The fast is a form of ibada that we do solely for the sake of Allah, seeking only his rewards and his pleasure. We must keep our intentions pure for this sake and this sake alone. Ramadan is a time in which we rejuvenate ourselves spiritually. We read articles on the physical benefits of fasting and we talk long winded about our “need” to fast for physical restoration. But the fast of Ramadan is not intended for this purpose. It is essential that we maintain its intent and purpose for indeed the Messenger of Allah (saw) said “he who fast with the intentions of pleasing Allah his reward is with his lord”.
However on the practical side of fasting, every year we deviate from the sunnah and we suffer physically. It’s often manifestation is weight gain, which then leads to tiredness which prevents us from staying awake for our late night ibada and thus the physical harm effects us spiritually and it comes full circle. Our intentions should not be to make the fast a month of dieting but rather make it a month in which we do not worsen our physical condition. The following are some practical tips on how to avoid the notorious Ramadan weight gain that many Muslim suffer from happy ramadan wishes.
1. Eat protein in the morning Breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. So much so that it is a Sunna. When eating the morning meal, resist the erg to try to make up for the food you will be missing through out the day. We are not whales, thus we do not have an extra stomach to hold food for later. Do not eat a stack of pancakes thinking if you eat 5 instead of your normal 3 you will be satisfied longer. Calories from carbohydrates (i.e. pancakes, grits, waffles, toast etc) are burned much faster than protein. Even though hunger during some part of the day is inevitable with fasting 13 hours days, you can delay the hunger by having a protein rich morning meal. Having eggs with your pancakes or waffles, turkey bacon with your grits or a protein shake with your oatmeal will have much more longevity in your system than a pure carbohydrate meal.
2. Drink plenty of water when you break your fast It is very easy to become dehydrated and not drink enough water during Ramadan. We spend most of our alert hours not drinking anything. When the Messenger of Allah (saw) could not find dates to break fast with he would break fast with water. Water is an essential part of a healthy diet even when you are fasting. Dehydration is often misinterpreted as hunger. When we are dehydrated when we break fast, then we have the hunger of the fast on top of the mistaken hunger of being dehydrated. Break your fast then drink 2 large glasses of water before you eat your iftar meal. Eat slowly, consciously and with intent to eat for nourishment not to satisfy your hunger and cravings.
3. Eat consciously. One of the joys of a fasting person that is mentioned in the hadith when Allah says in hadith kudsi that a fasting person will have two joys, one when he breaks his fast and one when he meets his lord. There is very little that compares to having fasted all day then sitting in front of a nice spread with every dish you had been fantasizing about, everything from your favorite roasted lamb to cake and cookies. However there is very little that can compare to the amount of self control we must have when faced with such a feast of the eyes and the palette. We must remember that we are hungry because we are Muslims and as Muslims we much keep the Sunnah in mind and in actions. Remember the advice of the Prophet (saw) was a one-third rule. One-third food, one-third drink and one-third air. When we sit and eat to our full at iftar we violate the sunnah and we violate our bodies. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: A Muslim should never loosen his waist wrapper due to over eating. Ramadan is a time in which we are suppose to master self control. This self control and discipline is not limited to the day. This training during the day extends to all parts of our lives and our behavior. We can show the benefit of this training then sitting down to an iftar spread and NOT eating everything in sight,.
4. Limit sweets Sweets are the indulgence of just about every culture during Ramadan. From the special Moroccan halwa, to African American cross cultural pies and cakes. Ramadan is the month that even the cooking handicapped practice their skills. We all have a tendency to justify the extra calories with the fact that we fasted most of the day. But the fact remains that it does not matter if you consume the calories through out the day or all at iftar. A calorie is still a calorie and too many still adds up to stored fat. Okay it is unrealistic to say do not eat any sweets. In fact it is okay to enjoy the sweetness of your Muslim sisters’ cooking. But have a piece of cake AFTER you have eaten a balanced meal, drunk a large glass of water and prayed Magrib to give your digestive system time to settle and register the food you have eaten. If you still crave the sweets have a small serving then leave the rest for someone else to enjoy. Drinking the water will help fill your stomach and leave less room for over indulgence in sweets. And waiting after salat allows for the 15 to 20 minutes it takes for your stomach to communicate its fullness to your brain.
5. Avoid late night snacking When we are up late night doing ibada we tend to take detours through the kitchen to taste all the things we will not be able to have during the day. Leave the night for ibada and you will benefit much more. But if you happen to leave your Quran in the kitchen and must go in there to get it, then grab a small potion of protein rich food instead of the extra piece of cake. Eating carbohydrate and sugar rich foods late at night increases the chance of those carbohydrates being stored as fat. Eating a small portion of protein will balance your insulin and leave you feeling fuller longer.
May Allah Bless each reader to have a successful Ramadan. If you found benefit in this article then make a special dua for the author and if you found any mistakes make an extra dua for the author to be guided on the Siratal-Mustakeen.