With the Eid Al-Fitr, the festival that ends the Ramadan fast, just around the corner, it will soon be time to celebrate after a month of fasting. This may encourage overeating and inactive behaviour, as well as the consumption of sugary and calorie-rich foods, however.
Holiday weight gain is a common cause of concern for many people. Yet, by focusing on a few simple strategies, it’s possible to stay on track and still enjoy the festive season. Here are some tips for helping you to avoid weight gain during the Eid.
Limit your dessert intake: Kahk (the traditional Eid dessert) ice cream, doughnuts, cupcakes, and so on… desserts seem to be everywhere during the feast. This often leads to excessive sugar consumption, a common cause of weight gain. But instead of eating every treat in sight, focus on your favourites and ditch the rest. Or you can savour the desserts you do indulge in, simply taking the time to eat them slowly, which may leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to overdo it.
Get plenty of sleep: Sleep deprivation, quite common during the month of Ramadan and the feast, may cause weight gain as it’s easier to overeat when you’re tired. Caffeine, sugar and simple carbohydrates are also some of the worst choices for pick-me-ups. Various studies have linked poor sleeping habits to increasing obesity in both kids and adults. Sleep restriction may increase your hunger hormone levels, ultimately leading to higher calorie intake. Moreover, inadequate sleep has been linked to lower metabolism. This may be caused by modifications in your biological clock that regulates your bodily functions.
Stay active: Doing simple physical activities like walking can get your mind off food and maintain movement. Try to find a friend who has similar weight goals to keep you motivated and accountable over the holidays.
Eat smart: Continue to follow the same order of eating during the month of Ramadan and the Eid, such as starting with soup or drinking a cup of water to give the body a feeling of fullness and discouraging it from eating more. Try to eat four hours before bedtime. Late-night meals are not well digested and can end up as fat stored in the body.
Snack wisely: If you are not hungry, it’s best to avoid snacking. Opt for real foods instead, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These are all filling snacks that don’t contain added sugar or unhealthy fats, both of which can lead to weight gain. Avoid the kind of boredom or stress that can lead to mindless eating.
Go for fibre: Start the day with a high-fibre breakfast of complex carbohydrates. Some studies have shown that increased dietary fibre can reduce total calorie intake, which may help prevent weight gain over the holidays. Fibre helps us feel full, so we eat less. Switch to whole grain bread, brown rice, or quinoa, as they’re loaded with fibre and nutrients. Choose fresh fruit over dried: it contains more water and is more filling.
Include protein in every meal: Eating protein with meals and snacks promotes fullness, maintains muscle, and may be useful for weight management. Protein may also automatically reduce calorie intake by reducing hunger and appetite because it increases your metabolism and levels of appetite-reducing hormones.
Weigh yourself regularly: Stepping on the scales regularly during the holidays can remind you of your weight goals, allowing you to take action before significant weight gain sets in. Studies suggest that people who weigh themselves regularly maintain or lose weight better than those who don’t.
Avoid processed foods: While quick and easy, processed foods often contain excess sugar and unhealthy fats that can take a toll on your weight. To prevent weight gain, opt for whole foods and cook your meals from scratch. That way, you can monitor your diet and stay on top of your weight.
Hydrate: Good hydration is important, so be sure to keep a water bottle with you at all times. Have a glass of water before each meal to curb your hunger and another glass afterwards if you still feel like eating more.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 April, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.