Ramzan should be an exercise in self-control and restraint. Instead it’s the month of soaring ghee consumption, groaning iftar tables and terrible food choices. You may just have gotten away with eating badly thanks to daytime fasting but it’s super-easy to pile on the pounds after Eid. Ditch those Ramzan Food Crimes if you want to avoid the dreaded post-Eid belly.
Ramzan Food Crime No. 1 – Binge Eating
The Cure – Retraining your appetite and focusing on portion control
Dieting should be the last thing you need after a month of fasting but most of us never really get the hang of the ‘milk and dates’ iftar or of belt tightening in Ramzan. We all know we should aim to fill our stomachs with one-third food, one-third water and one-third air but Ramzan is more often an exercise in binge eating. We stuff ourselves at iftar and then proceed to have dinner. We pack in the calories at sehri and then chug water and juices to the point of discomfort.
Studies on bulimics have shown that binge eating can increase your gastric capacity. Bingeing during Ramzan means that you get used to eating more and it takes longer for you to feel full. Once Ramzan is over, increased stomach capacity can be a problem. Eating that way three times a day is a recipe for disaster.
You need to pull out all the tricks that help reduce appetite and help your body recognize when it’s had enough food. Eat slowly and chew your food properly. Use small plates and measure out sensible portions. Sit down properly to eat and avoid snacking. You shouldn’t be popping stuff into your mouth all day just because you can.
Ramzan Food Crime No. 2 – Junk Food
The Cure – Lock away the junk food and get moving
This doesn’t mean just burgers and pizzas – although at least one pizza sehri is practically obligatory. It means all those samosas and pakoras and cholesterol-laden goodies that we whip up for iftar. It means that post-dinner mithai that you merrily guzzled day after day. It means the artery-clanging iftars where you had nihari AND paya AND karahi AND stir-fried beef. Because, after all, you should get your money’s worth from an iftar buffet.
When you’re fasting, your metabolism actually slows down to preserve energy. It’s not a good idea to indulge in sweets and fried food at iftar or sehri because actually you are burning fewer calories than you usually would.
Post-Eid it’s a good idea to kick-start your metabolism by increasing your activity levels. Aim to exercise for 20 minutes at least three times a week. You can walk, swim, play a sport or go to the gym. If you weren’t exercising before Ramzan then build your activity levels slowly. If you were already training regularly, try and get back to your usual routine as fast as possible.
Ramzan Food Crime No. 3 – Bad food choices
The Cure – Load up of lots of fresh vegetables and fibre
Even when you know the importance of a balanced diet with plenty of fiber and nutrients, it’s easy to get it wrong in Ramzan. With just two meals a day, one of which is a quick, bleary-eyed one before the crack of dawn, it can be challenging to maintain good nutritional balance. Most of us don’t eat enough fresh vegetables and fibre during Ramzan, opting for calorific processed food instead.
Eid isn’t much better. Apart from the token salad, Eid spreads are heavy on meat, spice and oil. And that’s before you even touch the dessert trolley. Sure it’s great to indulge a little on one of our biggest festivals but post-Eid it’s time to amp up the nutrient content of your meals. Include plenty of fiber from wholewheat chappatis and oatmeal and make sure your diet includes plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit. Indulge in lovely daal chawwal – nutritional and tasty. Allow yourself small portions of fish or lean meat, preferably in simple home-style curries. Give your sweet tooth a rest, limiting yourself to fruit or honey-sweetened yoghurt for a while.
Ramzan Food Crime No. 4 – Lousy hydration choices
The Cure – Making sure you drink your recommended 6-8 glasses of water a day.
Staying properly hydrated can be a challenge in Ramzan and is rightly a test of our patience. But we do tend to make life difficult for ourselves. Instead of sticking to the restorative power of pure water, we guzzle sickly sweet sherbets and fizzy drinks. We wouldn’t miss our much longed-for cup of tea but we will make do with that first glass of water instead of assiduously drinking water every hour as long as we’re awake. Chugging four glasses of water just before Fajr isn’t the hottest idea either – it puts a bit of a strain on stomach and your kidneys.
Now that Ramzan is over, reflect on how a little abstinence can make you appreciate life’s simple pleasures. Enjoy a glass of iced water with a slice of lemon or cucumber at any time. Be diligent about maintaining your hydration post-Ramadan – aim to spread those 6-8 glasses of water through the day. You should see a boost in your energy levels and a renewed glow in your skin within a day or two.
The low down
For those who managed to tighten their belts as prescribed in Ramzan, the post-Eid belly needn’t be a worry. For the rest of us, a little care is needed as we get back to our normal routines. Here’s what you need to remember:
1. Control your portions to help retrain your stomach after binge-eating in Ramzan. Your stomach needs to re-learn how to be satisfied on smaller, more frequent meals.
2. Swear off fried food and junk food.
3. Eat smart – rediscover simple home cooking and load up on fresh vegetables and fiber.
4. Maintain your hydration levels – drink 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day
5. Get moving – shake off that Ramzan lethargy and kick-start your metabolism with some exercise.