CERTIFIED wellness coach, fitness infleuncer, fitness model, TV host for several fitness programmes (Kami Geng FIT, Fitness Battle and Jom Kurus) and strong advocate for healthy eating Nana Al Haleq is also an entrepreneur who co-founded bodylab.co (fitness, body and beauty products) and Fit Sambal by Nana, a line of healthy sambal spreads.
Nana’s entire journey into fitness and wellness was sparked by the lessons that her mother taught her and her siblings since they were young.
Nana’s mother was a former netball player who was not only active in sports, but was also a strong advocate when it came to healthy eating.
Nana herself was a sprinter who represented Selangor during her school days and that led her to being a fitness coach who teaches people about healthy eating.
During our interview, Nana explained that she stopped conducting fitness training classes two years ago.
“I mostly do online consultations. Since the MCO, I conduct two classes every day on my Instagram live. I was trying to get everyone motivated.”
However, she did not do the same thing when the third wave of Covid-19 hit.
“For myself, there is a gym downstairs from my office. It was lovely because no one was going to the gym, and sometimes I would work out from home which was more comfortable.”
Some people look at girls who work out as being too ‘masculine’.
“Yes, actually. If you compared my physique [from two years ago] and now. I used to look more ripped, more wry, more cut and more masculine. I have gotten slightly thinner, more towards the softer feminine side. It is because of changes to my nutriton and career. Two years
ago, I ventured more into the media side.
“Back then, not only did I get nasty comments, I used to get hurtful emails. In Malaysia, the awareness, the open-mindedness about women getting fit, having better muscle definition, getting more buff, is better compared to when I started seven or eight years go.”
She is now promoting healthy eating. When asked what is the biggest hurdle Malaysians have to overcome when it comes to eating healthy,
Nana said: “ I think the biggest hurdle is that people tend to dive into things straightway.
“They think: ‘I am going to change my lifestyle, I am going to eliminate this and that’. They cut off everything
“It actually has to be gradual, because you have to form a habit. You want your mind to go into it slowly so that you don’t feel trapped and binge afterwards.
“The reason that people tend to relapse and go back to their favourite foods is because they [go cold turkey and] eliminate all the things they used to eat.
“Look at the way they treat diseases. The medicine, the treatments, the consultations. It is done gradually. You can’t just give the patient strong medication and change everything.
“There will be side-effects. The same goes for eating healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. You have to do it gradually. You have to give your mind and body time to get used to it, to adjust to it, and once it becomes part of your lifestyle, part of your habit, you can maintain it easily.”
Does she see herself as a lifestyle guru?
“I think in terms of career, I would love to be a lifestyle guru or a self love guru because I lean towards that. I have been through a very difficult time for the past two to three years dealing with depression and convincing myself I can do certain things, and also [I want] to change people’s perspectives.”
However, she feels that she needs to educate herself more.
“Eating healthy and cooking healthy is very simple. The core of it is we have to be creative to replace or adjust the ingredients we are so used to using in our Malaysian cooking and use healthy options.
“I love spicy food. I love my sambal, I love my curries, I love my asam pedas. When I was preparing for [a bodybuilding] competition in 2016 I realised I needed to do something to replace my favourite sambal.”
She substituted and replaced certain ingredients to make her sambal tasty and healthy, and now has a business. She did the same thing with her favourite food.
“It has been a rewarding, fulfilling and enjoyable experiment with my time.”