Avoid the Ramadan bulge

Ramadan bulge
By: Amal Al-Sibai

In addition to increased spiritual awareness and a higher level of faith, something else often goes up during Ramadan…… your weight.

Ramadan is not to be blamed for the weight gain; it is due to our unhealthy eating and lifestyle habits during this blessed month.

A top rated cardiologist based in northwest Ohio, Dr. Mohammed Alo has done extensive research surrounding the dilemma of Ramadan and weight gain.

According to Dr. Alo, if we fast correctly, we can achieve better health, stronger faith and physical body, and we can actually lose weight during Ramadan.

Numerous studies have found that fasting can reduce the risks of diabetes and cardiovascular disease by promoting weight loss, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and triglycerides, decreasing insulin resistance, and lowering glucose levels as well.

Scientists believe that the mechanism in which fasting helps maintain optimal health is that fasting pushes cells into ‘self-preservation mode’, optimizing cell function. The body must turn to other sources of energy to provide the needed blood sugar level, thus body stores of fat will be broken down to produce glucose. Fasting triggers production of human growth hormone, which protects lean muscle mass, decreases insulin production, and helps prevent diabetes.

“Although fasting can have many health benefits, the majority of Muslims gain weight during Ramadan. We have conducted several studies across the Muslim world, which indicate that 90% of fasting Muslims gain weight during Ramadan,” said Dr. Alo.

The problem lies in the way we break our fast and the quality and quantity of our breakfast meal.

“What most people are essentially doing during Ramadan is binge eating. We refrain from eating for over 12 hours, and then all of a sudden, we eat a large meal or a feast all at once: soup, breads, rice, chicken, vegetables. Some people actually consume up to 1,600 calories just at the breaking of the fast. This causes a sudden spike in glucose levels and in response insulin is released in large amounts, which does help bring blood sugar levels down but it also causes the body to hold on to fat stores,” said Dr. Alo.

Dr. Alo stressed the importance of eating smaller, frequent, intermittent meals in the evening in order to lose weight, rather than one huge meal at sundown, which burdens the digestive system and leads to the Ramadan bulge.

Follow the doctor’s following advice to get through the remaining two weeks of Ramadan without adding any inches to your waistline.

Eating small frequent meals after sunset will help you lose weight.

Break the fast on a few dates, water, and fresh fruit juice, not commercially prepared juice, which is mainly just sugar, water, and flavoring.

Remove yourself from the table; perform Maghreb prayers and then continue your meal.

Enjoy a light meal of soup and whole grain bread. Excellent choices are lentil soup, oat and chicken soup, vegetable soup, onion soup, and minestrone.

Walk to your neighborhood mosque for the Taraweeh prayers, this will help build in some physical activity into your daily routine because it is otherwise difficult to find time to exercise during Ramadan.

Eat dinner after you return from the mosque, which could include salad and a simple main course, such as rice and vegetable stew, rice and chicken curry, or baked fish and steamed vegetables.

Drink plenty of water in the evening and just until before dawn.

Wake up again before dawn to eat the Sahoor meal, which should include a piece of fruit, whichever you prefer: banana, apple, peach, orange, grapes, pear, or any fruit.

Healthy Sahoor ideas include fruit yogurt, whole grain toast with cheese or labneh or a teaspoon of honey. A boiled egg with whole wheat pita bread, or a bowl of cereal (no added sugar) or homemade oatmeal with low fat milk, or homemade pizzas on brown toast, or hummus and pita bread, make good Sahoor meals because they are filling enough to sustain you during your fast but also low in fat and calories to prevent undesired weight gain.

Keep in mind that Ramadan is meant to be a month of eating less food, experiencing a bit of hunger, and overcoming all sorts of self-indulgences. Ramadan is not meant to be about more food.

Many people have turned Ramadan into a month of open-buffet restaurant banquets, syrup dripping deserts, and family gatherings that revolve around huge feasts rather than focusing on simple foods yet closer family relations. When Ramadan is viewed as an all-you-can-eat marathon from sunset to sundown, no doubt weight gain will follow.



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