Nazia Khatun shares her inspiring story
From Bionic to bloated
At some point in every girl’s life we strive to be the perfect size 8-10 figure, I was definitely one of them which led to eating disorders at the age of 19. I was also left almost crippled for a few years from excessive gym use and training using the wrong techniques. After a year out in physio and on the mend from sciatic nerve damage from running too much on the treadmill, I kissed goodbye to my waifer thin waist, hips and thighs and said hello to three rolls of unwanted fat round my midriff. It didn’t take me long going from a bionic woman in the gym, where men and women watched me run for hours on end and thought I was a machine, to a lazy and unmotivated individual. I went from one extreme to another. Once I was in better condition from my physiotherapist I realised I was bored of the gym and my uneducated workouts were leaving me more depressed and isolated than my ego of being perfect.
My disinterest in the gym, studying at university than working 9-5 led to my eating habits spiral out of control. The days of eating cakes and sweets with every meal got the best of me. The weighing scales confirmed it and so did people around me. I jumped from a fragile 8 stones to 10.5 stones. More depressed than ever, I knew I had to do something.
I had always wanted to try boxing, watching the likes of Muhammad Ali and Prince Naseem, boxing was probably already embedded in my thoughts from an early age, plus I was getting good at fighting with my younger brother and sisters all the time. It took one trainer in my local gym to encourage me, as I was so scared of doing something different and out of the normality for an Asian girl. I will never forget the day I stepped into the boxing gym. I instantly fell in love with the sport for the art it was and the way it allowed me to be free and use my body in so many different ways in comparison to running continuously for hours on end.
My best days were my parent’s worst nightmare
I was a very quick learner and picked up the sport faster than I had anticipated; going to every session I had butterflies, as every session was different and left me buzzing for hours after. Three months into the sport my coach entered me into a competition. This was so exciting and every time I met new people and told them I was boxing, it was as it their eye balls came out of the socket, they had never met an Asian female in the sport so somehow it made me feel more of an elusive butterfly. However things were different at home, my parents despised the idea of me boxing. My father was too concerned with what other people would think about his daughter boxing and how would I ever get married. This used to wind me up all the time. The Asian community are so fixated on this whole notion of being judged by other people that it kills dreams and aspirations for most people, especially females as we somehow hold the shame and glory of the family together, so imagine me being the eldest of the children and going against all the traditions and norms.
I used to train three times per day to start off with and every time I picked up my training bag, my father would give me the good old lecture. I understood my parents worried of me being hurt, but it was hilarious when my mother used to tell me stories of how she watched a film of a girl boxer who died from brain damage. I carried on boxing for a few years and competed despite what they said. Somehow it made me more stubborn to carry on. On one hand I was this enigmatic, unique species for the opposite sex and someone full of courage and guts for my fellow females and I had so many people tell me how much I encouraged them to do something different and even train. Then I had to face the other spectrum of parent's opinion about what I was doing. I stuck to pleasing myself for a while but it wasn’t easy. Most times I had to grit my teeth and just get the best out of my training, once in the boxing ring I was someone totally different, I was like a bulldog as someone described it, so I guess the anger used to get expressed in some ways than I let on.
I knew boxing was my sport and the feeling of euphoria and freedom I felt can never be explained. The second year of boxing I told my parents I had given it up, just to ease of their worry and the arguments. The grave mistake of not being focused during a sparring session left me with my first black eye and bruised nose. All martial artists feel like warriors when they get a black eye. It’s something worn with a proud heart, my first concern was I cannot let my parents see this as they will hit the roof, so for a few days I wore concealer and foundation under the eye to cover it up. Stupidly enough one morning waking up I forgot and was faced with my father going down to brush my teeth. Upon asking what happened and I can already hearing him breathing deeply my dumb answer was 'oh something fell off the wardrobe' I kicked myself so hard thinking how lame of an answer that was.
For a whole week I heard my father scream and shout about boxing, that I would end up dead, what will people think and no one will marry me. The usual things I guess a typical Asian father would say. In 2009 I finally stopped boxing in a club; my heart wasn’t in it after a while but a gap was missing in my hyper energetic life.
The journey to helping others as a Personal Trainer
After realising an office job wasn't for me, I finally decided to dive into the deep end and swap my HR role to embark on an intensive PT course.
I knew straight away that it would be something my parents probably wouldn’t approve of or think highly of but I was at a point where I was tired of trying to fit in and please others. I knew if I didn’t make a go of this now I would never do it and regret it.
Most mornings my father would give me a brief lecture and I was too scared to even face him at times with my PT shirt on. I felt like I was doing something wrong, on one hand I was helping people overcome obesity, depression, and generally providing them with tools to look after themselves. but on the other hand I wasn’t doing a normal job like most of my cousins who were solicitors, accountants and doctors but a quote by the late Steve Jobs stood out to me: 'Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.'
Times are changing but exercise in the Bangladeshi community is still not seen as a valid part of a healthy lifestyle, let alone a career, especially by the older generation. While a high rate of diabetes , heart attacks and high cholesterol continue to kill a lot of people in the community I truly believe if I could reach out to females and am able to re educate them and their families then this can be reduced . I know I am in an industry where I am changing lives for the better.
Asian females are held back in my communitybut it need not be that way. Being a Muslim female trainer I am able to make females more comfortable whether it is in their own homes or a boot camp session. You just need to stand up and make a change to live better and healthier lives for your own sanity and that of your children’s - after all you want them to lead a healthy life and not be another percentage of the obesity statistics.
Its been a long road of emotions, highs and lows, and sometimes it is hard to admit that I probably had more panic attacks and fear of failing than most people which wasn’t healthy at times, but I stuck it out and am glad I did this for my true self. It makes it all worth it when someone tells me because of meeting me they were able to change their lives. Following my dream has showed me that it can be done, it was slow but having faith and being brave when the odds were against me gave me courage.
I wasn’t born to be average and neither was anybody else in this world. We spend too long on worrying that we forget to live in the moment. We all have a duty to serve ourselves first then others. I love what I do now, regardless of what anyone says, I am also blessed to have a supportive family and my parents have now accepted that this is what I will be doing until my days are outnumbered.
Find our more about Nazia at www.fitnessrebornuk.com
Nazia is offering Asiana readers 20% off her PT packages for a limited period. Book by 31st July 2014 to get the discount and quote 'Asiana' when you book. You can also take a guest for free to the first session. To book call Nazia on 07400050030. You can follow her on Facebook.