We’re pleased to announce Amina Khan as AM Women’s third American Muslim Woman of the Month!
Amina Khan is nothing if not motivating. Coming from her own struggle with being overweight and unhealthy, and working her way to a healthy lifestyle, she made it her mission to share her secrets to a healthier self with the world. She achieves this through her brand, Amanah Fitness, which is made up of a dedicated team of nutritionists and fitness experts. Khan isn’t only the founder and CEO of the company, but also its face and driving force. Her expertise spans many years as a certified fitness instructor, which she continues to do to this day even as she works towards her PhD in Health Psychology from Walden University. Being a Canadian, she was even named the Top Canadian Fitness Professional of the Year in 2018 at the World Fitness Expo held in Toronto.
Many Muslim women are either sidelined or completely ignored in the wider health and fitness world, as considerations of modesty and appropriate gender relations fall by the wayside in most gyms. Many women, Muslim women in particular, though not exclusively, find it extra challenging to maintain their fitness goals. Most of them don’t see their hijab requirements addressed in the athleisure fashion world, and on top of that, often do not have the opportunity to get professional attention more privately, or in an environment that is solely surrounded by women. For the most part, gyms are co-ed, and even those that were originally intended to serve only women are slowly closing their doors in favor of a more “one size fits all” approach to fitness. This leaves many Muslim women on their own, trying to navigate an increasingly complex and confusing world of never-ending fad diets and dangerous fitness practices without the necessary professional support.
This is a dangerous rabbit hole to fall into with serious health consequences. In order to address this real need, which is felt to a greater extent in more traditional, religious, segregated, or more gender sensitive communities, Amanah Fitness opened its virtual doors in 2015. It aims to reach women who are desperately trying to take control of their weight, fitness, and nutritional goals without compromising on their hijab requirements.
Being in the thick of the COVID19 epidemic, this service will come as a great relief to anyone who is either unable to take advantage of their gym membership or was thinking of joining one. Staying physically fit carries all kinds of benefits, not only to the body, but to the mind as well, which is an aspect that we’re all wanting to pay closer attention to in these times of social isolation.
I was able to carve out some of Khan’s time to get answers to a few questions that I’m sure AM Women readers are asking themselves as well. As we all seek to reach and maintain a healthy lifestyle, it’s certainly nice to know we have such relatable experts on hand to guide us through the maze of conflicting information that can be found out there.
Why “Amanah” Fitness?
Amanah means trust. As Muslims, we believe that our bodies are a precious “trust” to us from God, and we must take care of this gift. I help Muslim women get fit and healthy at home with the best modest fitness, weight loss and nutrition programs. Amanah represents the philosophy behind our entire brand– our bodies are an Amanah from God, and it is our responsibility to learn how to take care of this huge blessing.
What is the story behind Amanah Fitness?
I am a former chubby, lazy, couch-potato turned obsessed fitness professional! Growing up, like many other Muslim women, I struggled with my weight and dealt with a lot of self-esteem issues as a consequence. Through my own 60-pound weight loss journey, I realized how important our weight and health are to our overall happiness, and mental and spiritual health, too.
Today, I’m trying to share this blessing of fitness with as many Muslim women around the world as I can. Currently, I’m completing my PhD degree in health and weight-loss psychology. Based on my research specialising in Muslim female barriers to fitness, I created an online fitness community for Muslim women called, Amanah Fitness, as a certified fitness and weight loss coach. Alhamdulillah, our community has become an inspiring international group of women who uplift each other physically, spiritually, and mentally as we get fit and healthy together!
What propelled you to want to provide an online fitness, nutrition, and wellness service for Muslimahs?
The problem is that Muslim women are neglected by the mainstream fitness industry. Health psychologists criticize the mainstream fitness industry for being overly sexualized. This can lead to body image issues and exclusivity towards women who prefer to dress modestly or wear hijab. Anyone who’s ever gone to a public gym or tried a workout DVD knows that there is a clear lack of relatable fitness role models for Muslim women.
“modesty is no barrier to living a healthy, active lifestyle”
Through Amanah Fitness, I wanted to be the role model I never had. I wanted to prove that modesty is no barrier to living a healthy, active lifestyle. I wanted to empower women and families all over the world to experience the transformative power of health–even if they don’t feel they ‘belong’ in mainstream fitness programs.
Why is fitness important to you?
I wasn’t sporty or naturally thin growing up. Yes, fitness does make you look better, but that’s not why I care. I care about changing health in the Muslim community because I think we’ll be a happier, kinder, higher-impact community, and closer to the true spirit of Islam if we can put a dent in the rising rates of Muslim obesity.
When I considered my body an Amanah, I stopped focusing on trying to become an impossible size 0 or hating the way I looked in the mirror. I focused on respecting my body and taking small steps to treat it as a precious trust. With this mindset, the weight naturally fell off, as well as a lot of the stress and pressure surrounding health and fitness.
What issues have you encountered in your years of coaching experience?
Let’s face it, the research shows that Muslims may be more likely to be overweight and obese. After losing weight nine years ago, I got certified as a fitness instructor and started teaching Muslim women how to exercise. Over and over again, the same concerns kept coming up: Lack of modest fitness opportunities. Unhealthy ethnic foods. Lack of motivation. Lack of knowledge and comfort. I always found it sad that we have such awful health outcomes in our community when there’s so much in our Prophetic tradition that discourages overeating and promotes a physically fit, active life.
“The way we talk about our bodies has a huge impact on the way we think about ourselves and our self-esteem.”
My goal is to create faith-based fitness that is empowering instead of discouraging. Of course, this includes featuring Muslim female fitness instructors. But it also includes messaging: the way we talk about our bodies. For example, instead of the typical messaging of ‘Imagine how your legs will look in a bikini after this!’ you’ll be hearing ‘Think about how grateful you are to Allah ﷻ for strong legs that can move like this!’ during workouts. The way we talk about our bodies has a huge impact on the way we think about ourselves and our self-esteem. There’s already so much pressure on Muslim women so I think a faith-based, body-positive approach to fitness is essential and much-needed today.
What do you think are the greatest obstacles for Muslim women to obtain their fitness/wellness goals?
For many Muslim women and families, this is their first time starting to exercise or care about their health because (like me, so many years ago) they never knew where to start before, or simply lacked access to fitness resources that aligned to their faith. It’s been so incredible to see how our programs and members have grown Mashallah because it proves the need is clearly there. Muslim women and families are craving this type of culturally sensitive fitness and health education.
Many young Muslims are starting to get into fitness today, which is great. But to have a bigger impact on the health of the entire Muslim community worldwide, I want to include beyond the 5-10% of young people and educated Muslims who already enjoy exercise. We have to look at the pockets of our community that are largely neglected–busy moms and dads, older aunties and uncles who have to pray in chairs due to a lack of mobility, and women who wear hijab or choose to dress modestly and don’t feel comfortable at the gym.
What services do you provide to your clientele?
I created an award-winning, modest, home workout, bootcamp program for Muslim women. Not only are the workouts ground-breaking and extremely effective for fat-burn in a modest, family-friendly environment, but our community is the absolute best place to connect with Muslim women from around the world to stay motivated!
I also run international, free, online fitness challenges to inspire ladies to just START moving! Our 5-Day, 5-minute, free fitness challenges have been extremely popular with 15,000 ladies participating in the past 6 months.
“My goal is to have every Muslim woman try one of my online workouts and significantly reduce the global obesity crisis for Muslims today.”
Ramadan is at our doorstep, and it’s a month in which many Muslims try to reset their minds, bodies, and souls to attain a new standard that they wish to maintain through the rest of the year. What do you offer to Muslims who want to start fresh?
Education is really important to us, so we produce a weekly online lifestyle show to teach a new faith-based approach to weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise. We’re also pioneering expert research on Ramadan meal planning, fasting fitness, sleep, and stress to change the way Muslims fast in Ramadan. Check out www.ramadanreset.com; if you need to figure out how to start exercising, get fit and healthy, or lose weight, I’m here to help!
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Do you do live coaching as well, or only online?
I love teaching live classes as a way for me to interact with my community. I frequently teach and host free, live fitness classes in mosques and community centers. However, I have seen the real transformation happens when ladies don’t just come to a one-off event, but they do my online workouts regularly on their own time, at home. That’s why I love online fitness coaching, Alhamdulillah!
Where do you see your business in 5 years?
Allah ﷻ is the best of planners! I think in 4-5 month blocks and try not to overthink it. My mission has always been to spread fitness education to a global Muslim audience. My goal is to have every Muslim woman try one of my online workouts and significantly reduce the global obesity crisis for Muslims today. So, I’m going to continue working towards that vision by creating free workouts, coaching my bootcamp members, and creating the best Muslim health education possible, Inshallah.
What’s the best advice you’d give our readers to encourage them to take charge of their health?
Start small. It just takes five minutes to change the way you think about movement, fitness, and your body. Try one of my 5-minute workouts today!
Indeed they should! I’ve done them all, and shared them with all my friends. Some are way too busy to get 15-30 minutes a day, so these mini-workouts do the trick, and show them how little can go a long way! Thanks for sharing your experience and expertise with us! All the best with your goals!
You’re most welcome my dear sis!
You can follow Amina Khan on Instagram @amanahfitness. Check her out on Facebook at Amanah Fitness, and visit her website https://amanahfitness.com, where you can join her email list and get updates each time she starts a new challenge or workout plan. You can also view her public videos on YouTube at Amanah Fitness as well. For more information, you can email her team at firstname.lastname@example.org