Having a great physique does not come easy. It demands the occasional blood, extreme toil, lots of sweat, and possibly many tears (well, this is the case for us) to look good.
Nana Al Haleq
is no stranger to this concept. In fact, she is living proof of what and where hard work could get you.
Nana is a certified wellness coach in Hypertrophy, Advanced Hypertrophy and Fat Loss Specialisation from the Australian Strength Performance and TV host for several fitness programs including Kami Geng FIT, which airs on Astro Prima.
As if that’s not impressive enough, the KL-born is also an entrepreneur with a niche in the fitness world. She has co-founded bodylab.co (@bodylab.co), a fitness supplement company and Fit Sambal by Nana (@fitsambalbynana_hq), which essentially produces healthy sambal line.
Back in the day, Nana represented Selangor as a track and field sprinter. She had since fallen in love with the idea of staying fit. She has also long been passionate about healthy eating.
“Since young, I have always been drawn to goodness of herbs, alternative holistic food and medicines and eating healthy such as ginseng herbal soup and nutritious porridge. I’ve been obsessing about wheatgrass and spirulina since (my) teenage days and looking for the best and most natural alternative to health keeps pushing me forward,” she revealed.
On her involvement in the fitness industry, she told us that it was by accident. It began when she started sharing her body transformation on social media.
“I started this seven years ago and continued (in) this path until I became a personal trainer and coach with a focus on bodybuilding,” she said.
Nana holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications and Psychology from Monash University. Her choice to pursue her career in the fitness world instead of being a psychologist was initially frowned upon by her mother, as it seemed that it does not offer a stable opportunity in the future.
“She’s one is my biggest role models and helped look after my university tuition fees so I could understand her shock, but now she’s very proud of me,” Nana stated.
Making it work
Nana cited hard work, courage and dedication as the essence in making it to where she is today. It is understandable then that she looks up to “all the hustlers in the world that work hard to make their dreams happen”.
Nana described her journey as “rainbows on most days with a hit of storms every now and then”.
We think her concept, which is to “give your best every single day as if it’s your last and brace every challenge with a smile” is good practice and must have certainly helped along the way!
“The fitness industry then was always dominated by men and women were not accepted to look strong, only minimally toned. I received hate mail, DMs and many discouraging comments almost on a daily basis but these efforts to deter me from being different only fuelled me to prove that women are not less than if they have muscles and that women too can excel in the fitness industry,” she revealed.
To prove that point, being active is a daily affair for Malaysia’s Fitness Goddess.
Nana considers her everyday life as “a joyful roller coaster ride”.
“There is never certainty in my schedule because there’s always something interesting that I need to give extra attention to aside from my list of things to do and I love it!”
With 196,000 followers (and counting!) on her Instagram account alone, it is no surprise that a typical day for her would involve a great deal of work for social media.
She would be busy updating content for her business social media accounts, editing pictures and videos for her personal social media account, keeping herself and her business partners updated as well as making time to prepare healthy meals and exercising along the way every day.
There are also days when she would have to meet early shooting call time and attend meetings as well as being present at events. We’re exhausted just thinking of having to do all that!
'Focus on health'
Over the years that she has spent in the fitness industry, Nana discovered that people tend to have the belief that trainers possess all the answers in the world to solve the matter of how they could lose weight.
“To address this issue, trainers and coaches need to do more than just assigning physical training but (also) to monitor one’s diet which is quite complicated as people aren’t really honest about what they eat. There are limitations as a coach and unless people are going to be honest, we can’t be expected to be mind readers as well,” she elaborated.
Nana made it clear that she is against body shaming. Making people feel bad about their bodies does not align with her principles.
However, while she believes that we should embrace the diversity of the shapes and sizes of our bodies, she does not believe in concealing the laziness to improve our health and getting active behind the convenient embrace of being ‘curvy’ and many other layers of excuses.
She added: “I strongly believe that both genders, in general, should constantly be focusing on meeting optimal health and improving health rather than worrying what size they are in.
"A skinny person is not necessarily healthy and healthy curvy person is not necessarily unhealthy. How good we look doesn’t determine our health. We all should be focusing more on health and stress less over the size of our waistline”.
Ignore, block, delete
On the subject of traditional beauty, Nana said: “I don’t even know what traditional beauty means anymore and I believe every heritage, race and origin have different interpretations towards the meaning of traditional beauty. Beauty itself is so subjective”.
In fact, the opinion of those who do not find muscular females beautiful does not bother her.
“I strongly believe that women should not feel like they need to abide by what the mainstream tells us to look like, as to how they define beauty is mostly a temporary definition of what they create and seasonal.”
She further stated: “Women should be proud of the hard work they put in regardless of what shapes they are in. What should we be stressing on is how healthy and functional that ‘beautiful’ body is.”
Well, despite her amazing figure, Nana is not spared from the wrath of mean criticisms over her body.
“I’ve definitely been exposed to a fair share of criticism when I first started mostly via social media. But as the years have gone by, the comments have been more infrequent and there’s a better understanding that we are all different and no one needs to throw so much hate to strangers so I ignore, block and delete.”
And to those who tend to mock others for their appearance, here’s her exact message to you: “Whaaaaa you so perfect issit got no flawssssss
Self love is the best love
One of the challenges Nana faces in her line of work is to keep up with the latest findings on nutrition studies.
“Fact-checking nutrition information can be confusing when cross-checking with so many studies,” she said.
“Being patient in answering the infamous question of ‘How do I lose weight’ knowing that people won’t take changing their diet as (an) answer” is also a frequent challenge she faces.
“I stay disciplined for myself and the results from hard work is gratifying. Exercising makes me happy and it might sound weird to some but the harder the routine, the happier I am. It only depends if my body is capable to cope at that time.”
Nana admits to being lazy at times too. On such occasion, “I would rest and do some other active recovery such as gentle stretching while watching TV”.
Here's a tip: don't disturb this feisty lady on her rest day for she would be busy dozing off or having a me-time!
“With my hectic schedule, sleep is a luxury so I would be spending my time either in bed or have a good full day spa treats. Two hours of healing massage, 45 minutes foot reflexology and two hours of premium facial,” she laughed.
Malaysia vs the world
Despite the recent health boom in Malaysia, Nana believes that country is still far behind, especially with regards to nutrition and access to diet education.
"There are lots of deep ties we have with our foods in Malaysia. For example, it’s easy to scapegoat rice as being an issue but rice is not the only problem we need to rethink how we cook our own dishes.”
She perceives the increase in fun runs, marathons and fitness events here in Malaysia in a positive light. However, Nana believes that the next course of action should be to focus on educating Malaysians on healthier alternatives for the favourite dishes as well as finding ways to make healthy food more accessible and affordable to the masses.
Healthy and yummy food at a reasonable price? Count us in!
One word of advice
Nana finds great satisfaction in being able to share her knowledge with others and witnessing the achievements of the people who are inspired by her. According to her, it is “truly the best feeling in the world”.
It is no surprise then that according to her, passion, patience, integrity and curiosity are the essence of success in this line.
“Put your ego down, constantly learn, and be nice to others. The industry is so small so why create enemies. Instead, we should be friends and learn from each other”.
On a separate note, to those who are keen on getting started to get fit but are insecure about heading to the gym, Nana suggests initiating the movement at home.
"After all, you can get fit anywhere. If you are shy, do it from home or go to a women-friendly gym if that feels safer.”
Having a workout buddy would also help you to stay motivated and keep going!
“In my experience, having your family or loved ones to support you will be the biggest help to achieve your goals. Usually, the number one reason women, especially young girls, (are) insecure about hitting the gym or getting fit is because of discouragement from family and loved ones!”
So, folks, let’s give them the encouragement they need!
Oh, and she has one more advice to those who keep putting their diet-slash-exercise resolutions on hold.
“Stop making excuses lah
. If you have the time to troll on people on social media, you absolutely have time to get fit and do some reading on how to cook healthy”.