Eid celebrations are in order as Ramadan comes to a near end. During Ramadan, we have the opportunity to eliminate unhealthy eating pattern and gives our overburdened digestive systems a much-needed break. Our altered eating patterns impose substantial changes physically, mentally and socially.
Fasting during Ramadan should improve your health, only if you’re following the correct diet. However, now that the blessed month of Ramadan is almost over and the Eid-Ul-Fitr festivities are on our way soon, What happens when Ramadan is over? How easy is it to fall back into overeating? How hard is it to start going back to the gym if you’d taken a break during Ramadan? have you thought about how you plan to ease back into your daily routine?
So, to make sure you make the most out of the healthy eating habits and maintaining the incredible health benefits acquired during Ramadan, below are some tips on how to maintain, establish (or re-establish) a normal, healthy diet and exercise routine when the rules of Ramadan no longer guide your schedule:
Fast Twice a Week
Scientific research has shown that intermittent fasting is beneficial for the body and mind. Fasting can bring multiple health benefits- this depends on the individual and their dietary habits throughout, and post-Ramadan- such as improved memory, sleep, concentration and increased energy. Occasional fasting has also shown to accelerate the activity and growth of nerve cells,
decrease in body fat percentage, reduced blood pressure and favourable alterations in cholesterol status have been observed when adhered to, and healthy options are chosen.
For those who suffer from chronic diseases, they should see a doctor to adjust their habits during and after Ramadan.
Try fasting two days a week after Ramadan.
To follow the sunnah of the Prophet, try to fast on the 6 days of Shawwal, and during the year try to fast Mondays and Thursdays.
Have 2-3 Meals a Day
Make a habit of eating 2-3 regular meals a day (similar to Ramadan), rather than 6 small ones. The sensation of hunger between meals, contrary to popular belief, can be of great benefit to our physical health. According to a study published by PLOS ONE, the sensation of hunger may actually protect against Alzheimer’s disease.
The feeling of hunger can also have spiritual benefits too. Ibrahim ibn Adham said: “Any one who controls his stomach is in control of his deen, and anyone who controls his hunger is in control of good behaviour. Disobedience towards Allah is nearest to a person who is satiated with a full stomach, and furthest away from a person who is hungry.”
Eat Dried Fruits
Keep eating those dried fruits that you made a habit of eating during Ramadan.
Allah’s Messenger said: “Whoever has dried dates, then let him break the fast with that, and whoever does not, then let him break the fast with water, for indeed water is purifying.”
Dried dates and figs are both an excellent source of iron, fibre and antioxidants that protect against harmful free radicals, which are associated with ageing. If you have a sweet tooth and must have dessert after meals, have three dates instead of a dense, nutrition-deficit piece of chocolate cake.
Allah’s Messenger said: “He who
eats seven ‘Ajwa dates every morning, will not be affected by poison or magic on the day he eats them.”
Go slow and steady – The 80/20 Rule
Remember, the body will have undergone extreme alterations so be sure to ease the body around gradually. Practice the 80/20 rule and eat only until you are 80% full. A good way to do this is to eat slowly, so you are aware of your satiation level while you eat. Eating on the go or while watching television are surefire ways to overeat and hinder your body’s ability to properly digest what you consume.
During Ramadan, the ritual of fasting allowed us to consciously recognise our body’s hunger and satiation signals. Therefore, avoid returning to mindless eating habits and most importantly beware of consuming an excessive intake of food
Maintain small, healthy meals to regain a healthy eating pattern and retain the favourable effects of fasting. Salads and vegetable based dishes bring nutritional benefits whilst usually being lower in calories.
Use the Rule of Thirds
Ramadan was an excellent opportunity to learn how to plan our meals carefully and avoid the after-iftar slump. After Ramadan, use the rule of thirds to keep your daily energy levels up and prevent the sense of heavy-headedness that often follows a heavy meal.
Making healthy choices and ensuring a mindful turnaround after Ramadan is vital to ensuring good health and looking after your body.
Our wise Prophet Muhammad once said: “A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one-third of food, one-third for drink and one-third for air.”
Make healthy choices
Be mindful of your portion size, especially when it comes to eating carbs such as bread, rice, pasta, potato and pastry dishes. Carbohydrate portion should be the size of your own clenched fist. Try to avoid eating carbohydrates late in the day, they supply energy and our bodies don’t require energy when we are going to sleep. Plan your meals around vegetables, not carbohydrates and meat, and make sure you’re getting at least five portions a day. Vegetables come with a many of nutritional benefits, are low in calories and always promote better health. Steam or boil your vegetables, and healthy salads are a good way of replenishing your body with good nutrients.
Say no to fried and fizzy
Easier said than done but try to avoid fried foods and the “sweet treats” associated with Ramadan. These promote unfavourable blood fat and sugar concentrations. Excessive fat or sugar in the blood promotes weight gain, leads to poor cholesterol levels and an increase in body fat percentage.
Fluid intake is restricted from sunrise to sunset during Ramadan and soft drink consumption declines dramatically, this leads to a significant improvement of health status. If you can maintain this practice post-Ramadan and increase your water intake it can be great for your health. Soft drinks carry excessive sugar and also promote weight gain, poor cholesterol levels and an increase in body fat percentage. Avoid adding sugar, honey or any syrup to hot drinks as this also contributes to spikes in blood sugar.
Take a Probiotic Supplement to Maintain Digestive Health
The excessive consumption of sweets that followed the long days of fasting in Ramadan and that were a big part of Eid celebrations may have taken its toll on your digestive system. Try adding a probiotic supplement to your daily regimen to replenish the levels of good bacteria flora in your intestines. Studies have shown that probiotics can also help keep colds and infection at bay as well as improve women’s health and metabolism.
Nurture Your Emotional Health
Do not neglect your emotional health; rather, look to continually strengthen it. One of the things we miss the most when Ramadan is over is that feeling of well-being and satisfaction after days and nights dutifully immersed in soulful supplication, night prayer and reading the Holy Qur’an. Meditation has been proven by researchers to be highly therapeutic for individuals suffering from depression, anxieties, phobias and addictions. It is no wonder then that a month spent in spiritual ‘spring cleaning’ has such a calming and restorative effect on our state of mind and level of contentment.
One way to rekindle the feeling of spiritual well-being is to wake up 20-30 minutes before Fajr for night prayer and dua (supplication).
Also, do not forget to make the practice of reading the Qur’an and performing dhikr an intrinsic part of your day.
Keep the Sadaqah (Charity) Flowing
Keep the sadaqah flowing and reap the mental health rewards of giving. If you were supporting disadvantaged families in Ramadan, continue to do so after Ramadan. The act of giving, whether of your finances, skills or time, is extremely rewarding not only in the Hereafter but also here on Earth. Evidence has shown that small gestures of kindness or more significant ones, such as volunteering in the community, can substantially increase your overall sense of happiness and satisfaction.
Be a Good Role Model
Remember that you are a role model for others in your life, whether they are your friend, sibling or children. Therefore, Ramadan was a great opportunity to model great behaviour for young children. It also allowed them to witness the fruits of delayed gratification after a long day of fasting.
And if you are a parent, remember that your eating habits and behaviour will shape your child’s attitude towards food for the rest of their life. Be a good role model and demonstrate a healthy approach towards making food choices and performing regular exercise.
Make Exercise a Priority
Whether a person trained slightly in Ramadan or not at all, you should take small steps getting back into training for the first week. Make yourself comfortable training again.
Stay motivated with positive self-talk, pat yourself on the back for making good food choices and make exercise a priority by sticking to your workout schedule. During exercise, your body releases endorphins, serotonin and dopamine that together improve your mood, keep you feeling healthy, fit and strong.
If you were unhealthy before Ramadan and somehow changed your eating habits during Ramadan, simply carry that over. The year is 12 months. What people don’t understand is that training and nutrition is year-round. It’s not a one-month thing.
My advice is this: If you want to improve your health, eat healthier. If you want to lean out and build up strength and muscle, start training regularly and start eating better. The longer you persist and harder you keep at it, the better the results will be. It’s really a lifestyle change, not a temporary endeavour.
Ramadan is meant to instil in us good new habits by training us spiritually. Ramadan is a time to make iman gains; you can worry about muscle gains and fat loss for the rest of the year. It all comes down to developing and maintaining good habits all year long.
Finally, always remember that great health maximizes productivity in all areas of your life. Make your health a priority, treat it as a blessing and you will begin to see amazing benefits.