Contrary to the public myth, most Muslims don’t lose weight in Ramadan, and some actually tend to gain weight in spite of a whole month of fasting. Part of the reason is the commercialization of Ramadan and the cultural habits that have become intertwined with the Ramadan schedule. Such habits tend to focus more on the Iftar than the fasting and cause more indulgence in exotic meals and sweets where Muslims compete in and encourage open buffets where large numbers of people are invited.

  • Make it a goals driven Ramadan and add weight loss to your Ramadan resolutions in addition to your daily share of the Quran, charity and family bonding. Prepare mentally to lose weight by setting your goals. Make your goals realistic by setting a goal of shedding 4-5 lbs not more.
  • Eat less not more: It is expected that the fasting person should reduce their total daily intake, but what happens in reality is that most Muslims tend to consume more calories by overeating, getting invited to large Iftars with open buffets, and indulging in more sweets, ice cream and artificial juices while burning less calories, exercising less than usual and sleeping more than usual. The end result is gaining more weight by the end of Ramadan rather than losing.
  • Think before you eat: in order to lose one pound you should lose 3,500 calories, which means reducing your typical daily intake by 700 calories to lose one pound every five days. Do your own calculations on how many calories you have to cut down compared to your pre-Ramadan regimen.
  • Focus on the quality not the quantity of your food and think before you eat.
  • Look at the Halal concept holistically not literally. Choose wholesome, organic, locally grown, humanely raised and halal slaughtered meats. The same applies for fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat only two meals and avoid snacking between Iftar and Suhur.
  • It is a good time for a high and diverse protein diet which has fewer calories and reduces hunger throughout the day. High calorie and sugary diets cause wide swings in your blood sugar which causes fatigue, hunger and hypoglycemia.
  • Eat seasonal foods in order to reduce our Carbon footprint and reduce your beef intake. Cows produce Methane gas that is one of the most powerful greenhouse gases.
  • Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid canned food.
  • Don’t shop while you are fasting
  • Have sweets once a week not daily: Ramadan is not an excuse for indulging in sweets.
  • Drink water and natural low calorie juice not Soda or commercialized drinks.
  • Give Starbucks a break.
  • Pray Taraweeh daily. You burn about 15 calories every Rakaa.
  • Exercise in Ramadan: Briskly walking for 20-30 minutes after Iftar or Taraweeh is a good exercise. For technology-savvy Muslims, use pedometers, exercise apps or exercise watches to monitor your pulse, numbers and trends. Share your numbers with your friends on FB to encourage them.
  • Don’t over or under sleep: both oversleeping and under sleeping may cause weight gain so try to sleep your daily requirement of 7 hours. It does not hurt to have a short nap during the day to compensate for your night sleep deprivation.
  • Wake up and eat a healthy Suhur ( pre-dawn meal) that is rich in protein, fiber, vegetables and fruits, and low on simple sugars, juices, fried food, fatty and starchy food. A typical healthy Suhur may include cheese, yogurt, olives, boiled eggs, walnuts and dried fruist like figs. Drink two glasses of water at Suhur.
  • Have a date and water after breaking the fast, and pray before eating the main meal. This protocol helps you eat less as it increases your blood sugar and reduces your feeling of hunger.
  • Don’t delay your Iftar to after Taraweeh prayer as it is the custom in some Middle Eastern countries as that can cause more weight gain and slow down metabolism.
  • Avoid snacking between Iftar and Suhur.
  • Make your own meals and avoid fast food and ready meals. The general rule is if the meals are not recognized by your grandmother try to avoid them.
  • Donate the cost of large social Iftars, and politely decline those large social Iftar invitations this Ramadan.
  • Avoid too much TV and social networking especially after Iftar, and engage in more face to face networking. One of the main concepts in Ramadan is to promote the sense of community, so force yourself to interact with your community, visit your relatives and form new relationships.
  • Weigh yourself daily after your morning routine, and invest in buying a good scale.
  • Watch the impact of weight loss on your blood pressure, blood sugar, joint pain, waist size, sleep quality and overall wellbeing.
  • Consult with your doctor and nutritionist if you have chronic diseases which require multiple doses of medications. In general, most of the medications can be switched to longer acting forms or change its timing to accommodate the fasting schedule.
  • Eat your salad before the main meal. Salad is high in fiber and low in calories and will fill your stomach and reduce your hunger. Don’t use ready to use salad dressing as it is higher in calories, fat and salt. The best dressing is the simple olive oil and natural lemon juice.
  • Eat and chew slowly your Iftar meal. There is a lag time between eating and the feeling of satiety, so give your brain the chance to feel satiety by eating slowly and chewing your food well.
  • Try the well tested Mediterranean diet and avoid fried food that can cause weight gain as well as spicy and salty food that can make you thirsty.
  • Stop eating before you feel full or bloated, and leave a space in your stomach following the Prophetic prescription to have one third of your stomach empty.

A lighter believer is healthier and stronger. Have a healthy and nutritious Ramadan.

By Dr Zaher Sahloul