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Interview With Lebanese Fitness Professional Maya Nassar

Maya Nassar, you might know her as the energetic TV host of the morning sports show on MTV, but behind this fit and motivational woman is an intriguing story. That which has made her adopt a very healthy lifestyle, compete in bikini fitness modeling championships, and bring home a whole lot of trophies.

Being the woman who led the trend of fit females in the Middle East, we simply had to chat with Maya to learn more about her discipline, career, professional tips and advice.

AM: Who is Maya Nassar?
I am someone who is very multicultural and I love traveling and exploring new countries. I have a Dutch mother and a Lebanese father so I have been exposed to both cultures. Along with this, I was born in New York, grew up in Africa then moved to England before settling in England. I have four passports: Dutch, Lebanese, American and Ghanaian. I enjoy traveling to foreign countries as I always learn something new whenever I do. Along with that, I would say I am adventurous and love things that challenge me and push me outside of my comfort zone.

AM: Tell us how you became a fitness professional?
Several years back I was a completely different person. I was incredibly unhealthy, had a high fat diet and did zero exercise. After hitting rock bottom and becoming overweight, I woke up one day and realized that I am responsible for my own lifestyle. It was the moment my jeans no longer fit my hips that made me hit rock bottom. After this, I started going to the gym and eating a healthy and clean diet. In a matter of months, I dropped five sizes and became a new person. I discovered fitness and a healthy lifestyle is my passion and that I wanted to help other people achieve the same results. This is when I became certified in personal training and sports nutrition. My next goal was to enter fitness modeling championships. I wanted to be that girl who was too insecure to walk on the beach to someone who stepped on stage next to other fitness models. Over the last four years, I became endorsed by the Lebanese minister of sports and won a total of 6 trophies. I finally opened my own gym last year and settled my personal career in fitness.

AM: How is your personal lifestyle like?
I would say that I have a healthy lifestyle. I train up to five days a week and follow a healthy diet. Along with this, I enjoy being as active as I can and try to travel as much as possible. My other passion is helping people. Hearing that I changed someone’s life and helped them become a better version of themself through fitness is the greatest reward.

AM: Can you describe your relationship with the gym/sports?
I would describe it as my addiction. Exercising and sports help you feel good and strong both mentally and physically. It also is the best stress reliever and is the greatest gift someone can give to themselves. Many people say that they see the gym as a punishment but I always say it is a reward because it serves you in the long run. 

AM: And how do you keep yourself motivated?

I always compare my new lifestyle with my old lifestyle. With my old lifestyle I could eat as much as I wanted and never do any exercise but that came with lack of confidence, insecurity, being overweight and unhealthy. With my new lifestyle, I can’t eat whatever I like and have to train but I’m, rewarded with health, happiness and confidence. Comparing the two lifestyles with each other is my motivation to never give up.

AM: You are one of the first women to participate in bodybuilding competitions in the Middle East. Tell us more about it? And how challenging was it?
I wanted to reach my utmost best and push to my limits both mentally and physically and this is why I chose bodybuilding. When people hear the word “bodybuilding” they think of a woman with big biceps, however I compete in bikini fitness which requires women to be very feminine. It has been a very rewarding experience where I have created the best version of myself. I always see bodybuilding as a challenge of me against myself. As long as I compete and enter the competition, along with completing the diet and training, then I have won. It does not matter what ranking I come in as I would have reached the hardest part of training for the competition and participating in it which would mean that I won.

It has been challenging as not many women compete in the Middle East and people often believe I’m going to take steroids and become masculine when I mention bodybuilding. It was also hard as I did not have access to the same support as women abroad including training camps, workshops, specialized trainers, etc. On the other hand, I have also dealt with criticism on social media from people who do not approve of such a sport, but I simply pay attention to the positive and encouraging messages.

AM: What is your advice for a beginner who wants to adopt a healthy lifestyle?

My advice is for them to first of all form an emotional attachment to their goals. They need to define why they want to adopt a healthy lifestyle and what this will mean for them. Once it becomes personal and emotional, it will become hard to give up when the motivation starts to disappear.

The next step is to follow a healthy diet and training program. There is no such thing as a magic bullet or diet pills that will make you slim. If you want to see results, you have to put in hard work. It is also important to stay away from fad diets or low calorie diets that do not work. It is best to consult with a proper health professional that will help them with a proper plan. I have free diets and training programs on my website and mobile app “startlivingright”.

AM: In your opinion, what are some fitness & sports malpractices in the Middle East?
I believe not enough people lift weights. Women falsely believe that it will make them masculine or that it is only for guys. Overweight people also incorrectly believe that weightlifting will make them bulky under their fat, whereas the opposite is true. Weightlifting is the best way to burn fat and tone your body. The next malpractice is that many people follow extreme diets such as low calorie diets or cutting out carbs. Anything below 1200 calories is starvation and you never need to cut out a major food group such as carbs to see results.

AM: You recently become a mom, how has it changed you?
It has changed me for the better. Becoming a mother is a blessing and one of the best feelings a woman can have. Motherhood has also empowered me and showed me that you can still work and be independent while also being a good mother at the same time.

AM: Finally, what are some of your upcoming projects?
I will compete in fitness modeling this summer and show that moms can still get their bodies back. On a long-term basis, I want to franchise my gym Start Living Right around the Middle East.

Everyday Maya:
  • I can’t leave the house without: My phone! I have all my contacts, photos, work emails and everything there
  • On a typical day you will see me wearing my: Gym clothes
  • My current perfume is: Dolce by Dolce & Gabbana 
  • If I had to choose only one sport to practice for the rest of your life, it would be: Horse riding. I was the junior champion of Lebanon! 
  • My guilty pleasure is: A nice afternoon nap 
  • After a stressful week you will catch me: Hitting the gym and training hardcore

Get motivated and follow Maya on her Instagram here.

Article by Victor