Fasting in Ramadan, especially in these seventeen hours long summer days, can cause weight gain in many people. This is because our body goes into “starvation mode”. No, it does not reduce our appetite, but actually increases it. When we deprive our body of timely calorie intake and do not refuel it according to its usual schedule, after using its stash of glucose (instant energy) the body starts burning energy stored in fats, thus making us lose weight.
However, since we lose this stored energy to keep us alive rather than use to perform excess tasks, (which was why the body stored it) the brain kick starts the starvation mode. This mode causes our body to retain all carbs and fats from any small amount of food that we take in and reduces our rate of metabolism to almost half. Increased appetite+ low metabolism= less energy consumed by body to function and the fat ratio in the body stays the same or in some cases, increases.
We, however, have decided to help our readers combat this unwanted weight gain and even reverse it in some cases.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and then do it again.
courtesy of google images
This might seem like an impossible task, but it can be done. Will power and time management is all it takes. Drinking ample fluids will prevent dehydration while you fast and it will also control your sugar cravings after you open your fast. You should aim for a good two liters (the cliché 8 glasses) between iftar and suhur and here is a small breakdown to help you keep track of your hydration chart:
2 glasses when you open fast
4 glasses between iftar and suhur (drink one glass per hour)
2 glasses at suhur
You might feel full, bloated but believe me, if you don’t chug these 2 litres of water you’ll feel much worse and look worse, too 9hello, pimples). Avoid sugary drinks and sodas at all costs. They do not count as water replacement because they end up adding more toxins into your system rather than removing them, which is one of water’s jobs. Caffeinated drinks do not count as water; we would advise that you cut down your cup of tea/ coffee down to half. Water is water and no put down that glass of Jam-e-Shirin you ain’t fooling anyone, kiddo. Drink enough water and you won’t feel bloated, get constipation or pimples. You will feel less hungry during the day as well thus giving you “the flat tummy” after a week or two.
- Take it easy with your Iftar
A date, eve’s cheese and almond salad: example of a perfect Iftar salad. Courtesy of Grub worm.com
As mentioned before, your metabolism slows down to almost sloth speed after long and constant fasting. Subsequently, your energy needs decrease. A common misconception is that our Iftar meal is supposed to make up for the calories we burned during the fast. Wrong! Put that third samosa down, kiddo. If you stuff yourself in Iftar, chances are your body won’t end up burning those calories and instead add it to its already abundant stash making you ‘gain weight’.
Forget that you haven’t eaten all day and imagine you just sat down for your regular dinner and eat accordingly. Even if you want to eat more than your regular dinner, then avoid fried foods. Foods with a lot of cheese, processed sugars are also a big no for your everyday. Kabhi kabhi tu chalei ga. Incorporate leafy greens into your iftar: make a red bean and iceberg salad with a drizzle of apple-cider vinegar. It’s delicious, crunchy, healthy, and full of essential proteins and fiber.
Open your fast with dates since they are a super food and provide an instant burst of sugar to stabilize your system. But that does not mean you eat dates like a gorilla, just take 2-3. Follow the dates with a cup of milk, or some fresh fruit smoothie. If fruits aren’t your thing then opt for a small portion of soup, such as a vegetable or lentil soup, and avoid cream based soups. Try to have whole-wheat roti or brawn bread (healthy carbs) Focus on getting protein and fiber into your body.
- Do not say no to Suhur
Do not try to be wiser than your body and skip suhur. You are a human, and a Pakistani; you will only end up eating more at Iftar. Morover, Suhur is actually healthy for you: it’ll keep your powered throughout the day, prevent lethargy, bad mood, dizziness and even prevent weight gain in Ramadan, but best of all it is a Sunat and will earn your rewards.
Choosing what you eat in Suhur is as important as Iftar, even more so if you think about it. Go for a whole-wheat light paratha if you want, but make sure to avoid foods high in salt as those can make you thirsty in the day. Your Suhur meal should ideally contain some portion of healthy carbs like whole wheat bread, whole-wheat roti, brown rice, oatmeal and a source of protein like cheese (cottage, cream or cheddar, no mozzarella), eggs, or legumes. Have a glass of lassi if you want, but skip the salt in it. Having payei or nehari might not be a good idea because these oily foods make you thirsty and can cause acidity. However, desi logon ka guzara nahin desi pakwan kei bagair, so go ahead and enjoy it for Suhur, occasionally!
- Don’t just sleep all day. Thora hil lein beta.
Don’t try sprinting like Milkha Singh, but also don’t spend the day lying on your bed like a walrus binge-watching Friends and Stranger Things. Go an about your usual routine. And if your routine consists of binge-watching then move your body a little, because the low calorie intake and fasting can help you burn calories from your body’s hardest fat hordes. Try a simple yoga routine for 20 minutes. Or the latest seven minute workouts, a bit of aerobics, zumba, or even freestyle dancing can work the magic. Again, there is no need to overdo it.
Exercising even moderately can stop your metabolism from tumbling and thus, in turn, help you lose weight instead of gaining weight.
- Avoid Processed Foods (especially sugars)
Consider eating your guilty pleasures a sin, too, this Ramadan
Your body will only have a seven hour break between fasting and it is essential that you do not saturate it with substances it takes long to digest; processed sugars are on the top of that list. Products with processed sugars include fizzy drinks, nutella and chocolate spreads, chocolate candy bars, heavily flavored cereals, and…soluble flavored drink powders. They might taste refreshing, but when you have to fast for 30 days and emerge with a healthy skin and fewer tummy rolls so you can fit in the Eid clothes, then sacrifices must be made.
Do not worry, all the sugar you need to keep your body and mind functioning can be taken in through fruits, fruit smoothies, lassi (add a table spoon of honey instead sugar) and other healthy drinks. Try eating natural, organic produce and food throughout the holy month.
- Switch your tea for green tea
One cup of green tea can work wonders in the seven hours you will be allowed to refuel your body. Not only will it help flush out toxins from your body, but also help boost metabolism, keep your skin healthy and regulate your bowel functions. Consume a cup or two of green tea with mint or a teaspoon of honey and you’ll find yourself feeling refreshed at Suhur. By aiding digestion, green tea can help you make room for a proper Suhur in your stomach, thus encouraging you to eat healthy.
Follow these 6 tips religiously in the holy month and I promise you will make it out the month with weight lose and good skin (also fit nicely in that special Eid ensemble.)