Understand Eating Disorders through Ramadan

An eating disorder is a serious, complex, mental health disorder where food is used as a means to control and cope with feelings and other situations. Unhelpful behaviours designed to in uence weight, body shape and size will develop. Anyone can get an eating disorder, it’s an invisible condition which does not discriminate regardless of age, gender, sexuality, race or economic background.

Some signs to look out for are:

  • spending a lot of time worrying about weight and body shape
  • avoiding socialising when food will be involved
  • eating very little food
  • vomiting or laxative misuse
  • exercising too much
  • feeling cold, tired or dizzy Early intervention is important and with treatment, most people can recover from an eating disorder.

Ramadan and Eating Disorders If you are suffering with an eating disorder Ramadan may result in feelings of fear and confusion over whether to fast. It’s important to talk with a medial professional and someone close to you such as a trusted family member or friend who can o er you support during this time. It’s also important to address any feelings of shame which may arise and understand that fasting is not obligatory for those who will experience detrimental e ects to their health by participating which includes mental health. You can participate in Ramadan in other ways.

For those in the early stages of an eating disorder, this would be a vulnerable time to introduce fasting. ere is increased risk involved if a person is underweight, losing weight, has had recent signi cant weight loss or unhealthy electrolyte levels. Ramadan may be a challenging time for those in recovery and treatment and may trigger a relapse. It is important to seek medical advice from a health professional and remember fasting during Ramadan is not intended to harm one’s health.

Should I fast with an eating disorder?

Another way to re ect on whether fasting is appropriate for you is to re ect on the intention behind why you are fasting. Fasting during Ramadan is rooted in spiritual practice. An eating disorder may skew your mindset away from faith and more towards fasting for the eating disorder (e.g. to lose weight). It may feel appropriate to seek advice from an Imam, trusted community leader or a health professional (who is culturally aware) If you decide to Fast.

If you have decided to fast after seeking medical advice, please speak with your therapist/clinician regarding how to best structure your sehri and iftar meals. Your energy requirements will be individual to you so planning with your clinician/therapist is important to help gain support with this.

Preparing meal ideas beforehand and sharing these with your support system will help. Having a meal at sehri is a part of the practice so do not be tempted to omit this meal and try to include energy providing foods consisting of complex carbohydrates. Some ideas are: barley, oats, cereal, breads, yoghurt, paratha, eggs or dates.

By Dr.Omara Naseem (Eating disorder psychologist)

Image credit – Gaser Mohamed, Upsplash

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Tags: body shape, british muslim magazine, eating disorders, energy, oats, weight loss, wellness

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