Nehal Solaiman was in her third trimester of pregnancy, and things weren’t going as planned.
As a clinical pharmacist, Solaiman didn’t need a physician to tell her what she already knew: She was gaining weight too quickly.
Thanks a lot, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, she thought.
As it turned out, however, her reduced thyroid output wasn’t the only issue. Solaiman also had gestational diabetes. Higher than normal blood sugar levels were causing her baby to grow too big, too quickly, raising her risk of a wide range of complications.
“I wanted to get healthier, but without dieting or deprivation,” says Solaiman, PN1, who was working at a hospital in Alexandria, Egypt. “I tried to learn everything I could about nutrition so I could help myself.”
Her efforts paid off. By the end of that third trimester, Solaiman no longer had gestational diabetes—and she delivered a healthy baby boy.
The experience inspired her to earn a nutrition certification from Precision Nutrition, then launch a side business as a nutrition coach.
What would drive someone who’s already got a busy career to start a part-time nutrition coaching business?
We wondered that, too. So we asked.
In this interview, Solaiman shares what she learned from a Precision Nutrition certification that changed everything for her. She also reveals how she landed 10 clients during a global pandemic, and why she gets so much satisfaction from being a nutrition coach.
If you’re thinking of getting a nutrition certification or launching a side hustle as a coach, you’ll find her answers illuminating.
What can healthcare professionals learn from a nutrition certification?
After using nutrition to solve her issues with gestational diabetes, Solaiman discovered a new mission: to help women with similar problems.
“I wanted to help them understand their bodies—and learn how to lose weight without deprivation,” she says.
As part of her pharmacy training, Solaiman had studied nutrition and biology. But she didn’t know how to help people change. It was one thing to tell someone that broccoli was good for them. It was another to inspire them to actually eat it.
“As a nutrition coach, I didn’t want to just hand them a paper and send them home,” she says. “I wanted to help them change their behavior: to sleep better, reduce their stress, and overcome emotional eating and other barriers.”
Why is the Precision Nutrition certification a good fit for medical professionals?
Solaiman didn’t need to study the Krebs cycle, metabolic pathways, or even the role of specific vitamins and minerals. She had that down.
What she was missing: the art of coaching. How could she truly help people change—especially with the many barriers that stood in their way? “For me, PN filled a gap,” Solaiman says. “Units 1 and 3 were all about coaching psychology—and I loved that. This was all new for me.”
Precision Nutrition’s emphasis on deep health coaching—helping people to thrive in every part of their lives—sealed the deal.
What would drive a busy pharmacist and mother to launch a side business?
At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, Solaiman was working in a hospital.
Her son, Younis, was just a year old—and she didn’t watch to catch the virus at work and then bring it home.
So she took a leave of absence.
She launched an online coaching business partly to bring in an income, but it was about a lot more than money for her.
She saw this as a long term career move—and a way to help people change their lives for the better.
How do you grow a coaching business during a pandemic?
It all started organically, when her sister-in-law learned that Solaiman had recently become certified as a nutrition coach.
“She was a nursing mother, and she heard how I’d transformed my health during my pregnancy,” says Solaiman. “She wanted to lose weight—but not by going on a strict ‘eat this, not that’ diet.”
Solaiman set up regular Zoom meetings, along with daily check-ins.
Within three months, her sister-in-law was down more than expected: 30 pounds (14 kilograms). “She told me that she never felt deprived,” Solaiman says. “This new way of eating had become her lifestyle.”
Soon her sister, three other inlaws, and their friends were reaching out to Solaiman for help. Around this time, Solaiman began promoting her coaching services on Instagram.
Roughly six months after landing her first client, she had 10 regulars.
What’s Solaiman’s recipe for success?
Because of COVID, 100 percent of Solaiman’s client interactions take place virtually. She schedules two Zoom sessions a month with each client, and offers daily support with WhatsApp.
“Using WhatsApp, they can message me whenever they need help or are struggling,” she says.
Her clients come to her in search of fat loss. To help them, Solaiman takes a whole-person approach, addressing everything from sleep to stress to emotional eating.
“I try to get to know their whole story: their lifestyle, job, family, stressors, sleep habits, everything,” she says.
She creates personalized programs for each client, using the Precision Nutrition Calculator to teach them how to sort foods into “eat more,” “eat some,” and “eat less” categories. Clients use hand portions—an easy method that helps you quickly gauge how much to eat—to ensure they’re getting enough lean protein and vegetables.
“I also help them to focus on making each meal a little bit better,” Solaiman says. “Rather than completely give up foods they love, they learn how to change how they cook, their portion sizes, or the timing of certain foods.”
Will she return to clinical pharmacy?
Yes, she will, she says.
But she’ll continue to coach nutrition on the side, too.
“Eventually it’s my hope that nutrition coaching is my main job and clinical pharmacy becomes the side job,” she says. “I love to help people. Though I can do that as a pharmacist, I can help even more people as a nutrition coach.”
Solaiman primarily wants to work with women.
“They often don’t know why they’re so tired or why they’re gaining weight,” she says. “I want them to understand that this is more about their health than about their shape. It’s your blood sugar, insulin response, and hormonal balance that really affects how you feel. When someone brings those factors into a healthy range, they also tend to lose weight. But they don’t have to focus on the scale or the numbers in order to do it.”
If you’re a coach, or you want to be…
Learning how to coach clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy eating and lifestyle changes—in a way that’s personalized for their unique body, preferences, and circumstances—is both an art and a science.
If you’d like to learn more about both, consider the Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certification. The next group kicks off shortly.
What’s It Like To Start a Nutrition Coaching Business on the Side? is written by Alisa Bowman for www.precisionnutrition.com