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Taking a Holistic Approach to Health – Interview with Sister Kate Hepburn

Kate is a Muslimah who strongly believes in healthy eating and in helping others do the same. She believes that it is important to keep food simple and natural; just the way it was created by Allah. Kate is a certified nutrition consultant, organizes events, and is also aiming to pursue a master’s in psychology. When I came across her website, I was inspired by her dedication, hard work, and passion for healthy living. I believe that it is very important for Muslims to take healthy living very seriously. So, interviewing her and having her share some tips with us is a great opportunity. Let’s talk to her directly and find out more.
1.Umm Sumayyah: Assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh Sister Kate. How are you doing today?
Sister Kate: Waleikum as salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barrakhatu dear sister and jazzak Allah khayran for this wonderful opportunity. I sincerely appreciate it.
2.UmmS: Wa iyyaki. It is my pleasure to interview you today, and I strongly believe that the topic of our interview is of great importance. But, before we proceed, please tell us a little more about yourself.
Kate:   So, a little about me. Well, I’m a revert Muslimah. I reverted in 2010, alhamdullilah. I have a background, believe it or not, in marketing, event management and teaching (as well as health spa management). I’m also a nutrition consultant.
At a core level, I am all about simplicity and I have a deep love of all things simple and natural. I dream about living on a farm and having my own chickens someday. I’m also passionate about sharing the message of health, wellness and simplicity with women across the world, empowering sisters to take back control of their health, make beautiful positive choices and nourish themselves physically, emotionally and spiritually. 
3.UmmS: That’s very impressive; maa shaa Allah. I’m in the process of making changes in my overall wellbeing. So, it’s nice to find Muslim women with a passion in what I really want to learn and believe many people are also in need of.
Why do you think it is important to eat healthy?
Kate: There are honestly so many answers I could give but, in a nutshell, when we choose to eat healthy, nourishing food, we also make the choice to nourish the body Allah has given us with natural food that is just the way Allah made it. Who knows better what the creation needs to be sustained and flourish than the Creator Himself? Natural whole food will boost energy and vitality, making us strong and helping us prevent or avoid many food-related illnesses. Conversely, if we eat unhealthy food regularly, it saps us of energy, vitality and can cause gut health issues, inflammation, chronic diseases and even contribute to depression and anxiety as 70% or more of the serotonin we made (the happy chemical) is produced in our gut. When we feel this way, we are operating well below optimum and it affects every single aspect of our lives – how we feel, how we take care of ourselves, how we are able to show up for others, how we are able to worship Allah. Choosing to eat healthy food can quite literally transform our lives, our relationships and our ability to worship Allah by giving us the energy, vitality and strength we need to thrive. 
4.UmmS: Subhanallah! “Nourish the body Allah has given us.” When we understand the importance of taking care of our body as an act of worship, it puts things into perspective. It is entrusted to us by Allah, and as you said, “Who knows better what the creation needs to be sustained and flourish than the Creator Himself?” Beautiful.
What does it mean to take health in a holistic approach? And how does it relate to being Muslim?
Kate: To me, a holistic approach means to look at the whole and how the various elements that make up that whole work together to create wellness or disease. What I have learned is that good health is about so much more than just food/nutrition and exercise. Those things are important, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. To be ‘healthy,’ we have to build health and wellness in all areas of our lives; physical, emotional and mental, and social and spiritual. Islam emphasizes the importance of all these things and we see examples of all these elements in both the Quran and sunnah. It’s so important that we work on and try to nourish ourselves in all these areas to ultimately reach our optimum potential and thrive.  
5.UmmS: It makes sense. Even if one eats healthily, if he/she has emotional or spiritual problems, it can take a told on the overall wellbeing.
What inspired you to search for health and wellness-related knowledge and to pursue a career in nutrition?
Kate: My journey into health and wellness started quite late in life, not long after I converted to Islam in 2010. I came across several eye-opening documentaries about how our food system has been compromised and the effect it is having on our health.
Learning what I had, I felt a responsibility to share the information with others, a health and wellness website was born I then set out to learn how to get started but, not long after that, I realised that I didn’t have the essential knowledge I needed to be able to share information responsibly. There is SO much ‘health’ information out there, how would I know what was accurate and what was not?  I saw sharing this information as an amaana (trust); I still do and believe there is enormous responsibility in that. So, all my plans came to a grinding halt. I put the website on hold and went back to school to study nutrition consulting for 2 years. Once I had gained the knowledge I needed, I got the website up and running. and everything has progressed from there. Alhamdullilah and the rest is history. 
6.UmmS: That’s an amazing dedication! Allahumma baaril (may Allah bless you).
You believe in helping others in becoming healthy; how do you go about doing that?  
Kate: One of the main things I advocate is simplicity. Simplify is everything; including how you eat. The core principle of eating health-promoting food is simply eating whole natural food the way Allah made it, the way the Prophet (SAW) would have eaten it, in small portions. Of course, this can be easier said than done and making changes can seem overwhelming; especially when sisters are already so busy and feeling overwhelmed in general. That’s why I love the technique of ‘crowding out the bad’. Basically, instead of ‘cutting out’ loads of ‘unhealthy’ food, which can sometimes leave us feeling deprived and reaching for the ‘forbidden food’ even faster than usual, I recommend adding in great health-promoting food, one step at a time, which slowly crowds out the less beneficial food. 
7.UmmS: Basically, it makes them feel “less punished;” 😊 smart tactic.
How does the day look like for you as a nutrition consultant in terms of what you eat and the activities you do?
Kate: This really depends, and I want to be completely honest here. I am human just like everyone else. I have good days and other days when I fall off the wagon. It happens, lol, especially when hormones and emotions come into play. But, as I always say, it’s about progress, not perfection, and each new morning is a new opportunity to make positive choices for the sake of Allah.
On an ideal day, I’d stay up after fajr, read some Quran, then maybe go for a swim or walk; followed by breakfast and a shower. Then whatever I have going on that day followed by lunch at around 1, which would be a salad packed with greens, protein and healthy fats. I like to take a nap before asr as I find 20 minutes recharges m. And if I don’t get the nap, I tend to hit a major slump by 4:30-5pm. Then, dinner around 6pm. I’m a big fan of Asian soups, especially Thai food. So, a Thai coconut soup with veggies and chicken is a favourite for me. I try to get to sleep by 10pm. I am working on trying to reduce my screen time. The irony about running websites on health and wellness is that I spend way too much time on my laptop and sitting. Sedentary for such long periods is not health promoting so, I am cutting back on the time I work and have also set up a shelf on my bookcase so that I can actually work on my laptop while standing up; at least avoiding sitting for hours and keeping the blood flowing.
9.UmmS: I think by you making it clear that your days aren’t always as planned, it may help some of the readers. When we think of nutrition consultants or people on a journey to better health in general, it is easy to imagine them as very strict health-conscious people who never eat unhealthy food. Being realistic is one of the best ways to achieve anything in life. So, thank you for sharing that.
Do you make meal plans to know exactly what goes in your body? If so, would you advise others to do the same?
Kate: Umm, to be honest, I don’t. I generally have an idea of what I want to eat and buy accordingly, which works for me. But, that’s probably because I am a bit more practical at it and don’t need to plan so much anymore. That being said, meal planning can be very beneficial, especially for those with families and busy schedules, and those adding in new healthy options. The key to successful meal planning is SIMPLICITY. If you add a whole bunch of totally new, complex, gourmet meals, you might start out great on day 1-3. But by day 4, you’ll be fizzling out, and by day 6, it’ll be beans on toast or cereal for dinner. So again, I emphasize simplicity. For example, having the same ‘favourites’ 2-3 days of the week and keeping this standard. Then adding around that. Meals plans can be very beneficial if you create something that works for you. 
10.UmmS: Hmmm, that actually makes sense. No wonder why I haven’t been able to keep a set meal plan yet. I do usually add too much to the list. So THAT must have been the issue! Again, thanks for sharing yet another great tip. Jazaki Allahu khayr!
Please, share with us an inspirational personal quote and/or an ayah/hadith that comes to your mind.
Kate: “Health and wellness is more than just the absence of disease” Unknown 
11.UmmS: What general life advice you would give to a Muslim?
Kate: There are 7 tips I would give, though there are so many more lessons that we can draw from the Quran and Sunnah. But I think these 7 are absolutely essential to our wellbeing. 
  • Pray – No matter what happens, no matter how you feel, hold on to your prayer; even if you don’t feel anything at times or you reallllllly don’t feel like it. Do it anyway. The prayer is our lifeline. Our connection to Allah. Talk to Allah; pour your worries out to Him and know with certainty that He is listening. 
  • Slow down – Running rivers are not able to reflect and we need to slow down and be still sometimes. Only when we are still can we reflect on our lives, our purpose, and its meaning.  We are instructed to ‘reflect’ in the Quran. But to do this, we have to slow down first. 
  • Care for yourself – Remember to take care of yourself first. Nobody can pour from an empty cup.
  • Connect – Connect with people; especially people who are beneficial and remind you of Allah and your purpose. We are social beings and we need human connection. It is so incredibly important for our wellbeing.
  • Take time out – Take time out to be in nature. Everything in nature is in a natural state of submission to Allah. We can appreciate Allah’s creation that we feel ease and tranquillity. Our hearts are drawn to natural beauty in this dunya just as our hearts are drawn to the promise of trees and rivers in Jannah; subhanAllah.
  • Eat natural food – Eat whole natural food the way Allah made it and the way the Prophet (SAW) ate it. Whole natural food that is local and seasonal will give you all the nutrients you would need to thrive.
  • Move – I am not a fan of gyms per se but getting moving and being active is very important; ideally, doing something you find fun and enjoyable. 
  • Sleep early – Try to get to bed early and stay up after fajr. This simple practice alone can transform your day and there is so much barakah (blessing) in the time after fajr.


12.UmmS: I can already see four of the essentials that I’m really working on right now! Jazak Allahu khayr sister Kate for taking your precious time to talk to me and sharing lots of AMAZING tips! But before I let you go, please let us know where our readers could find you.
Kate: Wa iyyaki dear sister and thank you again for this wonderful opportunity. If anyone would like to connect with me, the best place is through the Healthy Muslimah website or the Healthy Muslimah Facebook page.
14.UmmS: Once again, barakAllahu feeki sister Kate, and I wish you all the best on your journey. Assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh.
Kate: Wa feeki baarakAllah sister. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to do this interview. Jazzak Allah khayran and  pray it will be of benefit to your readers. Waleikum as salaam wa rahmatulahi wa barrakhatu/

Umm Sumayyah: This interview was packed with great information and tips on holistic health. People often talk about health in terms of the food we eat and maybe the exercise we do. But as Sister Kate mentioned, there’s more to health than just what we eat and how we move. Surely, they are important, but being healthy comes as a full package (mental, emotional, spiritual, etc). I believe the topic of holistic health is one that isn’t often talked about enough in the Muslim community, despite the Qur’an and the Sunnah covering all aspects of it as Islam is a complete way of life. I urge you to check the sister’s website; you would be amazed by all the useful information you would get in shaa Allah. I hope you’ve enjoyed the interview and hopefully got some useful tips too.

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