Once Yasmeen Alhaj quit focusing on her appearance and turned her attention to her health, she felt a sense of empowerment she’d never quite felt before.


Growing up, Yasmeen was overweight and always had an unhealthy relationship with food, despite being a competitive swimmer.

I didn’t think about what I was eating, or how much, at all,” said the 22-year-old. “I never questioned anything and just ate — often until I was way more than full.”

Putting an end to self-destruction

After years of stress eating, emotional eating and eating out of boredom, she came to the realization that this kind of behavior was destructive and she no longer wanted to continue down that path. Yasmeen entered her personal transformation journey.

“I went through multiple phases,” she said. The most difficult one was the first phase where even after I decided to start trying to lose weight, I didn’t focus on my relationship with food at all.”

She began exercising constantly, and while it became a habit, she wasn’t paying close attention to her food intake and wasn’t getting the results she’d hoped for.

“I found myself standing on the scale, four months later having lost only three pounds,” said Yasmeen. “I was devastated.”

Unlocking her full potential

It took some time, but she finally understood that in order to really lose weight, she had to shift her focus away from her appearance and prioritize improving her health. And so she did.

She was no longer concerned with looks but her ability to run faster, walk longer distances without feeling depleted, and lift more weights. Her goal went from looking good to feeling good.

“I created short term goals and I was patient with myself, it doesn’t happen overnight,” she said.

Yasmeen has since lost a total of 115 pounds and admits that it took a lot of strength and commitment. While she is eternally grateful for the support she got from her friends and family, she realized only she could build up her willpower.

“People can encourage you all day, and it will help a lot, but in the end you have to put the work in yourself,” she said.

Making space for self-love

Today, at 22 years old, Yasmeen values herself and her time more than ever before.

“Everything slowly just falls into place once you make time for your health,” she said.

We asked her if she had any advice for people wanting to embark on a similar journey:

“Do it because you are important and because you care about yourself — start by taking the smallest steps,” said Yasmeen. ”The smaller, the better.”

“The most important habits you want to build are consistency and commitment, and those are difficult to stick with if you’re planning on changing your lifestyle from zero to a hundred.”