Updated: Jan 17
Losing weight can be frustrating, and when the weight doesn't all come off, we can build a negative relationship with our body, mind, and soul!
Body image has been an issue for me ever since middle school! I was that girl who developed before other girls my age, and I was always this short little chubby girl.
I remember in middle school not feeling very confident in my body and size because of the other girls who were skinny and more "beautiful on the outside" were the most popular kids. Another factor was also cultural differences because I had just moved to the United States from Damascus, Syria.
However, even during the summer when I would visit my country and family, I would feel insecure about my body because I would see other girls/women talking to more guys and seemed to get the most attention. I have been afraid to talk about this publically due to be being judged by my own culture/people or by society.
Therefore, I have developed a really negative relationship with how my body looked like and how much fat it had, and I just wanted it all to go away. I wanted to feel happy about it and how I'm being perceived by the world. I wanted to feel accepted into the society for who I am, and not what the society expects me to become.
And so back in the day, I was so desperate to lose weight the quickest way possible. And one of my friends at that time told me about the concept of throwing up after I eat so I don't have to have the calories/food inside my body. At that age, I was very naive, and we all know how pressure at a young age is far more destructive than at adults. This is why it's very important to start them early in understanding all of these issues.
That was the beginning of it all...
The beginning of developing bulimia and after it ended, I went into binge eating and not caring anymore about my body.
I joined track and field in high school too because I wanted to step outside of the mindset I had about my body and challenge myself for something new since I've tried out for other sports and got rejected.
Running was the only sport that accepted me, and to this day, I still find running to be a sport for every size, every skin color, and every human being.
After high school, I got into weightlifting and then I wore my headscarf at around 2011.
Long-story-short is that I have also experienced anxiety and depression in college which were my first time going through that in my life. I never knew how anxiety attack can feel like or being depressed can be like until I went through it.
And here I am now, a stronger woman, more confident in my body, loving who I am and who I have become.
So why did I go on an 8-week purposeful weight loss journey?
Honestly, because my insecurities I had back from middle-high school all came back inside me. Now that I am a certified personal trainer and a fitness professional in the fitness industry, I started comparing my body to what the industry is promoting and what influencers showcase on their feed as well as what I am supposed to look like by society's standards.
I started feeling negative about my success as an entrepreneur, as a fitness professional, and all these negative thoughts came inside my head. That I shouldn't look like this way. I shouldn't have this belly fat inside me. I should be more fit. More active. More toned out....should have more clients...
This vicious cycle just played inside my head because I had a lot on my plate. As someone with big dreams and big ambitions, it can be challenging for us to slow down on our dreams and control ourselves from going after them on our own.
You see, I am an all one-person run the show behind BeFit4Akhirah. And I see so many opportunities to be brought to the table and add to the conversation within the Muslim communities, within the fitness industry, within the swimming arena, and now within the body-image movement.
So in October 2019, after I had called off the retreat I was working so hard on, it put me down big time on a mental level. Anxieties came back, depression returned, and not accepting myself for how I looked like all went back inside my head. I started to feel sad inside that I'm just not good enough for anyone.
This is why I decided to take on the opportunity to bring myself back on track and take with me anyone who would join my challenge as a beta program. Deep inside me, I know I have a lot to offer to my clients and to the whole world. I know I have a lot to say that the entire world needs to hear from me. But it takes time, and it takes lots of work (especially in ourselves).
The journey started on Nov 4th and ended on Dec 31st.
So how did the journey go for me and what did I go through inside my head?
October-December is always one of the most stressful and busiest times of the year trying to wrap up the year and finish it off strong. Therefore, it was really a lot for me. I was still trying to manage a big project while giving back to my clients, swim students, water aerobics class, and my family. I did look for help, and I am blessed to have few friends come out to support me in delegating tasks. I'm also financially unable to hire a big team yet, so that's another challenge for me that was impacting my mindset too.
During the actual journey, I took lots of time to journal out my thoughts and to be as mindful as much as I was able to during the process. I walked into this journey with one main goal-my mindset.
I also had a session with a life coach who helped me realize that I wasn't being nice to myself, and it helped me to become stronger mentally which is always more effective than physical strength!
However, inside my head, I was still going through the fears and doubts of speaking up the truth about faith as it's something I am deeply passionate about. I wanted to bring all of this transformation back to what BeFit4Akhirah is all about and what it means. The entire 8-weeks I was on trying to lose the weight for the outside looks, I actually focused more on the inside of me, and that is my relationship with God, Allah swt.
That is something I have not seen spoken up much about within the weightloss culture and fitness industry. I know, it's not the sexiest word or the sexiest outcome. Look around social media, articles, magazine covers, and everywhere around you. What is the one thing you see being associated with weight loss transformation?
1. the scale number
2. the outside looks.
3. feeling happy?
5. before and after pictures
6. the diet that this person went on
7. the workout plan
But do I ever see a weightloss transformation ever being associated with:
1. accepting the results and loving the body you're in.
2. the relationship with your faith (whether it's a religion or not-even if it's the universe).
3. The relationship with food
4. The relationship with the family/loved ones.
5. Becoming more mindful of lifestyle, eating habits, sleep patterns, and so forth.
~Maybe there are some, but it's not as popular as the pictures, the looks, the diet, and the workout plan.~
For me personally, during the 8-week I went on, I cried a lot to God (Allah), and I was afraid to speak this out to the world. But I wanted to find a way to speak up my truth and inspire the world to see a different perspective about all of this weight loss transformations.
In addition, during the 8-week journey, I went with my Chrisitan friend to her church to attend their Christmas cantata which was something I had to step outside my comfort zone. I've been to churches in the past-before wearing my headscarf....But after wearing my hijab, I haven't attended any celebrations in a church.
The fear of speaking up about Islam is true, and Islamaphobia is also a real fear among Muslims themselves. But going to the church with my friend ignited that hope inside me again as I heard from the Church leader when he said, "...Go tell the world about Jesus..." since it was Christmas time.
And I thought to myself....yes! Because as a Muslim, we believe in Jesus Christ coming back to the earth to save us from all of this craziness that's going on.
So during the 8-week journey, I was going through a spiritual transformation inside trying to find my way back to God to hold on to faith knowing everything will be okay in my life, and that my body is already being accepted by Him. My body is a vehicle to God to meet Him on the Day of Judgement.
Back in the day when I did struggle with Bulimia, during the episodes of throwing up privately in my bathroom, in my subconscious mind I would ask myself, "But Ola... aren't your hands going to be a witness for you on the Day of Judgement?"
Just because I wasn't praying 5x in high school, just because I didn't look "religious" on the outside...
I had that consciousness of a God, of Allah swt, and I knew there was more meaning to this life than the outside looks and the prestige.
But the struggle to feel accepted by society, to seek validations, and to be loved by others can really be a real struggle and can really put us down at our darkest moments in our lives.
The results of the journey:
You see, I started a new year ready to come out and talk about this as I decided to face my fears and just go for it. I trained my mind, my body, and my soul to stand up for the truth, and to speak up my truth as it is the truth of many other people.
The results were far greater than the measurements on my scale and around the waist-line.
Yes, the hip-to-waist ratio is actually a far more important factor in our health than the scale number and than the fat percentage in our body. And yes, I've lost a couple of centimeters around my waist, hips, and abs!
Below are the measurement results:
11/04/19 - 138.2 lbs
11/11/19 - 138.2 lbs
11/28/19 - 135.6 lbs
12/2/19 - 137.2 lbs
12/16/19 - 138.5 lbs
1/1/2020 - 134.8 lbs
My 1st assessment on Nov 3rd measurement's:
Waist: 77 cm
Abs: 87.0 cm
Hips: 98 cm
My 2nd assessment on Dec 2nd, 2019:
Waist: 75 cm
Abs: 83 cm
Hips: 94.5 cm
My 3rd final assessment, Jan 1st, 2020:
Waist: 77 cm
Abs: 80 cm
Hips: 94 cm
Below are also my non-measurement results:
Unhappy with my body for how it looks like.
My prayers were on and off
Not as confident in myself and doubting myself a lot because where I am in life.
More satisfied with my body as I will continue on the journey to take care of it and tone out more. But it's not the only focus I've anymore.
My prayers are more back on track and on my top priority
More confident in successes I've made in my life so far and that it's about my success in the afterlife that I want to focus on.
Now, just because the 8 weeks are over, it doesn't mean it's actually over...
It's just the beginning of a new journey I want to take in life.
This is the journey to continue in watching what I eat, to continue in managing my sleep, my stress, my anxieties, my doubts, my fears, my own inner critics and demons, and to continue in speaking up the truth about body image, faith, fitness, and having a purpose in life.
The interesting part is that I didn't know that the body image movement is actually a real thing! I had talked about it on my podcast interview with Sara from @Fitjewess as we brought in our faith into the conversation, but I didn't know body image movement was this big!
On my podcast, episodes found below, I talked about the following topics on separate interviews/episodes:
1. Why BeFit4Akhirah was started as I shared more details about my story in how it all came together
2. Why mental health, spiritual health, and physical are part of my brand and why they're important for me.
3. Introduction to the body of Jannah with Imam Wisam as we talked about how to be fit for the Akhirah.
4. Spiritual transformation as I talked about how I chose to wear my headscarf (aka, hijab) on my own.
5. Faith and fitness-how it plays a role in our fitness journey and how body image is important to be accepted with Sara
Last but not least, I want to say this as a reminder to us all:
Body image is a REAL struggle among fitness professionals! As soon as I had this post on my Instagram (Body Image Movement-What does Islam & Quran have to say about it? Join BeFit4Akhirah in 2020...), one of my followers who happens to be a Muslim personal trainer too sent me a private message telling me that this person is struggling with it too. I would like to keep the gender private for privacy reasons.
And the body image among us who are in the fitness industry is really impacting us too. And we can not serve back to our clients when we are being impacted by it and by the messages we see around us that is being fed to us by the social media influencers and by big brands.
To see an article written by Amanda for the IDEA journal, please click on this link:
On the other side, I have also surveyed my audience on my Instagram about this article when I had received the article, and I sent a message to Amanda thanking her for speaking up about it. Because this issue is real, and we are responsible for our fella fitness professionals who are struggling with it in silence.
If no one ever takes a stand about it and speak louder on the true reality, we're going to end up having more personal trainers struggling mentally who will be unable to bring a real impact into the fitness industry.
It is OKAY to NOT have the perfect body EVEN if you're selling a workout plan.
Below are questions and results from my own platform and my own audience:
Let me say this so that people who will disagree with me to have my own offense ready for them:
I do take full ownership and full responsibility for my own failures as a personal trainer. I do take full ownership that I am still working on programming for my clients and myself. Fitness for me isn't just a workout program or plan. Fitness for me is all about my mindset, my body, my soul. Fitness isn't just about lifting weights and following a detailed workout plan. I am okay with just getting a workout in. I am okay with just getting a quick 15 minutes workout in my schedule. I am okay with having the classes I teach count as a workout for me. I am okay with not challenging myself enough when I am burned out. I am okay with falling off track of my workout program. I am completely okay with getting back on my feet the next day to get a better workout if I had missed yesterdays. I am okay with eating better the next day or at the dinner table if I had messed up in my morning or the previous day. I am okay with not being perfect in my active-fit lifestyle. This is what I want my clients to take back home too. That it really is OKAY! It is WORKING progress! It is not going to a perfect week, perfect year, perfect month.
Why can't we deliver this message to our clients and industry too? Why do we have to be in this box that it has to be only this way?
Why can't we accept that each personal trainer is different and have their own past, their own story, their own reasoning in how they train?
For me, personal training and fitness are more than a workout plan and workout videos I share with my clients. For me, it's about how are you with your relationship with your anxieties if you struggle with it, with your mindset, with your family...?