#WOA (women of action) series - Meet Racha Najmeh

Racha Najmeh

Dietetics and human nutrition degree, McGill University
Master's certificate in Food service management, Cornell University 

Sport nutritionist at Nautilus
Nutrition and recipe Instagram blogger at @biocaloriesnutrition
Founder of Bariatric Forum website (coming soon)


At What time do you wake up?
At 8:30am

What is your morning routine like?
Mornings are the only time of the day where I sit down and do nothing.
I don’t watch tv, I don’t read the news.
For an hour and a half, I take my turkish coffee, look at my messages, my emails and my Instagram account.
I usually prepare a post at that time of the day.
It will either be my morning smoothie, my lunch or my snack.
Then I workout at noon, I come back shower and I go to work from two in the afternoon until seven.

How often do you exercise?
I train five times a week.
4 days during the week and one day in the weekend.

At what time do you go to sleep?
I don’t sleep before midnight 

Why were you interested in nutrition?
I grew up in a family that is very health conscious.
My dad is a doctor, my mum is a pharmacist and she’s been into healthy eating since we were kids.
We have diabetes, high blood cholesterol and triglyceride in the family.
An unhealthy lifestyle wouldn’t be good for me. 

Is there a moment in your life that recently marked you?
I went to Mykonos last summer, for ten days, and it was a real eye opener
because I noticed how people around me were really enjoying life.
I was doing two jobs at the time, which weren’t paying that well. I was like a machine and it wasn’t worth it at all.
So I quit one of my jobs, I started working on my own project, and started investing more time on my Instagram nutrition blog.
I realized that I was wasting my time, and this is not who I wanted to be.
It’s so easy to get sucked into a routine and be scared of change.
So I got sucked into this routine thinking it’s normal, when it’s not normal.
Seeing people in Mykonos living their lives, achieving and enjoying, motivated me to start my own thing, because I can!! 

Who do you wanna be?
I want to wake up and work but not feel like working.
Do something I really enjoy, which I can even do over the weekend.
Something that’s my own and that will grow.
I kept Nautilus because I enjoy consultation and I like interacting with people.
In the meantime, I started working on a website for bariatric surgery patients.
All patients that go through these weight loss surgeries need close follow-ups.

Do you push yourself to do something you’re scared of once in a while to get out of your routine?
yes of course!! Like right now.
The website requires so much more work than I thought, and I constantly think,
can I do this or should I sell the website to the doctor that really liked the idea?
Then I think, if others succeeded then why not me!
I always tell myself, if you never try, you’ll never know.
I should try first, then I’ll know if I can do it or not. 

Why as a dietitian, did you want to specialize in bariatric surgery?
When I was in Damascus I used to follow up on a bariatric surgeon’s patients.
He was doing a massive amount of surgeries there and asked that I take care of his patients.
So I used to visit them at the hospital and then they would come to my clinic monthly for follow-ups.
He came last year to Montreal for the IFSO conference (Annual bariatric conference);
and told me his patients were asking how to reach me.
So it started with the idea of having a platform to communicate with these patients.
A website with a panel of experts (dietitian, bariatric surgeon, psychiatrist and plastic surgeon)
that would answer all the needs of this clientele.
The website will feature a recipe blog, a Youtube channel, a forum section where patients can talk to each other,
and the option of booking an appointment online with video conferencing. 

You ever went through a difficult time?
When I moved back to Syria after finishing my studies at Mcgill, I opened my clinic.
My parents were very supportive in starting my own business but I was very scared at the beginning;
what if I don’t get clients, what if it doesn’t work.
I spent six month working with a translator because I never studied in Arabic, to design and translate handouts.
And I went from having almost zero clients, to having six months later a waiting list of two month before getting an appointment.
This was the first challenge, starting my own business at the age of 23.
After launching I had a weekly radio show, a monthly tv appearance, I was writing in magazines and I later started a catering company.
So I basically got used to working almost seven days a week.
Then War happened. War was the second challenge because everything was gone.
5 years of hard work and I had to close the clinic and restart from scratch.
I came back to Montreal 3 years ago and I had no clue if I was staying here or
if I was going back home because things were going to get better 

How long did it take you to realize the situation might not get better anytime soon and that you had to start doing something?
Until now, I have hope! 

How did you get over this shock and life event?
You never get over it, but when you see your parents and realize you’re in a much better situation,
you can’t allow yourself to be stuck in the past.
When you see the people around you, people you know that were living a decent life, sinking in boats trying to escape.
You can’t feel bad about what you’ve lost. 

How do you usually overcome your challenges?
I always tell myself failure is not an option.
Of course I failed and I’ll fail many times. I have them everyday when I can’t resell sessions to my clients or when I can’t sell a product.
They’re like mini rejections, but they shouldn’t discourage you.
At the beginning I would always get discouraged, but then I think if my colleagues can do it then why not me! 

How do you motivate yourself?
I only compare myself to the best in the industry,
For example when I started my Intagram page, the health blogger that I was looking at had 1.1 million followers
and my goal was to have 1.2 million followers. I might never get there but I always try to set higher goal.
I look at inspiring people, people that started from scratch. 

How do you manage your stress?
Yoga, biking and walking, I like to walk, because I grew up in a country where I can’t walk,
where you have high chances of being verbally molested when you do.
What I love the most about Canada is when I leave my house and bike or walk outside. I feel so free and it relieves all the stress.
My clients remove my stress too. Sometimes I wake up in a bad mood, I go to work and then when I see my clients,
I feel happy when they’re changing their lives no matter how slow the process might take.
I like my clients; I build a close relationship with them. 

A person dead or alive you would like to meet?
My grandfather, I never met him but my dad talks about him all the time.
The whole family lived in a small village outside of Damascus and he’s the one who paved the way for my whole family to move into the city.
He was an entrepreneur and a godfather to the family.
He was a strong character, a determined person and he succeeded from scratch.
It makes you feel that there is no reason to be intimidated by anyone.
People are too scared of rejection but if you let small rejections and failures discourage you, you risk being stuck in the same position. 

What is the best advice you received?
Since we were young my dad used to tell us no matter what you end up doing in life it’s all about Public Relations.
He’s a doctor and he told me even medicine needs PR to be successful.
I think this helped me a lot in my career because I learned to meet people, to keep in touch and to help anybody that needs my help.
There is some sort of karma in all of this, when you help someone, you might not need them now,
but ten years later they might be helpful in some way and they might help you without even you knowing.
You need to meet people, not be shy to introduce yourself and keep in touch.
They might show no interest at first but one day they might think about you: Oh I met a dietician once,
I need someone now let’s get in touch with her, or they might hear of a project that can be big and reach out to you. 

What advice would you give to someone ? or a motto you live by?
The best advice is to try. I always tell myself, if you never try you’ll never know.
Before making an assumption, if I will be able to do something or not, try! 
There is nothing to lose. 

For people who know you, you are always smiling and exude joy, How do you always stay in a good mood?
I do things I love, I don’t do work outs I hate, I go to classes I like, I listen to music and I cook.
I like cooking, because it’s a way of creating something. 

Is there a trick for you to always eat well or does it just come naturally to you?
The fact that I share my meals on Intagram motivates me.
I always think, if I do this for a living, I can’t expect my clients to comply when I don’t do it myself.
I don’t keep food at home that could tempt me or that I know I can’t resist;
because if I find a box of chocolate or brownies I will eat it (busted!).
So the best way to deal with the problem is to prevent it.
I always tell my clients, the best way to lose weight is not to gain it in the first place.
I learned from experience that the better you eat, not just the healthier you feel but the healthier you’ll look.
Your hair needs good nutrition, so does your skin.
So this is something I think of before eating something for pleasure, is it going to nourish me?

Make sure to follow Racha for any recipe ideas and healthy lifestyle tips:





Biocalories Nutrition & Wellness by Racha Najmeh

Team / Équipe:
Photographer / Photographe: Sarah Emily St-Gelais
Make-Up Artist: Mayillah Ezekiel

Racha is wearing the Shadya dress from our Summer 2015 collection

Stay tuned as we are working on an upcoming collaboration with the extraordinaire Racha Najmeh!

September 11, 2015 written by Masabni Design 4 comments

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