A moment with Alina Islam. Alina is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and author/contributor of CCMW-Toronto's Ramadan Nutrition Guide
Give us your "elevator speech" - a snapshot of who you are, what you do, and how we should know you. Please tell us about the path you took to get you where you are today.
I’m 26 years old and a bit of a global nomad. Although originally from Pakistan, I was born in Luxembourg and also lived in Bahrain, the UAE and then moved to Canada when I was 18 for university.
My path from university until now has been an uncertain and interesting one. I graduated from the Schulich School of Business and then worked in the world of advertising for over three years. Halfway through the three years, I started night school for a 2-year diploma in Applied Holistic Nutrition. In December 2013, I quit my job to focus on it full-time.
Today I am a Certified Nutritional Practitioner, or otherwise known as a Holistic Nutritionist. I work with clients to educate them on how to heal their body and achieve optimal health through food, lifestyle and natural supplements (i.e. vitamins, minerals, herbs). I work part-time as a Natural Health Advisor at Nutrition House and am also in the planning stages of launching my own business, so keep your eyes peeled for that over the next few months!
Besides your daily work, what are you passionate about?
Tricky, because everything nearly everything I’m passionate about has to do with health and wellness! I would say on a personal level, my next love after my career is writing and travelling.
On a more universal scale, I feel passionate about the power of education, which is probably what drew me to the field of holistic nutrition. Outside of my career I would love to be a part of a movement or project that helps to improve literacy rates and shape young minds at an early stage in Pakistan. Improving the education system would have a huge ripple effect on so many other issues that Pakistan (and other developing countries) face such as women’s rights, income inequality, poverty and religious extremism
What does being a Canadian Muslim woman mean to you?
We are fortunate to live in a welcoming, peaceful country where we have the opportunity to excel and achieve our dreams without fear or repercussion. I think it is our responsibility as Canadian Muslim women who have been blessed with a high quality of life, to do two things: 1) reach for the stars and excel at what we do to be positive role models for other young Muslim women; 2) give back to those who are in less fortunate circumstances to bring them closer to a better quality of life.
For young Muslim women growing up in North America, what are 3 things that are most critical for them to be aware of? What advice would you give to young Muslim women?
I would like to tell young Muslim women living in North America the following three things
a) Stay true to your beliefs, morals and values, but don’t make the mistake of isolating yourself from people of different ethnic backgrounds. Embrace and enjoy your friendships with people of all different cultures and learn from them. Your religion is a good foundation and value-system to live by, but it’s not your identity.
b) Your parents are pretty smart. You won’t appreciate all their rules when you’re younger, but when you look back on it you admire their wisdom. Cut them some slack.
c) BUT…remember that while your parents always want the best for you, sometimes they don’t know what’s best for you. And that’s when you have to learn to trust your gut. My parents thought that a life in the world of banking and finance was best for me. I wheedled my way into a marketing major, and then worked in advertising… until I left it all to become a Holistic Nutritionist/Entrepreneur. It took a lot of reassuring at my end, but they eventually came around. I know this path isn’t going to be easy, but my gut keeps telling me I’m doing the right thing and I’ve never been happie
Please share 3 dreams you hope to achieve in the future. What can be changed to make the world a better place? How can we contribute?
I dream of a world where processed food giants like Coca Cola and McDonalds downsize, go bankrupt, or completely redo their product line. Yes, oddly enough that is my wildest dream. The number of chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity have skyrocketed in the past few decades and it’s because we’re overfed (on nutrient-depleted, processed food in boxes and cans), undernourished and overmedicated. Lack of awareness and education is one part of the problem, but the other is the constant bombardment of advertising and marketing by big food giants that mislead consumers into eating so-called “healthy” food.
At the end of the day, every consumer votes with his or her dollar. For example, more and more supermarkets are now carrying organic produce and healthier snack options. My goal is to encourage people to continue to vote for their health until we reshape what we see in supermarkets, in kitchen cupboards, and start to see a reversing trend in Canadian health statistics.
Share you favorite quote.
“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, he’ll eat for a lifetime.” – Chinese Proverb
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want with you?
If I were stranded on an island, I would want a knife (dual purpose – chopping up food and protecting myself from crazy animals/people that want to kill me), some photos of the people I love, and a pillow (because resting your head on a rock would just suck).
What rules do you live by?