Q&A with Maya Nassar

By: Sahar Mourad

It is not every day you come across the first ever government endorsed fitness bikini bodybuilding competitor in Lebanese/Arab history, but today we bring you the famous Maya Nassar. Regularly competing in international bodybuilding competitions on behalf of Lebanon, Nassar is an inspiration to many Middle Eastern/Arab women, as well as women all over the world and recently, Australia! Sahar Mourad caught up with Maya Nassar to find out more about how she got to this position and what she aims to do next for her fans. Sahar: How does it feel to be the first ever government endorsed fitness bikini bodybuilding competitor in Lebanese/Arab history?
Maya: It makes me feel very proud. The fitness world is a male dominated world and as you know the Middle East has the reputation of not being much emancipated when it comes to women showing of their physique. I’m honoured to be the first government endorsed female fitness bikini athlete and I think it shows that Lebanon is quite progressive. I love that I’m a role model for many young women who are striving towards a better and healthier lifestyle and some who even want to become professional in sports like me!
Sahar: Who or what was your motivator to start working out and become a role model for women all over the world?
Maya: Well before I got into sports I used to live a very unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle. I ate whatever I wanted and whenever I wanted and the gym was literally the last thing on my mind. I never set foot in the gym before I made my transformation. I actually was my own motivator. As I was living such an unhealthy lifestyle I one day found myself trying on my favourite jeans and guess what I couldn’t get it on passed my knees! I was horrified and this really woke me up to start making a change. I was responsible for getting in this bad shape so I would also have to responsible for getting in the best shape of my life. From that moment on I did a lot of research on how to eat healthy and how to work out. I will say that bodybuilder Tom Venuto, who wrote the book Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle, was an inspiration.
Sahar: Was being a role model something you had in mind when you first started out?
Maya: I actually never thought about being a role model. I got fit just for me so that I would be more confident and happy and most of all, healthy. But as I was documenting my journey online and I started my website startlivingright.com I got a lot of questions and comments from people who were seeking my advice on how to also make the switch to a healthy and fit lifestyle. Soon I began getting emails form people who thanked me for helping them change their lives. I then made it a priority to help other people. I am so grateful to help other people become healthy and see their transformation. It makes me feel very proud!
Sahar: The best piece of advice you have ever received which helped you become who you are today is?
Maya: I would say that the best advice that I have received is to always stay close to myself and my ideas and to believe in myself. I’m always very honest in my advice to people. If you want to change you have to work for it but when you are committed you WILL see results!

Sahar: In a typically male dominated field, how do you stand out amongst other famous male bodybuilders?
Maya: The fitness world in Lebanon is quite male dominated but I don’t feel any animosity from other bodybuilders. I mainly focus on myself and my own goals but I definitely support other athletes.
Sahar: Motivation is something that is not always a part of our lives, how do you deal with those days when you lack motivation to work out?
Maya: I simply think about my previous lifestyle and my current lifestyle. The difference is major and it’s simple. Before I was unhappy, unhealthy and insecure. Now I am happy confident, healthy and even more productive! I say keep your eyes on the prize.
Sahar: How do you achieve work-life balance?
Maya: It sounds so cliché I know but it’s true, when you love what you do it doesn’t even feel like work.
Sahar: What is your goal for the next five years?
Maya: My goal is to keep competing in competitions and helping and inspiring others through my TV show on MTV called Get Fit by Maya Nassar. Aside from that I work on my app Startlivingright which you can download for free (no ads!) from the Appstore. It actually has been the #1 fitness app in Lebanon several times! Another thing that I’m working on is the opening of own gym in Lebanon. This is a lifelong dream and I’m working on it!
10 tips from a bikini fitness athlete
1- Ladies, do not be afraid of using weights! Many women are afraid they will get bulky if they train with weights but this is a myth. Female bodybuilders who are bulky are very disciplined and work very very hard to achieve their shape. Often they even use steroids. If you want to get in shape working out with weights is essential and the fastest way to get in shape. Also, an added bonus is that even after the workout you keep burning calories.
2- Educate yourself and don’t rush into anything. When you start off, take your time and start off slow. It’s all about progress, when you start off and go crazy right away you might get injured which will slow you down in the end.
3- Mind your food! You can work out all you want but if you don’t keep a healthy diet you won’t get results! I say it’s 70% diet and 30% exercise.
4- Measure your food. This is so so important! You probably don’t even realise how much you eat until you measure it. You don’t always have to measure but try it so you get a feel for how much you are actually consuming. On my app Startlivingright you can see how many calories your food actually contains in the calorie calculator.
5- Keep your eyes on the price! Results don’t come overnight, it takes at least 3 months to see results in your body. But remember, what 3 months is in a lifetime!
6- Don’t restrict yourself to eating your favourite foods. If you really like french fries or hamburgers have it as your cheat meal! Once a week allow yourself to eat whatever you like for one meal. This doesn’t only give you the pleasure of eating your favourite food it actually is beneficial for your digestive system which will get a boost!
7- Write down your goals and measure your body. To measure is to know!
8- Keep a clean diet. What this means is try to eat clean foods with no preservatives. Eat fresh! And don’t drink your calories!! Refrain from sugary drinks such as fruit juices and soda. Without realising you easily drink a ton of calories.
9- Mix up your workout between cardio and weights. This keeps the workout interesting and you work on both muscles and endurance.
10-   Don’t look to other people. Focus on yourself and your own goal and your own progress!. We all see those Instagram models but that’s not realistic.