Home » How to manage Ramadan with an eating disorder￼
Throughout the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast as a reminder of the human duty to help those in need. This entails not eating or drinking anything, including water, from dawn to sunset.
Ramadan can be considered the utmost expression of religious dedication for many Muslims. However, for those struggling with a past or present eating disorder it can be a triggering and even harmful period.
As Ramadan is approaching, in this article we will explain how you can cope during this time, whether you choose to fast or not, as ultimately, it is up to YOU and we hope to facilitate empowered choices.
Validating fasting for religious purposes can be an opportunity for your eating disorder to obscure your food restriction with the veil of devotion to Islam. Even if you are medically cleared to participate in Ramadan, the fasting practice can still make you poorly.
Fasting can strengthen your eating disorder voice, put a strain on your improvements, or even elicit a relapse. For example, if you are prone to overeating, there are chances you will overindulge at Sehri or Iftar, which can make you feel distressed and uncomfortable. On the other hand, if you engage in restrictive eating behaviours, fasting can be damaging to your recovery and health.
For all believers, fasting during Ramadan can be an extremely challenging practice not only physically, but mentally too. Even though it is one of the five pillars of Islam, there are exceptions to Ramadan as per the Surat-Baqarah of the Quran1. Allah ‘does not intent hardship’ for those who are ill, as it would be detrimental to their health.
It’s painfully true that for some people, eating disorders and other mental health conditions do not fall under the category of “illness”. We want to remind you that your eating disorder, visible or not, IS AN ILLNESS. You have valid reasons to not abstain from food and drink and suffer in silence this time of the year.
Remember, not taking part is NOT a weakness in faith, and you shouldn’t feel guilt or shame for not fasting.
Ramadan is so much more than fasting. True spirituality always comes from within. If you are not fasting, you can focus on other ways to participate that have nothing to do with when or how you feed yourself.
Be kind and compassionate towards yourself. You are not the only one with this struggle and internal conflict. You do not need to fast because of family or peer pressure, and do not let anyone question your faith. You are no less Muslim than someone who decides to observe Ramadan. If you choose not to fast, you are making the right choice for yourself. Remember, Allah does not want to make things difficult for you.
Do not be afraid to ask for support and speak up. Whether this is professional help or speaking with a community that shares the same interests and struggles.
Dimitra Theodoraki, BSc, RD
Team EHL x
Embody Health London champions food freedom, positive body image, mental health and emotional wellbeing through a uniquely blended scientific and holistic approach. The EHL team specialises in treating chronic dieting and eating disorders by coaching clients to build confidence and reduce anxiety around their eating habits and food choices.
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