Starving from sunset to sunrise is a stretch for the average Muslim during Ramadan—but for some women, they're not complaining. For those with eating disorders, it's the month they most look forward to all year.
Maha Khan first developed anorexia when she was 15. "Every year, I used to wait for Ramadan thinking, 'Now I can lose weight'," says Khan, who is now 32 years old and the founder of the Islam and Eating Disorders blog. For Humaira Mayet, 21, a part-time science tutor who struggled with anorexia for six years, Ramadan "was anorexia's way of justifying my starvation—the more I restricted, the more spiritually strong I was for being able to resist the temptation of food."
While Ramadan might seem like "an amazing opportunity to lose weight," as one pro-ana forum wryly dubs it, that's not to say it isn't without its challenges. Food is central to Ramadan and becomes the focal point of the religious holiday, whether it's planning what to eat at iftar, the evening meal where Muslims end their fast, or preparing dishes in its run-up.
"For a Muslim suffering from an eating disorder, Ramadan can turn what is already a difficult time into an almost impossible dilemma," says Beat spokesperson Mary George. "The drastic changes in diet and food intake during this period can accelerate eating disorder symptoms."
The tension of communal eating when breaking the fast—typically with large quantities of food—presents the biggest challenge of all. "Mealtimes, whether at home or outside, were the most difficult times," Khan says. "I really started to panic around people and would have anxiety attacks when food was presented to me. I would spend my whole day in bed, fretting over what I had eaten [the night before]. I dreamt of food and I studied one cookbook after another."Full text
Really interesting aspect of Ramadan that people don't usually think about, or understand.
I have to say this aspect always presented a major challenge for me when I was a believer. To me it is a myth that you can lose weight in Ramadan, because the focus on the big meal at the end of the day, plus waking up before the sunrises to eat some more, all add to the weight rather than detract from it. The change in the time you are eating is unhealthy for the metabolism, and at the extreme end of it, girls who are dangerously underweight already, well in my mind it could lead to death.
I mean at my worst end of my eating disorder I had to drink prescribed milkshakes from the doctor at set times of the day, which would have made fasting impossible anyway.
Obviously you can break your fast for medical reasons, but for many girls, an eating disorder is a long way away from being recognised by themselves or those around them, as a medical reason. I can see many girls using this time as a way to further punish themselves, with no one around them the wiser to what they are doing.
Just thought it was worth sharing as it's an increasing issue for Muslim girl's, and as I said, it is a much ignored aspect of ramadan that needs more discussion.