My name is Nabat Sherif (@nsherif), and I’m 30 years old. I’m from Toronto, Canada, and I work in public service by day and am a personal trainer and online fitness coach by night. I help Muslim women break out of their comfort zone and find their strongest selves.

I became an emotional eater when I was around 9 or 10 years old. Food provided me comfort. This lasted through my teen years and into university. The Freshman 15 was also all too real for me.

I was never active growing up and I struggled with confidence, making everything worse. I would get comments about my weight from people, and they always left a mark. Most of the comments were from my extended family, who meant well. But I still developed a poor body image as a result.

From 2011 to 2015, I gained and lost the same 35 pounds many times. But in 2016, I finally realized what I was doing wrong and made the right changes. I was tired of feeling uncomfortable in my skin and tired of feeling sorry for myself. I wanted to take matters into my own hands. I knew I deserved to feel good about myself.

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My nutrition plan changed a lot over the years, until I found a method that I really love. I call it Plate Goals.

I started off with calorie counting, but that didn’t work for me. I did several rounds of Whole30 over a few years, too, and that taught me so much about how different foods affect my body. Ultimately, after I developed an understanding of what foods fueled me best, I started following a paleo diet for a long time.

Now I’d say my nutrition is balanced and simple. I follow a method I call Plate Goals. Each plate that I eat has to be half greens, one quarter protein, one eighth fats, and one eighth starchy carbs. I also follow what I have dubbed the Worth It Method, where I can enjoy treats if and when they’re worth it to me. If I know I really want something, I make it count and have zero guilt about it. I’m also a huge believer in intermittent fasting and have been doing it for years. It was a game changer for me.

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I also reduced my intake of added sugar. I realized I had a sugar addiction and subscribed to the sweet and savory cycle which would cause me to overeat. Reducing my intake worked because it helped me gain control of my cravings.

I focused on nutrient-dense meals with no hard restrictions. This gave me food freedom and allowed me to focus on eating well, not necessarily eating less. It also gave me structure and discipline and taught me how to listen to my body and understand my hunger signals. It helped my relationship with food and ended the yo-yo dieting.

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Here’s what I eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: Water and plain tea (I drink two to three liters of water a day). I skip breakfast because of intermittent fasting.
  • Lunch: Avocado rice cake (two rice cakes, one small avocado, pink salt, and hemp seeds) topped with two fried eggs or a veggie omelette on the side.
  • Snacks: Fruit—a banana, grapes, or dates and unsalted mixed nuts.
  • Dinner: Salad with a protein (fish or chicken) topped with roasted sweet potato, seeds and balsamic dressing.
  • Dessert: Fruit, a homemade protein mug cake, or mango sorbet.

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I now strength train three to four times a week, take a yoga class once a week, and practice mobility daily.

I really got into strength training with weights a year or two into my journey. I initially started with doing at home workout DVDs (I was not confident enough to go to a gym), then graduated to running. I ran my very first 5k in June of 2013!

After that, I built up the confidence to go to a gym where I tried a group weight-training class and fell in love. My strength training has evolved immensely over the years, especially after I became a trainer and started working with other coaches.

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Strength training made me fitter, stronger, and changed my life. It helped me lose fat and gain muscle and ultimately change my body in ways that running and cardio never did. It also inspired me to become a personal trainer and coach.

I lost 35 pounds in seven months in 2016, and I have maintained my weight loss since then.

Maintenance is a lifelong battle, but the journey gets easier. My weight-loss journey was just that—a journey! There were ups downs, roadblocks and pit stops. As soon as I realized that this process was not linear, I cut myself some slack and embraced the process. The focus should be on building sustainable, healthy habits rather than going hard for a short amount of time and then quitting. It’s all about consistency.

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Years later, I’ve come to realize that it’s not about how much weight you lose, but how much you improve your health. I celebrate non-scale victories far more than metrics. I ask myself how I feel. If I’m feeling good, I keep up what I’m doing. If I’m not feeling good I re-evaluate and take action.

There’s no destination for this journey. It’s a part of your life every day. Every day you make choices that will either keep you going, set you back, or stall you. Be consistent with making good choices and you’ll see results.

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