Maya Nassar: “Fitness is a mental challenge that starts in the mind”

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World renowned fitness expert Maya Nassar talks to BelleBeirut about her life changing decisions, her amazing mobile application, and her fitness routine.

1- Who was Maya Nassar before becoming a renowned fitness expert?

I used to work as a journalist and was someone with a very unhealthy lifestyle. I never used to do any exercise and used to follow a very poor diet. This resulted in me gaining a lot of weight over the months.

2- What prompted your inspirational decision to lose weight and become a leading fitness and well being expert?

It came when I was fed up with feeling unhealthy and insecure. I realized that I am responsible for my own lifestyle and did not want to be the person who was unhappy whenever I looked in the mirror. My turning point was when a pair of jeans stopped at my knees and did not even come up to my hips. That was when I said, right, it’s time to change!

3- What was the most difficult challenge in this process?

The most difficult challenge was adapting to a new diet. I used to love carbs and used to eat as much as I wanted. My new diet included lots of protein, I replaced white carbs with whole wheat and ate lots of fruits and vegetables. I always say that it takes 3 weeks to establish a new diet and after eating clean for a month, I adapted and realized that I actually enjoyed healthy food.

Maya Nassar wins Pure Life 2014.
Maya Nassar wins Pure Life 2014.
4- What keeps you motivated and helps you be a role model in the fitness world?

I know how it feels to be someone who was very unhealthy and know how much better it is to be someone who is healthy and fit. This is what keeps me motivated every day. I enjoy using my story to show others that if I can do it then they can do it too. Knowing that I changed someone’s life for the better is just as rewarding as achieving my own goals.

5- You developed one of the leading fitness applications in the Arab world, can you tell us about it?

I created the first ever fitness application in Lebanon which has been endorsed by the Lebanese minister of sports. I am also very excited that it has been ranked number one by the Apple store competing with international apps. My application is a mobile version of my website www.startlivingright.com and it offers tools and information to help change peoples’ lives for the better. It includes animated exercise illustrations, workout programs, recipes, fat loss calculators, advice and much more. It is everything I have learnt through trial and error stored in one place. People can download it for free by searching for “startlivingright” in their smartphone store.

6- In your opinion, do Lebanese people (in general) lead a healthy lifestyle? If not how can they improve it?

I do believe Lebanese people tend to be quite healthy; especially that Lebanese cuisine has many healthy dishes. Lebanese can improve their lifestyles simply by making better food choices and being more active. For example, eat lots of protein, vegetables, salads and fruits. Stay away from fried food, creamy sauces, sweets, etc. It is also important to exercise regularly and to be active during someone’s free time. Someone can always replace watching TV by going for a walk or a hike.

Maya Nassar's fitness routine.
Maya Nassar’s fitness routine.
7- How important is fitness for women in the Arab world, in your opinion?

I believe fitness for women in the Arab world is very important. This is because being fit helps make women stronger, more confident and happier in general. Fitness helps to empower women and helps them achieve many other goals in their lives.

8- Can you tell us a bit about your exercise routine and diet?

I do a combination of weightlifting and cardio. At the moment, I lift weights five times a week and do cardio two to three times a week. If I am training for a fitness competition, I simply increase my cardio up to six times a week. My diet is healthy year round. I eat protein, wholegrain carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, lentils, etc, healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil and lots of fruits and vegetables. If I am trying to lose weight for a fitness competition, I simply eat less of the same type of food to be in a negative energy balance.

9- What advice would you give young women who are not satisfied with their bodies?

My advice to them would be to start exercising and following a good diet. Anyone can do it and you are never too old or too unfit to get into shape. It is very important to take care of your health. It is not just about the way you look but also about being around to watch your grandchildren grow up. All it takes is determination and the will to change for the better. I always say fitness is a mental challenge that starts in the mind.