In our last Ramadan blog post, we focused on how to prepare our bodies for a healthy month of fasting. Now, let’s dive into understanding why it is our bodies can actually gain weight during this time, and what we can do to avoid this.
Image: CNN Turner
For many people, gaining weight during Ramadan is a real worry. But even for those who don’t face these concerns, it’s still a time where self-discipline, knowledge and awareness can really help ensure we don’t slip back into old habits.
So let’s explore two possible scenarios. The first, our actions. One word - overcompensation. The second, understanding what actually happens to our bodies when we fast - the physiological reason, our internal reaction.
Image: Dates in Ramadan
Explanation 1: Our external actions
With tables spread full of exuberant and colourful foods, it’s understandable that after a day of fasting, you want to dive straight in. But here lies the problem when we talk about weight gain. Eating continuously, consuming large portions and choosing the wrong foods to eat at Iftar, are all our own actions and can easily be avoided. Continuing such habits can result in adnominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea, not to mention feeling lethargic which results in inactivity.
Take charge of your actions this Ramadan. Don’t eat with your eyes, listen to your stomach. Here are some tips to remember:
- Avoid over eating
- Chew your food slower
- Drink lots of water before you break your fast
- Eat soup and salad first at sundown
- Stay away from sugary fruit juices
- Try to avoid the sweets
- Go for a walk around neighbourhood before bed
Image: Food Navigator
Explanation 2: Our internal reactions
Two physiological changes occur in our body when we fast. The first is a fasting state, and the second, the starvation phase.
Your body enters the fasting state after eight hours of no eating. As there is no food in your stomach to provide energy, your body starts to generate energy by burning the stored carbohydrates, sugar and fats. If you are wanting to lose weight, this is good as your body can burn the fat that is inaccessible during a ‘fed’ state. Unfortunately, this is a short term solution. As easily as it comes off, it will come back, but this time, with a slower metabolism. Fasting slows your metabolic rate, AKA the rate in which your body can burn calories.
The bigger problem however lies after the fasting state, when your body enter the starvation state. Once all the cabohydrates, sugar and fats have been used to help energize your body, the next step is to turn to protein. When your body breaks down its protein it can badly damage your liver, brain and blood. Given that the Ramadan fast only lasts from dawn until dusk however, this need not be a concern. The body only enters a starvation stage after 72 hours of fasting.
Image: Media Cache
Weight gain during Ramadan occurs through our own actions, not a physiological change in routine. Fasting doesn’t make your body gain weight, over eating the wrong foods does.
Given that weight gain is very possible during Ramadan, how about this year, approach your fast with discipline, knowledge and awareness. Perhaps it can actually be an opportunity to focus on living a healthy and balanced lifestyle through a more mindful approach to eating.
Speaking of, stay tuned! Our next blog post will focus on exactly what to eat and what not eat to ensure your body remains a glowing temple during Ramadan.
Image: Times of Oman