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Healthy eating: Weight loss in Ramazan

August 06, 2011

Photo by White Star

Every year, most of us start Ramazan with lofty targets. Detoxification of the mind and body, spiritual cleansing of the soul, acquiring of admirable traits and most importantly shedding of those unwanted pounds are what we all desire from these 30 days.

Whereas the initial targets are quite personal (not that weight isn’t), they remain just that, personal. Losing weight is another story altogether, which if managed along with nutritional considerations will go a long way in helping us remain healthy in the true sense of the word.

The weighing scale tells a sad story when most of us get on it at the end of the month, showing far more unwanted pounds than what we started off with. The reason being very simple: Gorging on all the wrong kinds of food!

Ramazan, being an ideal time to cleanse the body and soul, should be treated as a detoxification month that leaves us healthier both in terms of physical and mental health. Unfortunately, in reality it signals the start of gastronomic over-indulgence, sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue and indigestion. Not to mention the addition of all those pounds of unhealthy and unwanted flab.

Ideally, a detox regime should begin a week before Ramazan and should include cutting down the consumption of tea, coffee and cola drinks at a rate of a cup/glass a day, substituting with a glass of water.

The basic rule to follow as religiously as possible: Do not try to cram a 24-hour worth of food in a six to eight hour span as this overloads metabolism and hence digestion.

Sehri should be as simple as possible. Instead of fat enriched khajla, pheni and parathas opt for chapatis with a home cooked dish of choice. Include fruit and yoghurt alternatively. Several glasses of water should be taken in sips during this time as this allows assimilation of water into the body tissues rather than being flushed out from the kidneys. Avoid having more than a cup of tea, as tea is a diuretic and causes excessive loss of minerals and water from the body.

To maintain energy during the day, cover your head if you have to go out in the sun between 10am and 3pm. This will make you less likely to gorge at the end of the day.

Nutritionists recommend that the fast should be broken gradually as it gives your system a chance to readjust. Start with a couple of dates and a glass of water and wait for at least half an hour before a full meal.

The desired loss of weight can be easily accomplished if you forego iftar in favour of dinner. The tradition of eating deep fried, sugar-laden stuff at iftar and then following it up with a full dinner makes us gain a lot of weight.

Dates are excellent for breaking the fast. They are rich in monosaccharides (instant sugar), carbohydrates (the energy givers) along with a healthy amalgamation of vitamins B and D, calcium, phosphorus, iron and zinc (fight allergies) and reduce acidity and heartburn. These provide necessary fortification along with water or low-fat milk till the actual dinner, helping you forego the rich iftar.

Fizzy drinks need to be avoided at all costs. These in addition to being really high in unwanted calories, have a high salt content and increase thirst instead of quenching it. Yoghurt based drinks such as lassi (not the sweet variety) are excellent in both nutritive and cooling properties.

Consume slow-to-digest, fibre-rich foods such as whole wheat bread/chapatis, pasta, beans and lentils as these help maintain and even lose weight by keeping your satiety centres in the brain satisfied for longer periods of time.

Fresh fruit should be a must on the iftar menu, the way nature intended it to be eaten and not with added sugar as in fruit salad or spices in chaat.

The main meal should consist of protein (chicken, lentils) and carbohydrates (bread, chapati, rice) with a little fat. The festive nature of our iftars and the company of family and friends makes us quite prone to over-eating. The tip here would be to stop when you feel slightly less than full. Remember, there’s always the next time!

Desserts are the worst enemies of weight loss. Being a major part of our iftar menu, these can test the patience of many. Eat but no more than a couple of spoons if you wish to lose weight, relishing the taste and making it last as long as possible so as to satisfy not your hunger but craving.

A comprehensive multi-vitamin intake is highly recommended as most of us are not disciplined enough to monitor our nutritional requirements. The best time to take the tablet would be two hours after iftar.

With the hectic schedule that Ramazan puts us through, it is quite difficult to work in an exercise regime. But even a 15-minute post-iftar walk can do wonders both physically and mentally.

In a nutshell, with a bit of self-discipline and restraint, this is the perfect time to detoxify, lose a few pounds or kick a bad habit.