Ola Asa’ad, Quality of Life

Meet Ola Asa’ad, a clinical dietitian, a master practitioner in eating disorders and obesity, a TEDx speaker, and an entrepreneur. Ola is the founder and owner of ‘Quality of Life’ nutrition and well-being center, and ‘Primrose’ health food shop in Jordan. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition & Dietetics from the University of Jordan and a master’s degree in Eating Disorders & Obesity from UCL university in London.

For the past eighteen years, Ola worked with thousands of people, teaching them how to reclaim their self-worth and self-value away from the social pressure of a perfect size or weight. Increasing their knowledge about different kinds of diet and showing them what works for them and what doesn’t. Ola’s expertise lies in analyzing people’s eating behaviors and debunking all the myths and limiting beliefs they have. She helps people gain control over their lives and be more confident.

“I started my businesses aiming to inspire people to create healthier lifestyles for themselves and defy the norms that impede their growth and health. I love teaching people how to win the mental game when it comes to their relationship with food and diets, or to any endeavor they embark on. I want people to know that it’s only from a place of self-love that they can get to where they want to be on their health journey” Ola said

Ola writes a column about health and well-being for a local newspaper, and she’s a part of a local TV show called ‘JoDoctors’, which focuses on the importance of mental and physical health. She is also a kickboxer, she started training when she was 31. Ola took it wholeheartedly and progressed fast until she was able to join the Jordanian national team in 2016, becoming the first woman to join the national team at the age of 36. She participated in the Kickboxing World Championship in Korea, winning the silver medal for Jordan.

“I’m incredibly proud of being able to join the national team at my age and winning the silver medal in my first world level championship ever. It was one of the best experiences I had, it was extremely unique. It was a turning point in my life. I hope that by this I’ve opened the door for many women who think this is impossible. No matter how old you are, show up, follow your passion and do whatever it takes to make your dreams come true”. Ola added

Ola Asa’ad is also a Marathon runner. She’s working towards becoming the first Jordanian woman to complete ‘The Abbott World Marathon Majors’ and earn her six stars. Ola started training for marathons two years ago and has already completed two out of the six world marathons. The mental drive for Ola to start running was a heartbreak; she needed a way out, she felt lost and wanted to find herself again. Yet, what kept her going was her desire to be a role model for women everywhere. Showing them that everything is possible and reachable, regardless of circumstances, social pressure, and age. 

“I run for all the girls and women out there. My aim is to encourage them to speak up and make their voice heard, defy social stigmas, and believe that they have all the power they need to achieve their goals” Ola Asa’ad

How would you describe yourself?

Compassionate, emotional, persistent, perseverant, and extremely strong.

Name something that guides both your personal and professional development.

Grit and grace. Not being harsh on myself and giving myself grace in combination with having courage are the primary driving forces that guide me towards my goals.

How do you regain focus in challenging times?

I do that through meditating and journaling daily. I write down everything; things I’m grateful for, my plans for the day, and my dreams. I call this my ‘To Be List’. It keeps me laser-focused on what I want and prevents me from falling off the wagon. At the same time, it helps me relax as it reminds me that I’m exactly where I want to be at the moment and shows me where I want to go. I just need to stay focused and keep going.

What are your greatest accomplishments? 

I’m super proud of participating in the Kickboxing World Championship in Korea and winning a silver medal at the age of 36. Being a woman in a society that thinks kickboxing is not for women, I defied all the odds and broke a social stigma by playing this sport at a later stage in my life.

Also, being a woman entrepreneur with two businesses and running them on my own, without partners is extremely hard. Yet, the way people look at me as a successful businesswoman makes me very thankful and proud. It’s indescribable. Finally, I consider getting out of my depression, one of my most significant accomplishments.

What helped you get out of depression?

By realizing that I’m worthy of loving myself, taking care of myself and knowing this is not how I want to live my life. My friends and siblings were there for me, but no one could imagine the tunnel I was living in and the extreme pain I was feeling. In the first six months, I wasn’t aware of what was going on; it felt like I was living on a different planet. At some point later, I thought to myself, “I don’t want to be dependent on medications my whole life”. Hence, I promised myself that I would never allow a single person or event to take me back to that dark tunnel I lived in. It was a conscious awakening that gave me the strength to pull myself out of it.

How do you manage fear and anxiety?

Running, meditation, journaling and my daily workout helps a lot with anxiety. Also, having time for myself, whether I’m just listening to music or reading affirmations, or jotting down thoughts in my journal. It reduces my fear of the ambiguity of life and the uncertainty of where I’m heading. I cherish the time I spend with myself a lot. 

What’s your greatest personal challenge and how did you achieve success despite it?

Perfectionism. I used to pay attention to the micros and I wanted to be in control of everything until I realized that this is hindering me and stopping my businesses from growing. I started to delegate more, let go of some things, and trust the process and the people around me. I learned that perfectionism can be a way to hide someone’s weaknesses or insecurities. Saying it out loud to people working with you and surrendering to the fact that there are things you can’t do but others can, helps a lot. It also gives your employees the motivation to grow your business under your mission and vision statements.

What do you think is at the core of women’s hesitation to step out and pursue leadership positions where they are?

I strongly believe that it’s the stigma instilled in our heads that we are not worthy enough, we’re not good enough for such positions. Also, it’s still a male-dominated society in many parts of the world, where women have no other option but to be dependent on men. Part of it is in the upbringing, where roles were divided based on gender.

There should be a balanced equation where both men and women are given equal opportunities and have the same rights to live, thrive and be whatever they want to be. Women don’t believe in themselves enough that they have strengths they need to prosper and thrive just like men do. Luckily, we still hear success stories of women and the accomplishments of women are being more and more highlighted. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope that this light will spread all over the world and inspire all women.

What do you believe is the greatest benefit of having more women leaders around the world?

I’m a firm believer in gender equality and having a proper healthy community. There should be a place for growth and thriving for everyone, irrespective of gender. We all need to work together. We need to understand that it’s not a competition between men and women; we complement each other. The community will never grow if we remain prejudiced or biased towards one gender over the other. We need balance, diversity, and inclusion.

Women are powerful and capable and should be included in all sectors of life. The benefit is comprehensive, it’s holistic.  We will have more women role models for other women to look up to and more stories to inspire people. Women bring compassion and kindness to a world that’s becoming dark and rigid.

What role should men play in supporting more gender diversity?

Acknowledging the fact that women are a significant part of society and that they will never achieve balance unless all women are included. Also, fully supporting women in pursuing any role they want based on their skills and expertise.  Men need to start with their families, encouraging their wives, sisters and daughters to go after what they want and reminding them that everything is possible.

Did you have a support system growing up?

My dad is my biggest supporter. My whole family were always supportive. I never ask for their help, but they still have my back and are always encouraging, I’m incredibly grateful for that.

Did you have someone you looked up to?

My dad used to be very hardworking; he built his life from scratch and used to work days and nights. I think I took this from him. He’s a very sharp person. I believe I won the father lottery when I was a kid. Now I look up to a lot of people, I love Simon Sinek and his ideas and theories, Mel Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey, she’s my idol.

What inspires you?

Knowing that there are enough opportunities in life for everyone. You just need to be perseverant and courageous to go out there and grab them. There are so many things that I still didn’t experience and things I didn’t learn. I love trying new stuff and experiment with ideas. Having a growth and learning mindset keeps me excited.

What does life mean to you?

A unique combination of adversities, love, memories, experiences and untethered expectations.

Do you have a quote that you live by?

“Anything you can imagine you can create.”

Oprah Winfrey

Do you have a book that changed your life or helped you somehow?

Yes, books actually.  ‘The Power of Habit’ by Charles Duhigg, ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell, ‘The 4-Hour Workweek’ by Tim Ferriss, and ‘The Code of the Extraordinary Mind’ by Vishen Lakhiani.

What are you most grateful for?

My health, and for every day I wake up with a chance to experience life and enjoy my youth. I’m extremely grateful for all the opportunities and all the people in my life. My family, friends and all the people I encounter in life.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given? 

Patience is always the key. A woman I met on the plane taught me this. She said: be patient with everything; you will get everything you want when it’s time for it to happen. You are where you are today because of all your hard work and efforts. Investing in things worth having, whether it’s your work or people around you, needs time. Patience could be manifested in all areas of life. You need to be mindful and conscious enough to know that everything requires patience, your feelings, your professional life, hardships, …everything.

What advice would you give to women around the world?

You can achieve anything you want, just get out there and pursue it. Keep doing what you are doing, and remember that you are exactly where you have to be at any particular moment.

Don’t let other people’s opinions ever dictate your life; don’t allow other’s perspectives to embody yours. Don’t let anyone tell you that you should live your life in a certain way when you see it differently.

No one in this world achieved what they achieved the easy way. No one is better or smarter than you are. You are capable of anything. You have to start, be extremely patient and persistent. Don’t look back and don’t ever listen to people’s judgements or opinions, don’t ever let this hinder your progress.

Written by Yasmeen Smadi

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