One always reminisces about the past, and recalls the wise words of their grandparents’, who enjoyed a charming world that passed by at a much slower pace than today. Amidst such uproar of the modern life, people tend to immerse themselves completely into their duties to the extent that they forget their essence. Their mind becomes exhausted, their soul gets confused, and their body grows tired. As such, it is necessary to pause for a moment with oneself and reflect on life, and whether that life is meeting their personal goals and objectives. Such reflections give us a chance to manage our life in better in a manner, and through life coaching people can maximize on the benefits reaped from these reflections. Life coaching presents itself as a helpful tool that identifies one’s strengths and potential, recognizing that the potential power comes from within as part of one’s pursuits to achieve satisfaction and happiness. Many amazing Qatari women have entered this field, and among these women is Noora Saeed Al-Kuwari, who has distinguished herself as a leader and a great role model. So, who is Noora Al-Kuwari?
I am a wife and a mother of two children. I graduated from Qatar University where I majored in Computer Science. Coaching was not part of my academic study, nor did I study about health issues in university.
How did you enter the field of life coaching?
When I was young I had issues with being overweight, but when I look back at my photos I find that I was not really as overweight as I thought I was. Although I weighed the heaviest in my family, and as such I was considered overweight in comparison to them. Consequently, I began dieting when I became a teenager but without exercising. I did lose a lot of weight, and it finally aligned with my image and appearance at that time. Marriage and having children marked the next phase in my life. It makes sense to again gain weight, especially with pregnancy and childbirth. Still, I had a fear of becoming overweight, and I began thinking a lot about the different ways I could lose weight. From that point I began looking into the right way to lose weight, but I did not want to be on a diet. This drove me towards many things like trying new recipe and visiting nutrition centers. Indeed, this helped me lose excess weight and I now weigh the same as I did before marriage. This time though I was uncomfortable, as even though I lost weight my body still felt weird to me. When I looked into the whole issue, I realized that the distribution of muscle mass and fat in my body was ill placed. I prevented myself from eating, but I did not exercise. Once, I was invited to attend an event organized by an Australian lady who works as a life coach. The lady used to provide free-of-charge consultations on all occasions and gatherings. I registered my interest in one of these consultation sessions, knowing nothing about life coaching. A few days later, the lady called me and reminded me of my free counselling session by the event organizers. After a while, she printed out my photo and added me to her newsletter, so now and then I was kept updated with the workshops, projects, and activities that she was organizing. I enjoyed these activities immensely, and I was always keen on learning and understanding the material taught. Over time, I was surprised that I lost weight without exerting any effort and without depriving myself from anything. I also found myself more energetic, powerful, and active. Her words kept echoing in my mind “Health comes first, weight loss comes second and it can be achieved over time.” She stressed that “[weight loss] depends primarily on our ability to dispense with bad habits and develop a new system to which our body can adapt.” I reached my goal as a result of attending all the workshops and activities that she organized. She admitted that she called me “my Qatari follower” as I was the only Qatari woman who attended such events. I managed to successfully apply her advice and change my food habits, but it was not just a random application of the advice. My nutrition-related decisions have not included “eat this and don’t eat that!”. Rather, they arise from the perspective that I become more powerful and energetic, which is something I want to maintain. For example, I became able to run better, having the energy to exercise and get involved in all various sports without feeling exhausted. Having been trained in what I am passionate about marked a significant milestone in my life. At that time, my trainer had an office in a medical clinic and advised me to obtain a certificate as a trainer to work with her. She wanted to collaborate with a Qatari national who is more acquainted with the community problems than others. Additionally, I was bilingual, so I was the right person for her. She was keen on encouraging me, although I was very hesitant at first. I was pregnant, and already having other children made me hesitate from taking on additional responsibilities. She kept on encouraging me saying that I already know everything through attending such series of meetings, stressing that all I need to do is only pass the necessary tests. It was her confidence in me that led me to being the life coach that stands before you today. At that time, there were no other Qatari women except me who obtained a certificate in such specialty. I am now proud of and glad to see many Qatari women getting such a certificate and I am happy to witness such a high level of awareness and thinking.
Did you work in the field of Computer Science before coaching?
No. I did not work in Computer Science because after graduation and marriage, I had decided not to work, and instead devote myself to form a family only. Moreover, I was taking care of my children while being pregnant.
Are you currently providing life coaching sessions?
Yes, but life coaching slightly differs from nutrition itself. For example, from an academic point of view, life coaching is different, and its study duration is less than nutrition. Accordingly, I cannot compare myself to those who study nutrition as they graduated from universities with a degree in such a major and their academic study lasts for four years. Our certificate provides more practical training. I started my career by meeting with clients who are willing to change to their lifestyle. At first, I talk to them to know their health history to familiarize myself with the problems they went through. Mostly, our conversation addresses their concerns and health condition, and looking into ways to improve it. In most cases, we set three goals during the first session to make it easy for the customer. Such goals may be very simple, such as requesting to increase their water intake, while the objective may be more significant (i.e., enjoying better health or weight loss or maintaining new healthy habits). We always review the goals that we have set and attempt to include better health habits during our professional journey, in which we move forward step by step. We absolutely know that it is difficult for anyone to abandon wrong habits to which they are used to. So, how do we suddenly request someone to get rid of their bad habits and replace them with better ones? My experience proves that doing so is very challenging. When someone says that they have to lose some weight, let’s assume that this person drinks a cup of Karak (i.e., Qatari traditional tea) every day. They believe that this habit makes them feel happy and cheerful during the day, and becomes convinced that it is impossible to stop drinking Karak as it is not the reason for deteriorating their health condition. That is why I do not ask clients to stop drinking Karak to lose weight and develop a better lifestyle. The main issue is to work on amending a person’s habits, behaviour, thinking, viewpoints about health. Over time, they become the one who decides what to abandon/replace. As a life coach, I found myself fond of some plates that I cannot prevent myself from eating again and again. I feel that it is my favorite dish, and I do not feel that it is a wrong habit as long as I am not an addict. It is a journey which is completely different from the common concept of a diet that is known in our culture, such as focusing on losing some weight to a certain limit or having certain calories. I do not do that, though some people may have such a misconception about the nature of my work.
What new services do you currently provide to Qatari women?
I always seek to develop and update the services that I provide to the public to introduce new and slightly different services. I noticed that people are unable to attend a program which lasts for six months. Also, our daily life is so fast and engaging, with many commitments and family issues. People usually travel and have to deal with surprising and unplanned issues intercepting their way. Therefore, I decided to provide services of a special kind (i.e., one-time specialized individual sessions after which I can add more sessions) for those interested in completing this field of work as per the needs and circumstances of the client. Apart from providing consultations, I am currently working on a specialized certificate in gut health and digestion at the same institute where I obtained another specialized certificate other than life coaching. Afterwards, I will provide my special consultation services in gut health and digestion. As is the case with the other consultation sessions, it will be offered through packages of services such as group mother sessions, especially for new mothers. The rapid development of communication technology and the emergence of social media has presented celebrities that appear healthily and fit, which often adds psychological pressure on some as everyone wants to look their best. After my pregnancy and childbirth, I was obsessed with my look and appearance, which differed greatly. The question which echoed in my mind is how to restore my previous look. The people around me at that time accepted my look as it is normal, after a year though people started to note that I need to lose weight. However, things have now changed. It is no longer acceptable to continue this viscous cycle, which places great psychological pressure on many mothers. As soon as women give birth, they begin thinking about how their bodies can return to its previous shape. This coincides with their new of taking care of their children and how to breastfeed appropriately. Undoubtedly, some things are more important than thinking about losing weight. People should know that weight gained over nine months needs time to be disappear. Body hormones are changing and are no longer normal. Thus, we need to psychologically support them and stress that it needs more time, and they should only focus on other things that concern their newborn child. I noticed that this kind of assurance positively affected many new mothers, and I felt that it was very beneficial and decided to offer it as a service in the form of group training for postpartum phase.
Are you willing to provide group training activities?
Yes, indeed. I still have a lot to provide. I always sit alone and reflect on my observations and the problems that may arise in the community then attempt to tailor training sessions and activities that suit them. Notwithstanding, there are group training activities that I have been doing in the past and used to enjoy them a lot, like the “supermarket tour” I give. That activity was met with enthusiasm from my audience, as the event included going together to the supermarket and instructing them on how to read the foods labels, how to select vegetables and fruits, differentiate between organic and inorganic types of food, and whether it is better to purchase all organic items and if there were inorganic items that they can purchase. In addition, I answer any personal inquiries that the participants may ask, such as talking about types of healthy food appropriate for some food allergies such as those with gluten intolerance. I would also provide private tours with two or three individuals according to their needs. Moreover, I have added new services such as menu choice sharing, and I do not know if you read about the dishes that I served with “Flat White” café in Qatar. Now, I have also presented two recipes that pleased the public. I am currently preparing healthy recipes and dishes with restaurants, cafés, and other places that will appeal to people Allah willing.
What are you currently working on?
For the first time, I provided boot camp sessions that I worked on for a long time, and it will be provided periodically and on a regular basis for women only. The session was held over three days at Al Messila Hotel, and are scheduled to include two coaches: Ms. Reem Al-Banna, Kuwaiti national and Ms. Najla Al-Khulaifi as a breathing trainer. Upon announcing this service, we tried to confirm that it is a boot camp and not recreation sessions. The boot camp was made up of crash courses, where we provide two sessions as if they were “rebirth” session. Then, we reviewed all common misconceptions and habits that we wanted to abandon. When we opened for booking, we were surprised by the big number of attendees, which prompted us to think about holding another training session soon although we planned to hold it once a year. Due to the high demand, the session will be held again based on the feedback and extent of the success achieved in the first round. These are roughly the services that I am providing for now, and at the beginning of the new year I will keep you updated with the latest ones.
How was your experience in this field, and what roamed your mind as you started this career?
When I started studying, I did not tell anyone except my husband. My goal was to obtain a certificate for personal learning only. When I learn something though, I tend to circulate the information to those around me from siblings to friends. I found out that they were interacting, changing, and learning and getting more knowledge because of me. Thus, I decided to share what I learn with them on Instagram, and had a page named “Nourish Nora” which was initially called “Health Living”. I started my activities on this page as a way of sharing, where I publish all that I was preparing such as: this thing is useful, and that food is of super quality while this recipe contains such and such. From the start I love cooking. Whatever comes to my mind and I feel like that it is not healthy, I try to prepare it in a healthy way. For example, I learned how to prepare Maamoul (i.e. Buttery date filled middle eastern cookies) before getting married and my family used to prepare it with the typical recipe. My siblings had excessive sensitivity to gluten, so I tried many recipes until I made the Maamoul healthy and delicious that quickly became one of the distinctive meals that my family prefers. Afterwards, I decided to share this recipe with everyone. Consequently, I reflected on that issue a little, and measured the way my personal experience has changed. Although I was not on a diet, I was healthier, better looking, younger with eye-catching skin and hair. So, why do we concentrate on weight loss? If we follow a harsh diet, we will face serious side effects such as weak and brittle hair, unhealthy skin, a constant feeling of fatigue with rapid and severe weight loss, but this is not the goal. Let me tell you about an activity that I learned from my coach Nicole, which played on the strings of my heart. Imagine that you are eighty years old and think about how you will look like. We have two scenarios here. In the first scenario we may live until the age of eighty or a hundred, and we may have many health problems, stay on medications, and may not be able to move. In the second scenario, we may be enjoying good health, are able to move, have a good memory and have the ability to play with our grandchildren. Of course, our choices and our habits determine our future. Indeed, such an activity touched my heart a lot, especially with my two grandmothers. I saw my grandmother, my father’s mother, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s and could not recognize us nor her children although she did not reach eighty. My other grandmother, may Allah rest her soul in peace, passed away due to cancer because she refused to be admitted to the hospital to receive the required medical treatment. Such personal experiences influenced me a lot, so we must have control and pay due attention to our health condition, as our current choices will shape our future health condition. Actually, I am not claiming that in doing so we will lengthen or shorten our lives; however, we need to make use of all available resources and do what has to be done. Indeed, this gives me the motivation to stick to the healthiest methods, without just considering body look or weight loss. On the other hand, I found that diet had brought about an unhealthy relationship with eating and a constant feeling of guilt and blame, which adds psychological pressure on me. Therefore, I have been trying to adjust my relationship with eating and improve it without having any sense of guilt. Moreover, I do not find myself eating a heavy meal or do any other acts that made me feel guilty. Accordingly, I felt that I developed a trademark, hence I should show my face to everyone Especially after finding good reactions on my page and becoming convinced that I must be there to let people benefit from my experiences to achieve their goals. The responses were very good, because life coaching does not count only on the issue of eating, but we, as nutritionists, were taught in the institute that before proceeding with the issue of eating, we must identify the basic food pyramid which depends primarily on factors other than food such as people’s profession in the community, nature of their professional relationships, spiritual values, and physical activities. Thus, any defect in this pyramid leads to the adoption of unbalanced healthy habits. Therefore, we are always striving to strike a balance among all those aspects that are essential in anyone’s life. For example, if there is a person who is unhappy in their marital or family life, or has problems at work, this will be reflected in their behavior. Therefore, we usually find that person eating a lot, forgetting to eat, or considering food as the only refuge, or feeling that their energy is depleted resulting in increased consumption of sugar and other unhealthy food groups. There is always a reason beyond nutrition that causes wrong eating habits or wrong choices. Consequently, once we address this issue, we will find that person has a balance in nutritional and health habits in general. All praise be to Allah that I did not encounter any problems at work, and all clients’ reactions were good. Interestingly, my mother does not know exactly what I am doing, but when she receives praise and compliments from people for what I do, she becomes surprised. Life coaches have a very important and useful role for many people in our community.
Why did you leave Computer Science and worked as a life coach? How do you see your relationship with these two fields?
I did not like Computer Science, but I was a graduate of the scientific school, which was considered a school of talented female students in STEM. I also decided to study the same major my older sister was studying. Later, I graduated with high grades., which led to my receival of a scholarship from the country to study Computer Science. At that time, deep down in my heart I liked to study design, but my mother rejected my appeal to study abroad for that major. In this context, I started investigating the majors offered at Qatar University and asked my older sister, of whom I am very proud of, about Computer Science and whether it is interesting or not. She replied that it was very interesting, which prompted me to join it. When I started to study, I figured that I did not like it, but I had no other choice and I could not stop my studies halfway through, so I completed my studies and graduated with good grades. On the other hand, I have been suffering from overweight problems since I was young, and I was reading a lot of health information. When my coach Nicole suggested that I join her in the field of life coaching, I agreed and felt that I am in the right place as I can be a valuable addition due to having the ability and passion to do a lot in such an interesting field.
Could you please tell us about the touching moments in your career as a life coach?
The happiest moment ever is when people tell me that they were influenced by my experience and my advice and that they were able to change their life for better. I consider this as a major breakthrough. One of the moments that really warms my heart was when Lulwa Al-Kuwari, the second life coach in Qatar who I love to collaborate with and is highly qualified, approached me and said that she became a life coach because of me. For sure, I feel happy when I have a good impact on others.
What challenges did you encounter in your life and how did you overcome them?
The beginning of my career was rather easy, but to reach this phase, I had to continue studying and researching. Now, I study via distance learning. I admit I am now facing a problem, albeit not a big one, but I often feel uncertain, as this major is not professionally licensed in Qatar yet. For instance, my professional license was issued not as ” a life coach”, but to work remotely so that I can create a bank account where people can conduct financial transactions. When I wanted to open an office or a life-coaching center, my request was rejected. They told me the word “health” should come from a hospital or a nutritionist, which made me feel that I am confined to a certain corner. This is all what I can do. I feel afraid that someone asks me about my work permit as a life coach, or asks how can you do this job without a university degree in nutrition? But what I would like to explain here is that we, as life coaches, do not interfere in health cases. For example, if a person has a chronic disease or takes medicines, it is impossible to ask them to stop their medicines or not to see the doctor. I am afraid that something might happen, Allah forbid, and my name will be included in an issue that is not of my business. This issue is a little thorny, as I always try not to interfere with controversial issues that conflict with medicine, and my words are always about public health and organic food. I feel this issue is preventing me from expanding my business, having an office and more than a coach to assist me in providing life coaching services to more people. Working alone constitutes a great challenge. Even coaches like Najlaa and Fatima, who work in the breathing field, encounter the same problem. We do not have a permit to practice the health profession, and at the same time, we want to practice what we have learned without being subjected to legal liability.
What is your advice for women in Qatar?
At the outset, I would like to express my gratitude to all Qatari women, as they have amazing and strong abilities, and I am proud to be one of them. My mother is one of those who witnessed the renaissance age of Qatari education. My mother belonged to that generation and got a doctorate in Geology. I feel proud of her, and until now, we have been proving to people day after day that we can make the exceptional happen and overcome challenges. My mother birthed seven daughters, and she was still able to get a doctorate. I am pretty sure that Qatari women will still lead the frontline of progress and no one can stop them in their relentless pursuits to achieve success and advancement. What I really like about Qatari women is that they are united and always encourage and support each other.
- Interview written by Al Anoud Al Kuwari.
- Interview was edited to improve readability and flow.