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Navigating Ramadan with Disordered Eating

Balancing Faith and Well-Being Ramadan can present unique challenges for those who have a difficult history with disordered eating and/or eating disorders. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a sacred time for Muslims worldwide. During this holy month, Muslims observe fasting from dawn to sunset, refraining from eating and drinking. The focus […]
Navigating Ramadan with Disordered Eating

Navigating Ramadan with Disordered Eating

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Balancing Faith and Well-Being

Ramadan can present unique challenges for those who have a difficult history with disordered eating and/or eating disorders. Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a sacred time for Muslims worldwide. During this holy month, Muslims observe fasting from dawn to sunset, refraining from eating and drinking. The focus shifts to spiritual growth, reflection, worship, and acts of service. Read our top tips for those taking part in Ramadan who struggle with food restriction and/or binge-eating.

The Dilemma: Fasting and Mental Health

Fasting during Ramadan can impact an individual’s mental health. The daily cycle of fasting and eating can trigger conflicting emotions, leading individuals with disordered eating to restrict food intake, overeat during iftar (the evening meal), or engage in purging behaviours.

Unfortunately, mental illness is still considered a taboo topic, and not fasting due to an eating disorder can lead to stigma. Some may perceive it as a weakness in faith, causing guilt and shame. Fasting in Islam is mandatory and every Muslim who is in good health should partake. So many feel obligated to fast, even when it jeopardises their health. Coping with these challenges can be difficult, but it is important to prioritise one’s mental and physical health.

Usman Mahmood, an imam from Birmingham Central Mosque, says, ”any sort of worship where health becomes an issue, that worship has to stop. Instead of fasting, people can pay ‘Fidyah’ where they pay over the month for a poor person to eat.”

Top Tips for Ramadan

1. Set Boundaries:

Ramadan often involves communal iftar gatherings. Set boundaries by choosing not to attend events that trigger discomfort. Instead, consider alternative social activities like meeting loved ones at the mosque for night prayers (Tarawih) or volunteering together.

2. Prioritise Suhoor:

The pre-dawn meal (suhoor) is crucial for maintaining energy throughout the day. Opt for protein-rich foods, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. Plan your meals to reduce decision fatigue.

3. Mindful Salah (Prayer):

Use the five daily prayers as opportunities for mindfulness. Focus on connecting with God and grounding yourself. Let go of judgment and embrace self-compassion.

4. Have a Prevention Plan Ready:

Prepare for moments of distress. Identify a trusted person to reach out to if you need support.

If you choose to fast:

Involve someone close to you so they can encourage and support you during this month.

Contact your GP, they could help you structure Ramadan to reap as many benefits, while taking care of your well being.

Consider connecting with an imam that is well-versed in mental health and social issues, they could provide good advice.

Stick to your individual plan: Follow your personalised diet plan or goals. Suhoor and iftar meals should align with your needs and requirements.

Don’t skip suhoor or Iftar! Missing these meals increases the risk of relapse.

Iftaar and Suhuur meal recommendations:

For Iftaar:

Hydrate: Start with plenty of water and hydrating foods like fruits.
Dates: Traditionally, dates are eaten to break the fast as they provide quick energy.
Soup: Soup can help prepare your digestive system for the main meal.
Main Meal: Include lean proteins (chicken, fish, beans), complex carbs (brown rice, whole grain bread), and plenty of vegetables.
Dessert: Opt for fruit-based desserts or yoghurt.

For Suhuur:

Proteins: Eggs, cheese, yoghurt, or legumes to help keep you full.
Complex Carbs: Oats, whole grain bread, or brown rice for sustained energy release.
Fruits & Vegetables: High in fibre and water content to aid hydration and fullness.
Nuts & Seeds: For healthy fats and additional protein.

Remember, Ramadan is about spiritual connection, compassion, and empathy. Prioritise your well-being while honouring your faith. Seek professional guidance if needed, and know that your value transcends any cultural expectations. 🌟

Beat Eating Disorders has a great lived experience story by Habiba, a Muslim girl with an eating disorder and her struggles with Ramadan.

You can also read their guide to Ramadan here.

We also have a module on Body Image and Eating which you could learn how to improve your relationship with food and your body.

 

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