The holy month of Ramadan is not only an opportunity to get closer to God and deserve his forgiveness. It is also a real school of life and a supreme opportunity to address some of our bad habits and teach ourselves self-discipline and the benefits of giving and sacrificing for the sake of something greater than ourselves.
Other than fasting and worship, Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to change our eating habits and maintain good health. But while everyone welcomes the holy month in his or her own way, there may be mistakes that should be avoided to ensure a good Ramadan experience.
Here are some bad habits people may have during Ramadan:
Some people may skip this pre-dawn meal because they think it makes them hungrier or they just want an extra bit of sleep. But by skipping Sohour, you are less likely to get the recommended servings of fibre, vitamins, carbohydrates, protein and minerals that provide you with energy and hydration for the next fasting day.
Too much caffeine:
Drunk either in the form of coffee, soft drinks, tea, or energy drinks, consuming caffeine excessively will further dehydrate the body and make you feel thirsty during fasting days.
Eating too quickly:
Your brain needs around 15 to 20 minutes before it signals to your stomach that you’re full. This means that if you’re eating faster than your brain can signal, you can end up eating a lot more than you need. A Japanese study has found that eating too quickly is strongly associated with being overweight. So, chew slowly and enjoy your meal.
Overeating at Iftar:
Avoid temptation and eat moderately. Eating excessively will not protect you from hunger during the days of Ramadan. Consuming excessive amounts of food after a long day of fasting will burden your system and cause indigestion and heartburn. In general, overeating makes you unhealthy and hence unproductive.
Sleeping after Iftar:
Studies have shown that sleeping immediately after Iftar can cause weight gain and a lower metabolism.
Increasing salt and spices:
Consuming more salt and spices can increase your body’s need for hydration, and if you don’t compensate with enough water, you risk dehydration and an irregular heartbeat.
Decreasing fruit and vegetables:
Make sure you start your Iftar with a bowl of salad and incorporate fruit as a snack to ensure you get your daily required amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Drinking tea after Iftar:
Avoid drinking tea immediately after Iftar because it absorbs calcium and iron and reduces the body’s use of food. It’s better to drink tea at least two hours after Iftar.
Hunger makes us overfill our stomachs, leaving no space for fluids. But water is important, and with only about a ten-hour eating window during Ramadan, not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration, constipation and other digestive illnesses. Try to break your fast with water first and drink small amounts frequently. Try to drink six to eight cups of water in total each night.
Indulging in high-fat foods:
Eating greasy foods on an empty stomach can lead to indigestion, which is responsible for stomach cramping and bloating. Moreover, deep-fried foods are high sources of saturated fat and calories – and a high calorie intake coupled with inactivity can put you at risk of gaining weight.
Sugar-rich food and drinks:
Ramadan sweets and juices are loaded with calories that will contribute to weight gain. Hydrate yourself with water and opt for dried fruits and dark chocolate instead.
Working out while fasting:
Physical activity and exercise can be good for your health, and we should all add them to our routines, even during Ramadan. But it is best to avoid exercising or doing things that are too strenuous during fasting hours.
Fasting in Ramadan doesn’t give us a ticket to oversleep and go to workplaces late. Some people switch timings to accommodate the day of fasting, and instead of using valuable time during the day, they simply switch off the fast by snoozing. But sleeping away the fasting hours means avoiding the trials of Ramadan. When you are mindful of the experience, its spiritual rewards help you manage the physical hardship better.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 7 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.