Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Known by his fans as ‘Mr PMA’, Faisal Abdalla is no stranger to a challenge. He tried his hand at multiple careers before realising while training with stunt actors on a film set, that his true passion was pushing himself to reach his physical limits.

In his own words, “The transformation wasn’t instant — far from it”.

Months of trial and error with workouts brought about the realisation that “if I wanted to see real changes in my body I’d have to make some big changes”, and not just to his diet. Being in the right mind-set was just as important, and that’s what led Faisal to his ‘PMA’ (Positive Mental Attitude) mantra.

PMA - "the most powerful weapon you have"

As Faisal describes it, PMA is “the most powerful weapon you have”, and a powerful motivator for physical exercise and a healthier lifestyle. This positive outlook is what inspired Sodexo to partner with Faisal as its first global Mindful Health ambassador.

Mindful by Sodexo

Mindful is Sodexo’s commitment to promoting wellness among our employees, clients and customers. It focuses on educating and empowering people to make healthy choices, by making those choices easy and appealing.

It also means a mindful dialogue with each audience, that guides, but doesn’t lecture. This is built around healthy food choices, such as the Hero recipes developed by our Mindful Culinary ambassador Ellie Krieger, but also includes having a healthy mental approach to living well.

Through a series of exclusive high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts, motivational blogs, live workshops and Facebook Live sessions, Faisal will be putting Mindful into action – and bringing Sodexo employees, clients and customers along. And, he adds, “Don’t worry if that sounds like a far reach. That’s what I’m here for—to help you seize opportunities and discover the best version of yourself.”

Meet Sodexo’s new Mindful ambassador, Mr PMA Faisal Abdalla 

Launching in the UK and Ireland in the New Year, Mindful is Sodexo’s consumer-facing Sodexo wellness brand. It brings together an approach for healthier meals served across our business and consumer-facing content on health, nutrition and wellbeing that we’ll share at our sites and via digital media. 
As part of the launch, we will be introducing a new global Mindful ambassador, celebrity trainer and proponent of Positive Mental Attitude, Faisal Abdalla. In his new role Faisal will share health and fitness tips with us on a regular basis and help us promote Mindful to our clients and consumers. 
We manged to track him down between training sessions to ask him a few introductory questions ….. 
So Faisal, tell us about Positive Mental Attitude…

What does it mean to you and how can we get more of it in our lives?

PMA is something I apply to everything in life and I encourage every single one of my clients to do the same. The mind is unbelievably powerful and you need to work out your brain as well as your body, because you need a mental shift to succeed in life. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you approach life with a positive mind. You make braver decisions, take chances you’d normally be too scared to take and reach higher than you normally would, because you truly believe in yourself.

What’s your favourite type of workout and why?

I’m a huge fan of HIIT (high intensity interval training) because it’s the ultimate fat burner and does magical things to the metabolism. That, combined with weight-based strength training, is my favourite way to work out. I like to train with friends when I can because the extra support (and competition depending on who it is) is a great motivation when you want to take it to another level.

You are famous for your Motivational Monday videos. Why Mondays? 

Nobody likes Mondays, not even me. But if you let that Monday feeling beat you, you’ve set yourself up in a negative frame of mind for the rest of the week. I prefer to use it to set my goals for the week and focus on what I want to achieve. I always do a Motivation Monday video on Instagram wherever I am in the world. Even on honeymoon in the Maldives I fit a video in…I don’t know if the wife appreciated that one as much!

For anyone feeling a bit daunted by high intensity workouts, or taking their first steps towards fitness what would be your top tips? 

Just starting is the first step, and the first step is often the hardest. I would say while it’s great to have an end goal, don’t forget to stop along the way and look at what you’ve achieved. Focus on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you’ve got to go, and never forget to give yourself a pat on the back when you deserve it.

Congratulations on the arrival of your new baby!  Has that changed your focus? Any top tips for maintaining good health and fitness with a new baby in tow?

Thank you! People say having a baby changes your life but I wasn’t really prepared for just how much things change. 

My baby boy has given me a new level of focus and perspective and I owe him everything because he’s made me a better man. Everything I do now is for him. Not just the obvious going out to work stuff, but in terms of health and fitness too. I want to lead by example and I want to take care of myself even more than before in the hope it will give me as many years on earth as possible by his side.

It’s definitely harder to train on less sleep but the motivation he gives me by far overrides any tiredness I might suffer. I’d say to new parents, use your baby as motivation and be realistic. You might not have time for two hours down the gym with a nice sauna and steam anymore, but you can still take care of yourself. A quick 10-20-minute workout while baby is sleeping will boost your mood and confidence almost immediately.

What does a typical day in the life of Faisal Abdalla look like?

My days look very different now with a baby. I tend to wake up with dried up baby vomit on my pyjamas, which is not the glamorous life you may expect if you follow me on Instagram! 

I spend long hours away from home so I like to feed my boy in the morning which gives Mrs PMA some extra sleep and gives me some extra cuddle time. Then I head to train myself before work. I normally have some overnight oats and berries pre-made to wolf down after training and then I head to Barry’s Bootcamp where I teach six days a week. I teach throughout the day and in the evening too but the afternoon is usually filled with meetings, personal clients, interviews or preparing content for social media. 

If I’m home on time I get to bath my boy and then I collapse in front of the TV and watch trash until I’m ready to hit the sack. It’s not a very exciting life but I love what I do and I enjoying your work is a very rare privilege. 

What are your top tips for eating well? 

My number one tip is don’t overthink it. Food is there to be enjoyed and if you’re always counting macros and calories you will create an unhealthy relationship with food. Instead, try focusing on the nutrients in foods and what they’re giving you. Always strip your food back to its most natural form possible and you can’t go far wrong - think farm to fork with food that’s gone through as few processed as possible. Quite simply, if you don’t recognise the ingredients on a packet, go for a fresher alternative without a load of additives and flavourings. 

Are you a good cook and what is your favourite food?

My wife is the best cook in our house, I can’t deny that. But I’m fantastic at following recipes and I’m even better at eating them! I do enjoy pottering around in the kitchen and experimenting though and I’ve got quite a few go to recipes that I’ve mastered now. My favourite foods are fakeaways - healthy versions of takeaway food. I’ve put quite a few in my book because I think they’re a great way to keep you on track. You feel like you’re being naughty but you’re not! I absolutely love burgers so I like to play around with healthier versions at home. Thai turkey burgers with almond butter satay sauce are my current favourite.

How has being a Muslim influenced your approach to living well?

My faith has taught me to love and nurture my body. I feel like I’d be insulting my creator if I didn’t treat what he has given me with respect. Life is a very precious thing and it’s something I appreciate more and more as I grow older.

What are your ‘go-to’ foods and do you have a favourite Mindful meal?

I train really hard and muscle recovery is really important to me so protein is my go to food. Egg based foods I can batch cook and grab on the go are great. We almost always have some kind of frittata muffins in the fridge during the week and my favourite one of those at the moment is probably chicken sausage with red peppers and sweet potato. I could never choose one favourite meal though, I love pretty much anything if it’s edible!

After a long day of training how do you like to unwind in the evening?

I don’t get home until 9.30pm each night so I’m usually pretty exhausted by the time I walk in the door. I always find time to eat though! I usually sort my playlist and classes for the following day and then fit in a bit of TV before bed. Geordie Shore and Made in Chelsea are my guilty pleasures – shhh, that’s top secret!

We are delighted to have you on board as our Mindful ambassador. What can we expect from you as an ambassador?

I really hope I can inspire people to make positive changes in their life. Eating better, moving more and thinking more positively is all there is to it, and those things can all be achieved without turning your life upside down. I’m all about encouraging people to make small changes for the long term if they want life changing results, but at the root of that is positive mental attitude - the desire to pursue it, the belief you can achieve it and the commitment to stick with it. 

People have endless excuses but sadly none of us have endless tomorrows and the sooner people realise that, the sooner they can start grabbing every opportunity in life to become the best version of themselves.

Faisal Abdalla lives in London, England, with his wife and son. He is a Nike master trainer and a master trainer at London’s popular Barry’s Bootcamp fitness studios. While he’s widely known for training celebrities like pop singer Ellie Goulding, he says he most enjoys helping everyday people reach their personal fitness goals. His book, The PMA Method: 14 Days to a Stronger, Healthier, Happier You, was published in the U.S. in June.