Fasting requires immense amounts of self-discipline to complete. The journey is worth the outcome: physiologically, fasting has a plethora of health benefits including reduced cholesterol, increased detoxification promotion, increased metabolism, reduced stress, and increased weight loss. However, for underweight people, weight loss may present itself as a risk rather than an advantage.
Especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan, fasting can be an extremely spiritually stimulating experience. The atmosphere associated with breaking a long days’ fast during Ramadan has painted some of my favorite memories: the smell of burning incense, the sound of clinking china, and the feeling of a warm blanket draped across my shoulders as I fall asleep watching Arab dramas.
For many that can’t afford to lose weight, striking the perfect balance between BMI measurements and faith can be a challenge.
This guide is intended to help you maintain weight during Ramadan so that religious consistency doesn’t have to come with a side dish of worry.
- Ask a doctor if fasting would be safe for you. This is especially important if you have been diagnosed/are recovering from an eating disorder.
- Set up a schedule. How often do you want to fast? Make it realistic. Don’t be ashamed to skip a few days if you need a break – health comes first. If fasting all day every day is not an option, consider fasting every day except weekends, only fasting on weekends, or fasting half-days. Conversely, you can try fasting a few hours each day and increasing the number hours each day until you can fast from sunrise to sunset.
- Take naps to conserve energy. Also avoid any strenuous exercise.
- Try to stay in cooler areas (shade or indoors) during hot afternoons. Heat will fatigue you.
- If you shower during your fast, use cold water.
- Move carefully – running or standing up too quickly after resting for prolonged periods of time may cause you to become dizzy or faint, especially if you have low blood pressure.
- Please remember to take your medication – even while fasting. This will not break your fast.
- If you feel sleepy, dip a cotton pad in cold tap water, rose water, or orange blossom water (zhar). Apply it to your face, concentrating around the eyes.
- Break your fast with something light – milk, water, and dates are good option. Gorging yourself will cause a very sudden spike in blood sugar which is unhealthy.
- After breaking your fast, eat a light meal (nothing fried or spicy) to warm yourself up. I suggest soup.
- Be sure to eat plenty of energy-rich foods: proteins, unsaturated fats, and carbs.
- Its better to try and eat small meals throughout the night rather than try and have one big feast.
- Pace yourself – do not eat too fast.
- Try to avoid caffeinated beverages.
- Strategize your water intake. Don’t drink a lot of water with dinner or you will get full quickly and not be able to eat as much. Have a couple sips of water to break your fast, then eat dinner. After dinner, drink sips of water throughout the night until you go to bed.
- Snack on something light such as sunflower seeds or dried fruit until Suhoor.
- Eat Suhoor (midnight snack, or snack just before you go to bed). Suhoor should be heavier than a light snack and resemble breakfast – fruits, bagels, and yogurts are excellent options. You should eat Suhoor whether or not you feel full.
- Drink at least 2 full glasses of water just after finishing Suhoor.
Good luck to you all!