Photos C/O Amina Khan

By: Donna Nadeem

After completing her bachelor’s degree in McMaster University’s psychology, neuroscience and behavior program in 2014, Amina Khan founded Amanah Fitness, a culturally-sensitive online female fitness community. In just three years, it has grown to become one of the largest global Muslim fitness education programs, helping over 50,000 women across the globe.

Amanah Fitness’ online workouts feature diverse female fitness instructors and are performed with no equipment so that individuals of all fitness levels can access them. For instance, Khan’s 30 day online fitness bootcamp, which is offered at $129 for lifetime access, gives users 22 unique equipment-free workouts and personal coaching from Khan.

“As an alumna of McMaster University, I am honoured to be using my degree to promote social change on a global scale. Our goal is to use the psychology of motivation to help women of all cultural backgrounds feel their best through healthy active lifestyles,” said Khan.

During her second year at McMaster, Khan hit her heaviest weight and felt that something had to change.

“At the peak of my frustration, I decided to try losing weight one last time. This time, through fitness. After years of failed dieting attempts and feeling intimidated at the gym, I found a small ladies-only gym,” said Khan.

With the support of inspiring female fitness instructors who helped her discover a love of exercise, she was able to lose 60 pounds. With a newfound passion for health and fitness, Khan sought to share her journey to inspire other women.

To meet the growing demand for our culturally-sensitive health and fitness classes, education and workshops, she founded Amanah Fitness.

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Khan started by teaching fitness classes for female students in the David Braley Athletic Centre with the McMaster Muslim Students Association and continued to expand her fitness classes to other community centres and mosques, with a focus on cultural and religious barriers to fitness.

Her goal was to provide a space for women from diverse backgrounds to learn about their health. By popular demand, she also created an online workout bootcamp program that is now used by Muslim women across the globe.

As a Muslim woman who wears a headscarf, Khan had always struggled to find a fitness community.

“As someone who struggled with weight loss before becoming a fitness instructor, I know first-hand that Muslim women and women from diverse cultural backgrounds can feel neglected by the mainstream fitness industry,” she said. “When I was struggling with my weight, I never saw anyone in the fitness industry who looked or dressed like me. As an overweight Muslim woman wearing a headscarf, I felt excluded from the fitness industry.”

According to Khan, another challenge Muslim women face is maintaining health and fitness while fasting during Ramadan.

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Amanah Fitness believed a collaborative approach needed to be taken. In particular, Khan worked with dieticians, doctors and medical professionals in Canada to launch a comprehensive online resource called Ramadan Reset.

to provide research-based resources for fasting nutrition and fitness.

Ramadan Reset has become a globally recognized resource to help Muslim individuals live a healthy active lifestyle while fasting.

Last August, Khan was named Fitness Professional of the Year at the World Fitness Expo, making her the first Muslim woman to be awarded the title.

In the future, Khan aspires to continue to expand Amanah Fitness’ audience internationally and release a second online workout program.

 

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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By anonymous contributor

For a long time, my eating disorder flew under the radar. People always talk about calories, sizes, sugar, fat and new cure-all treatments so casually. Because thinner is better. So, for the most part, I was just like everyone else in our diet culture.

It sounds wonderful; I’ve really romanticized it. The weight comes back sometimes, fluctuating behind smiles and therapy sessions, but all that means is your bra and jeans never fit right. I think it is very important to mention that most people with eating disorders do not lose weight. In fact, the vast majority, like me, are never underweight. So all the crying and counting leads to nothing but more unhappiness and temporary, unglamorous fixes. And a lot of therapy.

I’m not here to discuss my eating disorder “journey.” I want to talk about Western society’s disordered-eating “journey.” About how being fat became a punchline, and the only thing your doctor wants to talk about during your five-minute appointment at the wellness center.

Let’s talk about how new students enter university with one of their top concerns being the dreaded “freshman fifteen.” It’s horrific that this expression has become so commonplace among my classmates. Even the calorie counts on the menus in the student center reinforce this obsession our demographic has with thinness.

This “epidemic” of obesity is on everybody’s mind all the time. I can’t tell you the number of people I witness who venomously insist on non-fat milk at Starbucks — ironic considering “non-fat” has more sugar which begs the question, what is the true epidemic here?

There are things the public health campaigns do not want you to know. Like how much money is generated by diet-fads and weight-loss companies. How little their guidelines are backed by scientific literature. How much easier it is to blame you than blame society. How hard your body will fight to stay at its predetermined ideal weight – and that you really can’t change that predetermined weight. And, the most shocking to me, how little weight affects health.

Your body was not designed to handle weight fluctuation. Any amount of weight loss is a worst-case scenario, and this is whether you are 100 or 500 pounds. So your body is going to fight like hell to stay where it is unless it’s below the genetically predetermined ideal size.

Ask pretty much anyone who has tried sustained weight loss. You can do it, but it will be a constant struggle. Unless you lose weight extremely gradually, in which case you are likely not doing it consciously, you cannot be happy or relaxed around food. You will be starving yourself until you are hungry enough to eat a horse, and then you’ll eat that horse.

As for weight and health, we all know about body mass index. 18-25 is normal, and then everyone below is a “model” and everyone above is “disgustingly” unhealthy. But the science says otherwise.

A high BMI is not correlated with high morbidity or mortality rates until you get into the above 30 range. And above 30, the rates of morbidity and mortality are far more correlated with physical activity than with weight. So most research would show that so long as you can move with your body, you can live with your body. How’s that for a slogan?

It is true that freshman do gain some weight during their first few months at university but nowhere near the exaggerated fifteen pounds. If you gained some weight, relax – it’s normal! Researchers at McMaster University are currently investigating environmental and biological determinants of weight change because, yes, that number on the scale really isn’t all up to you.

So drink that full-fat latte. Stop obsessing over food. It doesn’t lead to anywhere good. The world is your goddamn oyster, with lots of other yummy things on the menu. Quite frankly, weight loss is boring. But that’s another story.

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