Ramadan... Cure For Eating Disorders
BY Dr MUHAMMAD KARIM BEEBANI, JEDDAH
Although fasting in the holy month of Ramadan has the sublime and supreme objective of inculcating a sense of Taqwa or self-restraint in a Muslim's life it also has undeniable positive effects on an individual's health. Obesity and weight control is just one of them. Today obesity is a worldwide problem. The change of country style diet to a more fatty food has increased the number of obese and overweight people everywhere.
Consequently slimming clinics have opened which claim to reduce the weight in a short time.
Nevertheless as compared to the Ramadan fasting, which reduces the weight by about 1-2 lbs per week, quick methods of weight reduction combining drugs, exercise or diet regimes may be hazardous. A paper published in the Sunday Telegraph showed that a weight loss of more than 5 lbs per week leads to gallstones, in some cases requiring cholecystectomy.
It has also been seen that people who lose weight by regime or other methods cannot maintain their weight and tend to gain more weight after some time. This on and off dieting is an unhealthy trend and increases the risk of coronary heart disease.
Apart from dieting, drugs and exercise, various other modalities used to treat obesity include surgical options like gastric ballooning, gastric plication and as a last resort wiring the jaws to forcibly stop eating. Such horrible methods have their own complications. In contrast, weight loss in a gradual and general manner does not pose any threat to the health. As Ramadan fasting extends to one month only it may not be sufficient to produce satisfactory results in the overweight and obese people but it can be continued ahead of Ramadan as well. Here we are guided by those sayings of the Holy prophet Muhammad (PBUH) in which he (PBUH) advised Abdullah Bin Amr (R) who was very fond of fasting every day to fast only on the alternate days.
Our beloved prophet (PBUH) called the alternate day fasting as the best fasting in months other than Ramadan and narrated it to be the way prophet David (as) used to fast.
If we ponder over the alternate day fasting we find that this is the best solution to reduce weight, which does not cause harm to the body and does not have any complications. The alternate day fasting is also a good solution to the grave eating disorder of Anorexia Nervosa, which has a mortality rate of around 5 %.
Anorexia Nervosa is a disorder commonly seen in young girls and women who in a desire to lose weight start eating very little. As a result they become underweight and can develop serious complications. For such patients Ramadan type of fasting on alternate days is the best way to control weight rather than to threaten life by continuous dieting.
Ramadan fasting is also a good solution to another eating disorder Bulimia Nervosa (binge eating) in which patients have episodes of massive overeating spells. As much as 20,000 calories can be consumed in one day. As in Ramadan people learn self control and restraint, it helps Bulimia Nervosa patients to get rid of this unhealthy habit.
In recent years several periodic eating disorders have been recognized in which there are episodic bouts of over eating. They are Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), Carbohydrate Craving Obesity (CCO), and Premenstrual syndrome. In all these disorders patients have an intense urge to overeat at certain times. Ramadan fasting discourages such habits and effectively treats these weight-gaining tendencies.
To conclude, Islamic type of fasting in Ramadan and alternate day fasting is the best solution to control obesity, which, if severe (more than 30 % over weight), becomes an independent risk of coronary heart disease.