Nisreen S, mother of six, is an educated woman. As a volunteer health educator in her community, she taught new mothers about healthy nutrition. Though very knowledgeable about the importance of a healthy diet, Nisreen couldn’t seem to apply her knowledge to herself. With each pregnancy, Nisreen gained more weight and subsequently developed knee problems.
Nisreen’s primary-care physician recommended that she lose weight, and Nisreen tried. She increased her physical activity and followed a weight-loss diet, but to no avail. Her weight remained the same for years at 94 kilograms (207 lbs.).
Then a friend told Nisreen about the Healthy Lifestyle intervention program at the Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center for Women at Hadassah Hospital Ein Kerem. “When I joined the program, I felt that I was doing something for myself, “ Nisreen said. “The program touched me.” She decided to start working toward personal change. It was not easy.
Limiting consumption of sweet drinks was Nisreen’s first mission. She reduced the sugar in her tea from 3 teaspoons to 1½ and finally switched to non-sweetened drinks. At this point she has stopped drinking sweetened drinks completely, even refusing them when offered by her hostess or on special occasions.
Taking on the whole grain challenge was next on Nisreen’s agenda. She began consuming whole grain bread and choosing it for her family. A mother through and through, Nisreen was determined to improve not only her own health but also that of her family. Initially, Nisreen’s children were not happy with this change and called whole wheat bread “bread for sick people.” Today Nisreen’s husband and some of her children have completely converted to eating whole grains.
After that step, Nisreen made the commitment to eat breakfast daily and remove the chocolate that somehow appeared in her handbag at all times. Today Nisreen states, “My bag is ‘poor’ in chocolate, literally. I’m happy like that.”
In addition to her dietary changes, Nisreen increased the amount of walking she does. The pedometer she received as part of the program encouraged her to walk more. She also learned a few “tricks of the trade,” like getting off the bus a few stations before her stop. Now Nisreen tries to walk as much as she can.
Nisreen was surprised and excited by the impact her lifestyle changes have had on her life, especially when she lost 14 kilograms (31 lbs.)! She is determined to lose another 14 kg this year.
Nisreen is currently taking part in the Pollin Center’s leadership program and has a message for her peers: “We Arab women face many challenges. We continually seek venues through which we can give of ourselves to others. Many of us come to the point at which we feel that we are victims of society and the life we live. I say it’s not true. Women should stop, think, and count to ten. Never consider yourself a victim; never give more of yourself than you can. Eventually, whatever is destined to happen, will happen. You may never get in return what you have given. Take care of yourself; take care of your feelings. If you are well and healthy, everything around you will follow suit.”
Nisreen is now using her personal experience to be an even more effective health advocate. She is a source of inspiration to those around her.