Weight Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number | Shauna Harrison

Weight Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number | Shauna Harrison.

I stumbled upon this great post speaking to the need to dissociate from the numbers that often women (and men) are tethered to. Physical fitness allows us the opportunity to be stronger, more lean, more flexible, more aware, alert and mobile. Love the positive images of this girl – and she’s a public health girl, too!

Catch her on Instagram — she started the #sweataday revolution!


My Interview with the SkinLess Project

The SkinLess Project presents:
Inspirational Woman May 2014: Ayesha Akhtar
An Interview.

I was honored to be the “Inspirational Woman” for the month of May at the SkinLess Project. To hear more about my endeavors, check out the website here.

You are passionate about advocacy for women and young girls, where does this stem from?

In college (Loyola University Chicago) I received a scholarship into a 4 year women’s leadership program. I knew I was some version of a feminist (or a proponent of the advancement of women), but had no idea about the passion the program would ignite in me by the time I graduated. Thereafter, I viewed everything from the lens as an advocate for women and girls. (Check out the Gannon Center for Women and Leadership)

UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad eyes the 2016 Olympics

I came across this inspiring interview by UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad. Pushing the boundaries as a Muslim woman, and as an Olympic hopeful!

I love to see women lifting weights!

UAE weightlifter Amna Al Haddad eyes the 2016 Olympics.

I’m also excited to approach Ramadan differently, from a fitness and exercise perspective. I underestimated myself last year, and relaxed quite a bit. I’m going to be maintaining my lifting sessions, but at a lesser intensity. For me, regularity will be more important than stopping altogether.



Exercise and eat for your body type


I haven’t posted in weeks! I’ve been busy training for my triathlon and making significant gains in the swim department. Recently, an article on body types caught my attention and I found the correlation between knowing your body type, exercise and diet to be very interesting. Do you know your body type?

The media has us brainwashed to believe that the thin, white ideal for women, or tough, muscular and cut men are the standards of beauty. That anything else is a ‘work in progress’. Deep down we know not everyone has or wants to have a runway ready body, and most certainly we don’t find ourselves amidst these types in our everyday lives. We are inundated with ridiculous magazine covers with headlines such as ‘Get Kate Moss’ workout’ and that leads the woman to consider, ‘Ok, if I get her workout, then I have a greater chance in looking like her’. The poison seeps into the subconscious.  The tagline they are noticeably excluding is, ‘only if you are also an ectomorph like Kate Moss’. So, the next time you catch yourself coveting someone else’s body, consider your own body type first.

Body Types

Body Types


There are three body types for men and women and once you know what you are, you can be liberated from the thought of trying to fit into a mold that is simply unattainable, or that is not yours. They are: ectomorph, endomorph and mesomorph. Most people are a combination of two or more types. The ectomorph is the skinny, thin-framed individual with little fat. They are usually not athletic and have little or no muscle tone, which is why they are often referred to as ‘skinny fat’. Most supermodels are ectomorphs, which has unfortunately contributed to the thin, white ideal of women. Many ectomorphs can eat whatever they want as their body metabolizes food very quickly.

Endomorphs, however, have more body fat, tend to be overweight, have a smoother, more round body and are bigger-boned (than ectomorphs). They have a slower metabolism and take longer to lose weight.  Endomorphs are not the morning ‘go-getters’ and need a little prodding to be active. Don’t despair! Get a gym buddy or hire a personal trainer to help motivate you. Further, let this knowledge be the inspiration for the way you exercise and eat. Unfortunately we see large-framed, oversized women struggling to lose weight to fit into skinny jeans that are not designed for them.

Mesomorphs are naturally active, athletic, and respond quickly to any weight training and are naturally lean and strong. They also gain fat easily when they are not active. Because they have broader, squarer shoulders, mesomorph women tend to have an hourglass figure, whereas men have a “V” or rectangle shape build.

The purpose in knowing your body type(s) is to boost your self-esteem.  Additionally, it is to understand the body’s mechanics. Ectomorph people may be under the impression they are ‘fit’ or ‘healthy’ because they don’t carry extra weight. This is often referred to as ‘skinny fat’, as they have no muscle tone. However, this can often lead to unhealthy binging and eating habits as they are under an illusion that they are otherwise healthy.

I am a combination of mesomorph and endomorph. I have a small-framed body but am (and always have been) very athletic. I have a quick metabolism and find it easy to gain muscle, and am freakishly strong. 🙂 Knowing my body type allows me to design workouts and maintain a healthy diet that is just right for me.


I’m in a rut. I have writer’s block. I’m feeling very uncreative. I’m running all my miles on the treadmill for crying out loud! It is the dead of winter. We’ve endured and survived a thing called “polar vortex”, and I’m just over it. I’m ready for spring so I can remove things that have been frozen to the ground.  Weeks ago, like everyone else, I had written this gratitude list of 13 *things* I am grateful for this year. I didn’t feel like posting it, but I do think looking back allows me to look forward and plan out my year. I don’t dwell on the past, but rather consider life events and experiences as artifacts of my life. Every event had a proper place, given its context.  And in true Aquarian style, I’m posting it now, on my own terms. And after having thought about it a little more. 

My parents, my husband of 15 years, my two sons and my siblings

My new house, which I adore curating into our beloved home

My talent, which enables me to be successful in my career

Watching Derrick Rose play at the United Center

Traveling, whether with friends, family or for work

Running a sub-2hr half marathon

Getting physically stronger, lifting heavier weights, and boxing more

Writing MY narrative – check out www.MuslimahMontage.com

Amazing locally roasted coffee – Every morning I make myself a latte with the freshest locally roasted beans. Seriously, Chicago coffee has some attitude that rivals my favorites from the Bay Area and NYC. If you’re looking, try dark / espresso roasts from Big Shoulders and Halfwit Coffee Roasters – that stuff will go right through you.

My girlfriends

My health – part of the “Five before Five” sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Take benefit of five before five:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
your wealth before your poverty,
your free-time before your preoccupation,
and your life before your death.”

and finally,
Being able to do it all over again in 2014. (God willing)

No, you can’t have it all, and you don’t want to, either.

The SuperWoman Complex

At the end of 2013, I find myself challenging the ‘superwoman complex’ again. A year ago on Mother’s Day, I wrote a blog post for The SkinLess Project on being a supermom, and contended that every mother had a bit of supermom in her. I still maintain that belief, however what I’ve come to realize is that wanting to be a superwoman, or wanting to have it all is overrated. What is the ‘it’ we’re chasing anyway?

Feminist women (I include myself in this demographic) often paint a picture that yes you too can have a well-paying, intellectually-stimulating job, maintain a solid home-life, get all 5 kids to school on time, never miss parent-teacher conferences, read the book for book club, run 5 days a week at 5am and be an amazing partner to your spouse. This becomes the feat of the superwoman, for those who seek it. Yet not every woman wants that life, nor needs to aspire to this level of ‘multitasking’. At this juncture in my life, I’ve decided that I don’t want it all; not anymore. The journey is seductive but once you ‘have it all’, what you have lost is yourself along the way. What good are you to yourself if you have given away the best parts of you along the way? Everyone sacrifices something to gain another. Lack of sleep, lack of exercise, lack of culture, strained marriage, little travel, little gains in career, lack of social life, the list goes on. We give something when seeking something greater. I believe that the ‘it’ in ‘having it all’ is subjective but we find ourselves crumbling from fear of failure because we have let society dictate what it means to ‘have it all’.

Much has been written to this topic with issues such as, should women want to have it all? Is there a perfect career path for women? Should women apologize for not having children and being married to their career? Yes you can have it all, and the renowned “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All”, by Anne-Marie Slaughter coupled with Sheryl Sandberg’s inspirational book Lean In challenge women to put themselves out there and create their own narratives. But what I really want to hear loud and clear is for someone to say: Stop trying to be everywhere at once, and ask yourself what you need to be doing right now. LIVE IN THE PRESENT! What would you do if you weren’t afraid? What would you do if there weren’t ‘rules’ or scripts, or preconceived notions on how a woman was to raise her family and maintain a career. More importantly, who cares what anyone else thinks? Society creates sections for women to inhabit, and some lend themselves to be mutually exclusive. You move up the career ladder, take a break to have a baby, raise the baby, jump back into the career world but you’ve been replaced. And where do you resume? Where you left off, or where your peers are right now?

Ultimately, a woman needs to make career and life moves that are meaningful to her individually. If that means taking a more challenging career path to enrich her soul, at the expense of being away from her children, so be it. If it means taking a lesser-paid, more flexible job to be home with the children, then so be it. If it means being a stay at home mom and not pursuing a career, then so be it. The point is each person decides what that version of having it all, aka being a superwoman, looks like, not society.

It’s not glamorous to ‘have it all’, to be everywhere all the time, to put on a facade that life is perfect and complete; it is not. It is exhausting to adhere to someone else’s standards of being somewhere else all the time and not living right here, in the present.

What I Would Tell My Children About Nelson Mandela

Beautiful words from my friend Maaria. When remembering his legacy, it’s so critical to remember all the hardships he endured, and how he overcame them peacefully and with grace.



What would I tell my four-year-old daughter about Nelson Mandela, in a time when she lives in a country where we have an African-American President?  What would I tell her, when she lives in a country where she has the responsibility as a citizen to live in a diverse community, practice tolerance and engage with people different from herself? What would I tell my daughter, who will have the right to vote as a woman, a right to access, accommodation, property and the American Dream? What would I tell my daughter about Nelson Mandela that could possibly come close to framing in the most approximate accurate words the gift that he was? How would I do it when she lives in some way the world of the “haves” and not in the “have nots”?

Well, after much searching, I realized that I would be doing a disservice to Mandela if…

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