Every year, over 1 billion Muslims all over the world observe the month of Ramadan, based on the lunar calendar. While there is plenty to gain on a spiritual level, for many, there is also potentially a lot to gain in the form of pounds. The anxiety of weight gain can often take away from the overall spirituality of the month and with all the fasting, feasting and tons of sweets, it is most definitely a legitimate concern!
Many people ask me how to avoid weight gain that is often inevitable, and while self control when fasting is ten times more difficult than on a regular day, there are always some things you can do to avoid packing on the pounds this month!
- Eat an Energy Packed Suhoor. Just like breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it helps put off hunger, suhoor is too. If you skip suhoor or don’t make healthy choices, you are more likely to over-eat at Iftar which will result in weight gain by the end of the month. Make sure to eat a meal high in fiber and protein to sustain you through as much of the day as possible!
- Start your Iftar with Salad. Salad is high in fiber and nutrients and low in calories, making it the perfect way to start off your Iftar! Practice some self control by ensuring that at least half your plate is filled with salads or other veggies to deter you from overeating on other foods that may be high in carbs, fat and calories. Eating salad first will also prime your stomach after a long day of fasting and prepare you for ingesting a full meal. Click here for a Fattoush or Tabouli recipe!
- Drink plenty of water at Suhoor and Iftar. We often mistake the signs of thirst for hunger. To avoid this while fasting, drink plenty of water at suhoor and first thing at Iftar. This will prevent you from overeating by ensuring you are well hydrated and have responded to your thirst cues before starting your meal.
- Eat slowely. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again! It takes about 10 minutes for your body to register fullness, and during this time it is easy to overeat. Eating slow helps prevent you from overeating because it gives your body more time to register fullness making it a sure-fire way to stop you from eating extra unnecessary calories.
- Weigh yourself twice a week. Studies show that stepping on a scale often helps keep your weight in check because you are able to stop yourself and make change to your diet immediately at any sign of weight gain.
- Be smart when eating out. Ramadan is a time of reflection, spirituality, and of course – food! With the many great halal restaurants in the GTA, eating out can be an attractive and a convenient choice for iftar and even suhoor! Be smart about what you choose when dining out. There are plenty of low calorie and healthy options on restaurant menus, attempt those! Also remember to have your dressing and sauces on the side – as high sodium contents can lead to excess water weight.
- Limit intake of sweets, homemade is best. What is Ramadan without the sweets? It would be harsh and cruel to tell you to stop eating sweets altogether, so I won’t do that! But I will advise you to try your best to limit your intake and to eat homemade sweets because they are lower in fats, sugars and ultimately calories than store-bought kinds. Doing this will make it easier to maintain that waist line.
- Don’t eat in front of the Television. Studies show that distracted eating causes you to eat up to 66% more food than you normally would. The main form of distracted eating at home is due to the Television. I know how difficult this is with all the fantastic television shows they roll out on arabic tv channels, but that is why I also know distracted eating is a prevalent culprit in Muslim households during Ramadan. Focus on your food while you eat, watch TV later!
- Take a walk after Iftar. In order to get your digestive system going and to reduce bloating after a long days fast and a large meal, try your best to take a walk…or better yet a run, after Iftar! Get your body moving to stay active and avoid weight gain! You will also feel much better and can thank me later.
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