Nutrition and Fitness with Randa

About Randa

My name is Randa, and it means a flower that blooms in the desert. When I was old enough to grasp that meaning, I believed my parents had given me that name because I was born and raised in Saudi Arabia, the land of deserts. (Actually, it is a Lebanese name, as I am half Lebanese.)

As a little girl, sliding down sand dunes on cookie trays for birthday parties and stores closing five times a day for prayer was as normal as brushing teeth. As was segregated restaurants and pools, ice cream shops that didn’t allow women and children to sit and enjoy their cones, chickens running through the neighborhood.

I grew accustomed to my mother donning her abaya to cover herself and waiting endlessly for our driver because as a woman, she wasn’t allowed to drive.

The camels and Bedouins were familiar sights, and the chanting Imams calling faithful Muslims to prayer, a very familiar and oddly comforting sound.

Cloudless in my memory is myself at six or seven, alone in our windowless kitchen, pretending to be a television food host; how I knew about such things remains mysterious: the TV shows allowed in Saudi Arabia were mostly family shows aired six months before in America, and even those were tirelessly edited to prevent sexual corruption – heaven forbid one was privy to a father hugging his daughter or a husband kissing his wife on the cheek.

All ingredients were measured in bowls and cups prior to the cooking demonstration, which was presented, of course, in a perfectly fashioned British accent. This was done in an effort to mimic teachers at the British International School I attended, founded by my father – a doctor -  to give my older, school-ready brother a good education among other foreigners. I spent hours baking and cooking for an elusive audience, following both my mother’s cookbook recipes and creating my own culinary concoctions.

So my love for food began. While most outgrow their baby fat by the age of six, I grew into it at the age of six - I was not an overweight child, but I certainly wasn't svelte. Growing up in Saudi with friends from around the world, and having the privilege of traveling all over the globe, my young palate got to experience so many different foods-

Pide pizza in Turkey and shrimp paella in Spain; piping hot 'mana'eesh' (arabic bread topped with thyme/olive oil paste) and delicately delicious crepes in France. (Not so lovely was a whole fish with huge eyeballs intact, nestled into a blanket of white rice.)

This appreciation for delightful, imaginative food followed me into adulthood, where it collided with a growing appreciation for food as it related to health. When I gained the infamous 'freshman 10' eating belgian waffles for breakfast and cocoa puffs for dessert, that summer began my enthusiastic pursuit of healthier living (okay, so I didn't really care about being healthy, I just wanted to lose the weight). I actively whiled the summer days away riding my new mountain bike in the hills, ditching the canoe to swim the lake, and dutifully doing leg raises to Buns of Steel (did I really just confess that to the world?)

So I had the exercise part down pretty well, but what was I eating? Were tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and dinner sufficient? I went back to school that year - 10 pounds leaner and stronger than I had ever been- contemplating seriously, maybe for the first time ever, how our diet (the food we choose to put into our bodies) affects us - our mood, our mind, our outlook on life, our confidence and our health.

I really do believe in the popular saying, "You are what you eat."

Since that time, my passion found itself immersed in books and exams to become a nutritionist, so that with my love for food, I now had the knowledge to understand the impact of food choices on daily life and health. I have applied that knowledge as a health educator and personal trainer, a speaker and presenter. I absolutely love what I do. I love that my two and five year old know what a protein is and think sauteed tofu is better than sliced bread. I love that I am leaner and healthier now than I was five years ago. I still love food, but I now know how to eat for health as well as for pleasure.

We live in the age of "what diet do you want to do next?" only to find the same question voiced a year and 10 extra pounds later.

We must unlearn and relearn what is healthy and good, and wade through the thick, murky lies our fast-moving, fast-losing and fast-fooding country has fed to us.

My only goal for being here is to share what I have learned over the years and continue to learn each day - my healthy living blog is a place for recipes I have found or created, easy tweaks you can make to lose fat and get leaner, discussing health issues, how to raise a healthy family, and lots more.

Now, time to get back to concocting in my own kitchen, lands away from that in which I grew up in.

Sharing health, one person at a time,

Randa

              Josh, my partner in life, videographer                    & webmaster!

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