Want to lose weight in Ramadan? Unfortunately, it’s not easy. Though fasting from dawn to dusk helps your stomach to detoxify and accelerates the metabolism, unlike how the body reacts normally when we skip a meal the traditional practices of Iftar preparation won’t be helpful in losing weight.
It can be tempting in Ramadan and during the coronavirus crisis for people locked inside their homes to seek relief through overeating. Many people tend to overeat once they break their fast or consume delicious treats while lying on the sofa watching Ramadan series at night on television. In anticipation of the long hours of fasting, some people may also tend to overeat during Sohour, which can negatively affect their weight.
But Ramadan can also be the perfect opportunity for the new healthy beginning your body has been craving. This is the month that teaches self-control, so restrain your bad eating habits and adopt a healthy eating routine. Moderation is the key to keep you on course. Enjoy some of your favourite treats, but try to find healthy alternatives first.
Here are some effective tips to maintain your weight at the optimal level throughout the holy month.
A balanced Iftar: Break your fast with three dates (with or without milk) to replenish your blood sugar levels. Go for a small portion of warm soup to comfort your stomach after a long day of fasting. Follow it with a mixed vegetable salad. These are all low in calories and make you feel full. Take a small break, then resume with a balanced main dish containing complex carbohydrates, lean meats and vegetables. Chew your food slowly to avoid indigestion.
Stay hydrated: Hydration is vital to losing weight in Ramadan. Drinking enough fluids will control your sugar craving after you break your fast. Since it has no calories unlike other drinks, make sure you drink at least eight glasses of water during the non-fasting hours. Limit or avoid tea and coffee at Sohour as they’re diuretics.
Eat smart and healthily: Eat seasonal fruits and vegetables as much as you can. They have antioxidants and are also enriched with fibre that aids weight loss. Avoid processed food, junk food and fast foods that are mostly filled with fats and trans-fats.
Reduce carbohydrates: Opt for good carbohydrates in foods like whole-wheat products and foods with complex carbohydrates instead of the bad ones in foods like white bread, pasta, doughnuts and cakes.
Don’t skip Sohour: Sohour is a very important meal as it helps to balance blood glucose levels during fasting. Skipping Sohour will leave you hungrier the next day and encourage you to overeat during Iftar.
Limit salt: Avoid salty foods such as pickles, salty crackers, hot and spicy dishes and canned food since they increase the body’s need for water. Choose complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain bread and a good source of protein such as beans, cheese, or eggs. This combination will ensure you have a stable level of glucose in your blood so you don’t get hungry the next day.
Skip processed sugar: The sugar you consume from Ramadan beverages and sweets is the main cause of weight gain. Challenge yourself only to eat naturally occurring sugar such as in fruit, dried fruit and honey. Drink fresh fruit juices without added sugar instead of the ready-made ones that may contain high amounts of sugar. Eat a fruit salad instead of sweets every now and then, and eat any sweets in moderation two or three hours after Iftar.
Cook healthy recipes: Avoid fried dishes whenever possible, and reduce the amount of fat in your meals by cooking with a little bit of vegetable oil when baking, roasting, steaming or grilling. Opt for low-fat dairy products and lean meat.
Stay active: Maintain your usual daily activity level to a certain extent. Aim for 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day before Sohour or after Iftar. Ask your trainer for a personalised home plan suitable for you, or walk every day for at least half an hour to one hour in order to burn off extra calories.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 April, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly