reem abdelhamid photoI am a mother of two teenage kids. The competition is tough, not only between the two of them but also with my husband and me when it comes to health, nutrition and working out.

My son, who is my eldest, is a competitive swimmer and requires special nutrition to build — not only his muscles — but also fat for stamina for long distance swims. Needless to say that his physique is that of a tall swimmer: broad shoulders, slimming down to strong arms, a strong core and powerful legs. When he is not in the water, he is at the gym lifting weights and working on his strength… He does not have an ounce of fat on him… but I am sure that is not the only reason why he wants to look so good. He is turning into a real hunk.

My daughter is a basketball player on a local community team. She used to be extremely slim until she hit puberty when out of nowhere she put on a lot of weight. Today, she is well built with some baby fat around her belly – which she is slowly losing — she has very strong arms and extremely powerful legs… and she has a lot of stamina!

My husband’s health is more of a challenge due to his long working hours. He takes a hypertension pill every morning after breakfast. He has gained a lot of weight over the past few years, but the fat is all concentrated in one problematic area: the belly! Otherwise, he is very energetic and has strong arms and powerful legs!

Me, I have been quite stable over the years with my weight but without paying too much attention to my body composition. What I am trying to say is that as long as I was within the weight range of my height – isn’t that how we were taught to evaluate our weight?! – and I fit into my 10-year old jeans, I was happy… until I got pregnant with my first child and I realized that my body shape was changing dramatically. Not that I was gaining too much weight (I only gained 11 kilograms in total), but things were shifting around and as days went by, I did not like what I saw in the mirror.

Throughout my pregnancy, I swam a lot and attended low-impact aerobic classes; I ate mostly greens and fruits trying to cut on gluten and starchy foods; but even so, I could not prevent the changes from happening! I guess it was nature’s way of preparing the body to accommodate this growing miracle inside of me. I did not obsess over it too much, but I did not want to turn into one of those moms that just forget about themselves because she has other priorities now. After I had my son, I walked out of the hospital wearing my same old jeans, but I have to admit I had chunks of meat overflowing everywhere and so decided to do something about it. I did all my tummy exercises religiously, ate mostly vegetables, fruits and fish because my Ob/Gyn always used to say: “what do cows eat to produce good milk? GREENS!” Eventually I joined a club to perform more holistic work-outs and have not stopped since.

Throughout the week, the kids are busy with school, homework and training schedules, while my husband and I are at work. The children have a quick breakfast before running off to school. Until recently, this translated into either eggs and juice; fruit and a sandwich; pop tarts or cereal and milk; pancakes or French toast and milk; or left over dessert from the night before! My husband usually has a cappuccino and I force him to at least eat a banana just to take his medicine; and I typically started my day with two espressos and nothing else but water until dinner. We have made it a rule to have late lunch/early dinner at the dining table every evening together so we can catch up with each other on a daily basis. Our meals in the evening consist of a type of vegetable, a form of salad (tabouleh, fattoush, house salad, Chinese noodle salad, etc…), meat/chicken or fish of some sort, with either rice, green wheat (freek) or pasta. We usually have a home-made dessert (crème caramel, rice pudding) or sometimes head out to the ice cream parlour for a treat! We are all ice cream monsters!

During the day time, the kids are at school and I have no control over what they eat because they are “too cool to take lunch boxes to school now.” However, I do know that they eat sandwiches (tuna or cheese), brownies, croissants, chocolate chip cookies, etc… not very healthy but there is nothing I can do about it! I do not bring any of that into our home since they get enough of it at school and at birthdays! However, we have made it a habit to always have fresh raw vegetable sticks (colored capsicum, carrots, cucumbers, cauliflower), and a good variety of fruit readily available in the fridge and some nuts in the cupboard to satisfy the cravings and beat the munchies. And at night, if anyone wants anything else to eat later before bedtime it is typically “fruit time”.

The first health changing experience occurred in March 2011. I injured myself playing beach volleyball and was inflicted with rotator cuff tendinitis with a tendon tear of 85%. This is better known as “frozen shoulder”, an excruciating constant pain if you move your arm up away from your side as little as 5 degrees in any direction. Doctors recommended surgery and I refused. I went through extensive physiotherapy, loads of anti-inflammatories and pain killers but nothing was making it better; until I met a personal trainer from Cameroon who knows no fear and does not take no for an answer!

It took thrice a week sessions for three weeks to get the shoulder moving again. It must have been the most painful treatment I ever had to endure in my life… but he broke all the adhesions and got me functional again. During those three weeks I asked him if he would agree to train me, since I could now move my arm and he put me through a series of physical tests: I scored horribly bad… and I thought I was “fit”! That is when I started to learn about nutrition and how to feed my body what it needs to transform it into energy. But I also learned that there are several schools regarding nutrition and health. This personal trainer had me on gluten-free meals constantly and requested me to eat a lot of protein and greens to make up for the strength training I was doing with him: caveman diet as he likes to call it. He allowed for one open meal every six days but other than that, it was steak for breakfast, salad for lunch, an apple and a tablespoon of organic peanut butter pre-work-out and fish or chicken for dinner! My husband and children thought I was going crazy, but I maintained it for over two years, even throughout the summer and the holy fasting month of Ramadan! My family totally refused it as an eating pattern so I continued to cook for my family as usual and cooked differently for me.

This last summer, I dropped everything related to food and decided that I was going to indulge in everything I craved for while maintaining a good exercise program. We were first in Rome so it was espressos, bruschetta, pasta, pizza and gelato all the way… and a lot of touring on foot! Then in Majorca, it was fish and seafood and helado all the way but with a lot of aerobic classes. And finally we went on a Mediterranean cruise where it was literally possible to eat anything you wanted at any hour of the day! But we hit the gym everyday to try to keep in shape. Surprisingly enough, I did not gain any weight but I could see the shift in my shape again and it immediately raised a red flag!

As soon as I got back from my summer trip, I embarked on an online detox program with Dana. It was a life changing experience because I was finally introduced
to an array of infinite delicious healthy recipes for all meals and snacks that the entire family can enjoy. She showed me that eating healthy did not need to be complicated and was easy to maintain, no matter where you are… at home or away. Today we are all enjoying the smoothies, the salads, the snacks, the dips, etc. But we still have a long way to go to be 100% healthy… and we have not gotten over our ice cream addiction… it remains our weekly treat.

Health is important to me and my family and for years I struggled to find the right “formula” to give my family nutritious balanced meals that would help them grow into healthy grown- ups while answering to their individual needs. Today I feel more confident that I am making better choices for my family.


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