If you’re a foodie, you know that food has a highly spiritual aspect. And our religion is about living a balanced way of life. Today, we have Zeeshan Shah, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, to give us some insights on her domain of expertise and what prompted her to be a Health Coach. Shah is the Founder and President of EAT.DRINK.PURE. A wife and a mom to two boys, her passion is to educate and help women and children about all things health and wellness.
Papatia Feauxzar: Assalamu aleikum Zeeshan, welcome to Hayati Magazine. What is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach?
Zeeshan Shah: Wa aleikum assalam and thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to share my passion with your readers!
To answer your question, I would like to quote my alma mater, The Institute for Integrative Nutrition:
“An integrative Nutrition Health Coach is a supportive mentor and wellness authority helping clients feel their best through food & lifestyle changes by tailoring individualized wellness programs to meet their clients’ needs.”
PF: Great! Thank you. Now, why did you decide to become one? And are there any differences between a life coach, a dietitian, a personal trainer and a nutritionist? If so, can you briefly tell us the nuances between all these terms which seem so interchangeable?
ZS: To answer your first question, I decided to become a Health Coach because I had my own health issues. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. It’s an autoimmune disease. I was living overseas in Saudi Arabia at the time and as I healed myself, I became highly sensitive to the environment around me. I started noticing the lifestyle that most people had adopted in my new home. Poor eating habits, bad sleep etiquette and a sedentary lifestyle is what has made many countries in the Middle East including Saudi Arabia among the fattest countries in the world. This didn’t sit well with me at all, and I realized that I had found my calling. My community needed help, and I was going to try and provide it. Our deen speaks extensively about health and wellness. We have the perfect example in our Messenger (SAW) but it seemed we, as an ummah, have lost our way somehow. So, I started educating people through a healthy food blog to get my message out there. That was great for some time, but I felt I needed some credibility. So, I decided to get a certification and formally educate people.
Different Scope of Practices in The Health Field
The second part of your question deals basically with scopes of practice. With so many health professionals out there, it is really tough to differentiate between them but if you keep the scope of practice in mind, it is easy.
Health Coaches take a more holistic approach. Our health care system is more reactive. Therefore, Health Coaches focus on preventative care. Health Coaches do not diagnose or treat diseases. They work in collaboration with doctors, dietitians and other health care professionals to support the desired change that is needed for a client to reach optimal health. They fill in the gaps, if you will that doctors do not have time for.
Health Coaching is a relatively new field but you see the positions opening up in gyms and corporate settings as well as many Doctors’ offices.
On the other hand, Dietitians and Nutritionists focus on treating patients through diet changes exclusively while Health Coaches pay attention also to the foods that nourish a client off the plate such as spirituality, career, finances, relationships, home environment, creativity, joy and exercise.
Life coaching and health coaching often over lap. I like to say that a Health Coach is someone who is a Life Coach but with a focus on health and nutrition.
Where Life Coaches focus mainly on a person’s personal and professional goals, a Health Coach focuses on a person’s health issues and is able to guide, support and hold a person accountable for reaching their specific health related goals.
As far as Personal Trainers are concerned, they help people with their fitness goals. They do offer advice on nutrition but the focus is mainly on the client’s fitness.
PF: Thank you for the thorough description of these terms! To continue, how do you help your clients and the ummah?
ZS: I help my clients by educating them about health and wellness through 1:1 coaching. I also help my clients chart out customized plans to achieve their specific health goals. These sessions can be in person, through the phone or video calls. I am working on an online jumpstart program to help those who are unable to take out the time for the 1:1 sessions.
I also conduct workshops and cooking demonstrations at my local mosque and in private homes. I did several talks on achieving a healthier Ramadan prior to the month and recently published an eBook which is free to the public to educate them on the benefits of fasting as well as providing tips and recipes on making it a healthy and productive one.
PF: Thanks for the eBook. Alhamdullilah, I was fortunate enough to work with you, and it tremendously helped. I mean my life was chaotic, and it affected every aspect of me from spirituality to career, health, financial, creativity, etc. How about yourself? Did you have to work with a coach in your life and was it beneficial?
ZS: I was unfortunately not able to find a Health Coach when I was going through my own struggles. As I mentioned earlier, I was overseas at the time, and I didn’t even know such a professional existed. I did go to several Doctors. However, none of them told me that I needed to make any food or lifestyle changes. I wish I had a Health Coach though because I kept falling off track as I was learning about my condition and what would have taken me a few months to heal, took me much longer.
I became depressed for a while too because I had eliminated many foods from my diet and had no game plan. I am grateful to Allah (SWT) who guided me to two people; Lee Holmes, a Health Coach and Dr.Mark Hyman, a functional medicine Doctor. I bought Lee’s book “Heal your Gut” which made all the difference. I also started following Dr. Mark Hyman’s blog where he posts about getting to the root cause of disease. You can read more about my journey on my blog.
PF: Masha’Allah alhamdullilah. I’m happy you find your way somehow amidst the storm. Now, I love halal comfort food. It’s not always healthy but it feeds my soul *laughs*. Is there anything wrong with that? In other words, what would you say a good balance is?
ZS: There is absolutely nothing wrong with eating foods that feed your soul, and if it is halal, then you have nothing to worry about because halal means pure and lawful :)!
I always say, eat well 80-90% of the time so you can splurge the rest of the time. The problem starts when we eat the bad stuff almost all of the time. Also, it is important to know what makes your body thrive. We are individual beings; what’s one person’s food may be another person’s poison.
PF: Alhamdullilah, good to know! Last question. What is the most common issue you encounter in your field?
ZS: I have a lot of people asking me about healthy eating. What and how they should eat. Weight loss also comes up more than other issues. The beauty is that if you eat clean, you are almost always guaranteed weigh loss :). I also see a lot of moms interested in getting their kids to eat right. This is such a wonderful shift. We are more aware as moms and are keen to take steps in the right direction. Often, it is better received when others tell you to eat right with solid scientific backing rather than your own mom right?
PF: Right! Well, the team at Hayati Magazine wishes you mubarak success enlightening the ummah and also gifting your knowledge for the sake of Allah. It was an immense honor and pleasure to interview you Zeeshan. We sincerely thank you for being with us. Please give us your social media links so that our readers can learn about you and your works insha’Allah. In peace.
ZS: Oh the pleasure and honor was all mine! Thank you for this opportunity. I hope that my work benefits the ummah and makes us look at what we eat and treat food as medicine and go back to the sage advice offered by the Quran and the Sunnah!
You can find me on:
My website: www.eatdrinkpure.com
I do free discovery calls so feel free to reach out and set one up by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org
You can grab a copy of my FREE Ramadan guide here
I also have a private group for women on facebook : Purely Fabulous Women’s Club to offer support and sisterhood as we head into our forties.