Ramadan and eating disorders - Eating Disorders Victoria
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Home ~ Blog Posts ~ Ramadan and eating disorders

This article was written by EDV Dietitian, Aneela Panhwar. For more information about EDV’s Dietetic clinic, please see here.

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan is a holy month of significance for Muslims. It is a period of 29-30 days where Muslims are challenged to increase in all forms of worship, revive their awareness of God and in turn, achieve a deeper connection. An integral expression of this is demonstrated through spiritual fasting.

Spiritual fasting involves abstaining from eating or drinking from dawn until sunset. The intentions behind spiritual fasting distinguishes the act from other forms of fasting which may be intended for weight control or influencing metabolism.

For Muslims, fasting in Ramadan increases community connection as it is obligatory upon all who are capable and of mature age. However, there are many Muslims who are unable to or struggle to fast due to their circumstances (including battling with an eating disorder) which can contribute to them feeling dismayed and ashamed despite not necessarily being obligated to fast.

Things to consider around Ramadan and eating disorder recovery

Eating disorders exist in all community groups and Ramadan can be a challenging time for Muslims who have current or former eating disorder lived experience.

The daily cycle of fasting followed by cultural traditions of feasting in the evening can be triggers eating disorder related thoughts and feelings, and can even be contradictory to a person’s treatment goals. If this is the experience for you or someone you know, it is important to consider the following:

🟣 You are not alone

🟣 It is recommended to discuss your concerns with your treatment team and an educated community leader (e.g. an Imam) in order to plan for Ramadan

🟣 It may be that you are not medically safe to participate in fasting at your current stage of recovery and that may change in the years to come

🟣 You may be able to decide on an adapted fasting schedule according to your needs and progress in recovery (e.g. fasting alternate days, choosing to fast on shorter days of the year)

🟣 Reflect on your intention behind fasting – are you fasting to express your religious beliefs or are thoughts of dieting/weight control presiding?

🟣 If there is a supportive person in your family or in your community that you can talk to, it may be advisable to do so. There can be a lot of focus and conversation around food during Ramadan which is triggering for people and having someone to turn can be helpful.

Even if you are currently unable to fast, you can choose to explore the many other ways of practicing your faith that are also encouraged in Ramadan.

Other ways to participate in Ramadan

🟠 Prayer and practicing mindfulness

🟠 Donating time/clothes/money to people in need

🟠 Preparing meals for others

🟠 Attending Friday or night prayers at the local Mosque

Eid celebrations

As with the case of Ramadan, Eid can be wonderful celebration with family and friends for millions of people worldwide. However, for people with an eating disorder, it can be incredibly challenging and they may even dread the day.

Festivities, like Eid, will almost always involve food in abundance which can be triggering. In the lead up to Eid, it’s important that you express the fears you may have with your support network (e.g. your treatment team, partner or family member). This can help you feel safer and more prepared in the for it.

Journaling is a great way to release some of the negative thoughts and emotions that may be present and can help you make a plan for the festive day. The plan could involve setting reminders to eat regular meals and snacks, schedule time to check-in with yourself and mindful breathing.

If there are some aspects of Eid that are more confronting for you (e.g. menu planning for the day), then you might like to involve yourself with other aspects instead (e.g. decorating your home).

We can accept that some level of anxiety is to be expected and that it’s okay to have these feelings. Remind yourself that, like any other day, the day will pass. Try your best to be kind to yourself.

Accredited Practising Dietitian
Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics 

Aneela graduated from Monash University with a Bachelor of Nutrition and Dietetics in 2012 and has been an Accredited Practising Dietitian for 10 years. During this time, she has enjoyed working with clients of all ages and community groups.

Her passion lies in assisting clients to understand their relationship with food and empowering them to use nutrition as a means to achieving their life goals.

She enjoys working with complex health needs and has particular interests in eating disorders, chronic pain, trauma and neurodiverse people. The basis of her work is respecting her clients, uniquely approaching barriers to healthy eating and developing individualised treatment plans.

Aside from her work as a dietitian, Aneela is a lifelong foodie. Her hobbies include exploring local cafés with friends, trying out new recipes on family, and passing on her knowledge of food and cooking to anyone willing to listen.

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