by Maariyah Baig
The team at MY Voice sat down with Amina Khan, founder of Amanah Fitness, in what turned out to be a very interesting and educational interview. Check out what she had to say about health, fitness and education.
What is Amanah Fitness? What is the vision of the organization?
The goal of our organization is to bring back health awareness in ethnic communities. Unfortunately we find that in many ethnic communities health is not seen as a major priority. We forget that part of being a good Muslim is taking care of our health.
That’s where our name comes from – ‘Amanah’ means trust in Arabic. We believe our bodies are a trust from God. We need to nurture and care for our bodies just like anything else. People don’t realize what their bodies need, and ignore the fact that they can still enjoy foods that are part of their culture without neglecting their bodies in the process.
We feel this lack of awareness can be combatted with education. Caring for your health is something that needs to be applied across cultures, across the world, in all situations. You can still be healthy while maintaining your culture and identity.
Why should health be a priority for youth?
I can tell you my own story. As a youth I was 60 pounds overweight compared to what I am now. It was physically and emotionally difficult to live like that. I literally felt the weight of the burden I was carrying. Health habits die hard – how you behave as a youth will affect how you behave later on in life.
We want teens and youth to establish a strong foundation and embed good habits in the life so that they are not having to correct their lifestyles later on. I had to correct myself later on, and I struggled because it was really hard. You don’t have to go through that if you start being healthy earlier. Many health habits persist from childhood to adulthood – the longer you stay out of your ideal weight the harder it is to correct the problem.
Now Alhamdulillah, health is easy for me. I’ve practised it to the point that being healthy is a part of me.
As mentioned before, in cultural communities we see that health is not emphasized, especially among kids. But why would they stop the bad eating habits on their own? Those kids with poor nutrition and exercise habits grow up to be teenagers with problems, and then ultimately unhealthy adults. We are ruining a generation. It’s the start of an obesity epidemic.
How can health be applied to education? What can we do to educate our youth?
As a child I knew I needed to correct the health problems but I didn’t understand why. I didn’t understand why junk food and excessive sugar was bad for me, that it was contributing to my lack of energy, my weight, my negative outlook of myself. When I educated myself about health, I finally understood. Once you understand the consequences and repercussions of certain behavior, you can understand when to indulge, how much your body can take, when to take a break etc.
When I work with my clients some say they slip back into their negative habits. Not because they don’t want to fix the problem and reach their goal, but because they don’t understand why they are doing what they’re doing.
Education is key. Kids, teens, adults need to know the why. In schools a lot of the time they turn to banning junk food and soda, which doesn’t help the situation at all. Kids get upset, they don’t know why the banned soda is harmful (maybe they loosely know it’s not good for you, but that’s not tangible enough). We need to show them the connection between the problems in their life, and the fact that they have such a poor diet.
It’s not a quick fix. We have to start with education and engraining the importance of health. Unfortunately currently the way that health is taught in schools is very forced. The way sports were presented me in gym class resulted in me hating them. It was an unenjoyable experience because it was so forced. Obviously I’m not a teacher and I cannot speak on behalf of the education system, but something needs to change. We need to show kids the why instead of outright banning junk food and soda.
We need to establish a foundation that most kids don’t have. We need to explain why certain foods are bad for you or good for you and give them tangible examples. If we explain: you are going to lose this body if you don’t care for it, and you’re fast now but that won’t always be the case because it’s a big blessing associated with good health – they will begin to implement a healthy lifestyle. Once we establish the sincere need to maintain our bodies and why we need to respect our bodies then we can start talking about what hurts our bodies, and what effects certain foods and drinks have on our physical and mental wellbeing.
If I want to be healthier where should I start? Exercise? Eating healthy?
It can be quite overwhelming at first. Nutrition and fitness seem like huge hurdles and people question ‘how do we tap into that?’ It’s about breaking it down step by step.
In Amanah Fitness programs we talk about breaking it down. It’s less about how much you do and more about how consistently you do it. People go too big than can’t maintain a schedule.
- Consistency over quantity
What steps you take when it comes to fitness depend on your goals. For someone who does no exercise at all: focus on getting your heart rate up for at least 10 minutes every day. That does not mean just walking around all day. You need to do something that gets your heart pumping, and really energizes your day. By doing this you will train your heart and strengthen it. You could do a 10 minute jog around the neighbourhood, skip rope, do jumping jacks etc.
- Planning is the key to success
Usually lack of health is a direct product of lack of planning. You go to school without thinking of taking lunch from home and end up eating unhealthy food from the cafeteria. When it comes to nutrition planning is key. Where am I going to be? What am I going to eat? Those 2 questions can take you a long way. Planning could be as simple as throwing an apple into your bag when you’re heading out – so you don’t buy a bag of chips when you’re hungry. People buy junk when they don’t have another alternative.
For people who are already exercising regularly and want to take it to the next level: Do 300 minutes of a heart rate raising activity per week.
You can even keep a mixture of nuts in your bag at all times. It’s something healthy to have on the go.
What programs do you offer right now?
Our main program is the 7 Day Jump Start. Again the focus is to get people started on the journey to a healthy lifestyle. Usually the problem is people don’t realize what they need to eat for their body, the simple trick is to understand what and how much. The Jump Start Program goes over:
- 4 rules to follow every day
- Law of Portions– people don’t realize you can overeat on healthy foods too!
- Foundational program – to get you started on living a healthy lifestyle
This program is not a crash diet, but rather a 7 day course that teaches the essentials for healthy eating and how to get back on track. You can register online at www.amanah7.com
Do you have any final words?
I’m really passionate about communicating to people that no matter who you are everyone can always improve their health. Living healthy is a never ending journey. Don’t feel bad or upset about your situation, everyone is at a different place on the path. It’s important to realize where you are on your personal journey and start improving today. Too many people are at a standstill and not pushing forward. We need to hold ourselves to a higher standard!
To keep up with Amanah Fitness check them out on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/amanahfitness
Also visit www.amanahfitness.com to download the free health starter guide!