two different goals. While both goals call for resistance training, muscle builders are training for size while strength builders are training for strength and endurance.

In general, muscle building requires lighter weight as you should be lifting one to six sets of eight to 12 repetitions. Building strength requires lifting heavier weights for less repetitions. A strength goal should incorporate one to five sets of weights for one to eight repetitions.

 

Goal: Overall Health

Plan of action: Some people neither want to gain nor lose weight but aim to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In order to maintain a healthy weight/lifestyle one should workout 3-5 times per week and should mix it up between cardio and strength training. Lean muscle helps to burn fat even while at rest so strength training is great tool to keeping your body in maintenance mode. Cardio can be anything you enjoy like walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga, etc.

 

Goal: Increase Speed

Plan of action: If you want to increase your running speed whether it’s for a 5k, a mud run or a marathon, consider adding specific drills into your routine. Sometimes people think that if they want to run a faster mile they should train by always running a mile until it gets faster. But the real way to amp up your speed it to switch up your routine. Try adding some sprinting and strengthening drills into your normal running regimen like sprints, pushups, lunges and squats. Drills can be added in as part of a dynamic warm-up, they can be added after your regular run, or you can even dedicate a few sessions per week just to drills.

Goal: Socialization

Plan of action: If you want to get your workout in all the while interacting with others, try a gym membership. Group fitness classes are a great way to interact with others who share similar interests. Many times you will see the same people attending the same classes so it’s easy to get to know each other. Not to mention the motivational atmosphere of ‘all being in it together’ really helps give you that extra push.

 

Goal: Stress Relief

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Plan of action: First you have to figure out what relieves your stress. Some people might benefit from light yoga classes that involve meditation and relaxation, while others may find that a sweaty kickboxing class really helps them to take the edge off. You may even benefit from a mix of both. Take one or two days a week to engage in relaxation and take another few days to attend a kickboxing class and let it all out on the bag.

 

 

 

If you feel you have been putting everything into your workout but are not seeing that outcome you would like, it may be that you are not training the right way for your specific goal. I hope this post can help to shed some light on the different methods of training that go along with different goals.

 

 

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Sticking to Your New Years Goals Part 4/4: “I want to stop overeating.”

OK, here is the last post of this series. Many people who decide they want to eat healthier don’t realize that it’s not just about what you eat, but about how you eat.

The biggest factor in weight gain is calories. Eating more calories than your body is burning in a given day will result in excess weight, whether those calories come from healthy foods or not-so-healthy foods.

Granted, this does not mean I promote eating McDonald’s everyday! Healthy food provides us with the nutrients we need, promotes higher energy levels and aides in bodily processes. Thus, the majority of our diet should come from wholesome foods where about 10-20% of our diet should come from the foods we really enjoy.

Still, we must remember the importance of portion sizes regardless of what we are eating. Here are some quick tips to help you to control your portions.

 

Drink before you eat

Drinking a lot of water throughout the day, particularly right before mealtime, can help you feel full faster. It’s also a good idea to sip on water in between chewing. This can not only help to fill you up, but will aid in slower eating.

 

Fuel up every 3-4 hours

Don’t hold on to the old mindset of only 3 meals a day. If that really does work for you then there is nothing wrong with it. But, in general, people have long days and three meals simply isn’t enough. Snacking in between meals prevents you from extreme hunger which often leads to overeating. If you are going to be out all day, make sure to pack a piece of fruit or a protein bar in your bag.

 

Eat smart

Eat high volume meals that contain the right nutrients. Let’s compare vegetables with crackers as an example. Vegetables have a very high water content, which allows you to eat a lot with very few calories. Crackers, on the other hand, have low water content so a small amount has more calories. Thus eating a lot of vegetables are a great way to add volume to your meals because you can eat a lot and feel full for a lot less calories.

 

Along with high-volume you also want to ensure you are eating the right types of foods. Eating foods that are high in protein and fiber will fill you up until your next meal. Be sure to include protein with each meal, and eat a lot of fiber-rich foods throughout the day like vegetables and whole grains.

Smaller plates

If you are feeling very hungry and decide to eat a bowl of cereal, you are likely to fill that bowl all the way up. Use smaller plates and bowls when portioning out your food to avoid overdoing it.

 

Know your portion sizes

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I always like to tell people to spend one or two weeks measuring out food portions to get an idea of what they look like. From there, you will be able to eyeball it. You can also use your hands to measure the size of food. Here is a general set of food portions:

  • Meat – 3 oz or the size of the palm of your hand
  • Carbohydrates (pasta, beans, rice, etc.) –  ½ cup or the size of a clenched fist
  • Fats (oil, nut butters, nuts) – 1 tablespoon or the size of two thumbs
  • Vegetabels – 1 cup or the size of two clenched fists

This is a general list so always check labels for portion sizes.

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Keep the right mindset

Always ask yourself if you are actually hungry or if you are just thirsty or bored. Eat when you are hungry and find other ways to entertain yourself when you are bored. Also, keep the thought that you can always have seconds. Even though it’s important to follow correct serving sizes, it’s also important that you are not still hungry after eating. Having the idea in your mind that you can have seconds will make it easier not to overfill your plate. Many times we think we can eat more than we actually need so you may surprisingly find that one plate is enough.

 

I hope these tips were helpful. I really enjoyed writing this series.  Many times people tend to hit the New Year hard and then lose momentum as they go.

The key is to remember that healthy living is a lifestyle and you will grow and learn with time. Take small steps and don’t think that you have to do everything in January. You have a whole lifetime ahead of you and everyday is a chance to be better than the day before. No single day will be perfect and that is OK. Keep striving and you will get there, inshallah.

Keep Going

 

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Thank you all for reading. Please feel free to comment below with any questions or ideas for articles you would like to see. I’d love to bring you valuable content that can help you learn how to live a healthy life; mind, body and soul.  

 

 

 

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Hijab Promotes Inner Beauty

Wearing the hijab comes with a heavy responsibility. Not only are we, as women and mothers, the role models for our children, but we represent our families, our communities and our religion. When people look at a Muslim woman the first thing they see is her scarf. Someone who knows nothing about Islam is likely to judge the entire religion based on the actions of that woman. Therefore, it is up to us to uphold the morals and values of Islam as best we can.

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As World Hijab Day is nearing, I thought it was a good time to reflect upon the hijab. I wanted to reflect not just on the importance of the hijab itself but how it has shaped my life, particularly in my field of work as a fitness trainer.

I’ve been wearing hijab for about one year now, alhamdulillah. Of course, the hijab changed me in so many more ways than just my choice of clothing. Hijab started off as something physical. It made me look different. It made me look Muslim. It hid my hair and body. It acted as a barrier between me and strange men.

But as time went on it started working a little more deeply. I began to notice that I was being respected. People were forced to look at my eyes and not my body. I felt proud of the courage I had to wear it regardless of what others thought. I became more aware of my actions and words. And most importantly, I felt a deeper connection to Allah (swt).

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While hijab was helping me in many ways, it was also hard. The hardest part about hijab for me was fitness. As a trainer I thought, “who will want to be my client if I can’t prove to them I have what it takes?” I thought proving I was a good trainer meant showing off my hard-earned muscle as a way to prove I was fit and able. I didn’t think people would take me seriously. But I trusted Allah (swt) and knew that if I had given something up for His sake, He would give me back something better.

As a trainer I had always said health and fitness was about more than just looks, but I never truly felt it. Putting on the hijab helped me to truly grasp the concept of inner health. Of course, I still wanted to look good and be happy with my body, but that became less of my aim and focus. I started feeling beautiful on the inside.

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I was eating better food; I was eating food for their nutrients and the benefit I could gain from them, rather than just eating for low calories. I developed a more well-rounded sense of health; a sense of health that enveloped full-body awareness. Awareness of the mind, body and spirit. Religion actually became a part of my health practices, and health became a means of worship and giving thanks to Allah for all that He blessed me with. And I think that this radiated off of me.

I realized that I was still getting clients. I realized that I now had the power to not only talk about full-body health, but to promote it through my own lifestyle.

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People may not be able to see my body, but is that a true indicator of a healthy person anyways? A healthy person is someone who works not only on their bodies but on their mind and soul as well. A healthy person is someone who balances between food they love and food that is nutritious. A healthy person is some who feeds their spirit. A healthy person is someone who recognizes the issues surrounding this world and lends a helping hand. A healthy person is someone who practices patience, gives their body a break when it needs one, and loves themselves through every step of their journey.

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As hijabis, we have that power to change the fundamental notions of society. We don’t have to live by the idea that beauty and looks are everything. We have the ability to force people to look at our hearts, personalities and intelligence. We have the ability to help other women who believe that their worth lies in their beauty alone. We can promote self-awareness and self-love. We have the choice to use health and fitness as a means of worship and showing gratitude, rather than using it to flaunt our bodies.

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As Muslim women, we have an obligation. An obligation to follow the Qur’an and Sunnah regardless of the barriers our society may put up. Hijab can evoke fear in some people, especially in Western cultures. But if we wear our hijab with confidence and dignity and portray as many characteristics as our beloved Prophet (saw) as we can, we can change that. We can stand up for women around the world and show that health is so much more than our external being. We are unique. We are beautiful. We don’t hide behind our hijab, rather, we use it to blossom.

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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.

Sticking to your new years goals part 1. “I want to eat healthy”

By now we’ve all made our New Year’s resolutions; laid them out in writing, pondered over them, and talked ourselves into the new and improved person we want to become. That’s great, but that’s only the first step. The next step is actually sticking to those goals rather than becoming among the 40% of individuals who drop out.

I’ve decided to create a series dedicated to providing you with information to help you stick to some of the most common New Year’s resolutions. This four-part series will, inshallah, be very short and informative to give you just what you need.

Without a doubt the most common resolution is: “I want to eat healthier.” Here’s how you can stick to it.

 

Eat more fruits and veggies

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Eating more fruits and veggies will not only provide you with a variety of nutrients but will help to bulk up meals and help you to feel full faster.

Try adding vegetables to as many meals as possible. Throw some in your eggs at breakfast time, have a side salad at lunch, and roast your favorite vegetables to have with dinner. Vegetables can be incorporated into many dishes like soups, stir-fries, eggs and can even make great snacks with some hummus or a low-fat yogurt dip.

Fruits are a healthy way to satisfy your sweet tooth without added sugars and preservatives. Shoot for 1-2 servings per day.

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Go homemade

Whenever you can, make your own foods instead of buying it pre-packaged. Granola can be quite deceiving in stores; it seems healthy but the nutrition label is filled with added sugars. Mix together some rolled oats, nuts and seeds, and a little honey. Throw on a sheet pan and bake it at home.

Instead of buying frozen dinners like pizza, make an easy and healthy version of your own. Grab some whole wheat pita bread, top with your favorite veggies, a small handful of low-fat cheese and drizzle with some olive oil, salt and pepper in throw in the oven for a few minutes.

 

Snack

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Instead of 2 or 3 larger meals a day, try snacking in between and have 5-6 smaller meals. Snacking will help to prevent you from overeating by keeping you satisfied and energized throughout the day.

Great snacks include a piece of fruit with a handful of nuts, trail mix, some raw veggies dipped in low-fat yogurt, whole wheat crackers with hummus, or some pretzels with string cheese.

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In conclusion

Eating healthy is a totally approachable goal, as long as you do it in the right way. Take small steps. Add one more healthy food into your routine each week. Start by adding more fruits and vegetables. Once you feel comfortable with that, start making some of you own foods. Then a week after, start adding healthy snacks in between your meals.

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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.