Battling an eating disorder during Ramadan

Submitted by Ayesha

Ramadan is a holy month in Islam where practicing Muslims connect with their religion by fasting from sunrise to sunset for thirty consecutive days. Many people believe the most important part of Ramadan is fasting, but it is just as important to connect with your religion and be intentional with your actions as you become closer to God.

For me, eating disorder recovery was the most difficult during Ramadan. As a high school student living in my parent’s house during recovery, I was becoming more intentional with my eating habits, making sure to fuel my body throughout the day, but suddenly I was expected to go back to old habits where I deprived my body of food and water. I felt like I was going back to square one of recovery.

For those in recovery who are fasting this Ramadan, I am here to remind you that you are not alone. The first thing to remember is that before sunrise and after sunset it is crucial to fuel your body for the day. Depriving your body of food when you are allowed to eat and then partaking in a fast is a sign of disordered eating. For me, when I noticed I was fasting and not eating before sunrise and after sunset, I knew these were signs of a relapse. This is when I would decide to not fast for a day or two.

Many people believe that you are ‘ungrateful’ if you choose to opt out of fasting for a few days. It is important to remember that missing a day or two of your fasts does not make you a bad person. During recovery, I missed a few days and made them up later on in the year. I intended to do my best, and that’s what I did, my best. For me, I decided to miss a few fasts to prevent relapse and disordered eating habits from becoming a part of my life again, and this is what worked best for me. After breaking my fasts at sunset I made sure to eat the foods that I wanted and felt my body needed. Whenever I noticed that I was not eating even after sunset I got the support I needed to make sure I was prioritising my physical and mental health.

Another thing to remember throughout the month is your motivation for fasting. Fasting allows you to recognise all that you have to be grateful for and to empathise with others who are less fortunate and don’t have access to food and water. My reason for fasting during Ramadan is completely separate from my reason for depriving my body of food when I had an eating disorder. Ramadan is not about my looks or my size, but about being grateful for all we have and becoming closer to our religion. Reminding myself of this every day was a crucial part of my recovery during Ramadan.

For those in recovery this Ramadan, remember you are not alone. Each person’s journey through recovery is different. Some people may opt out of fasting for the entire month if they are in the beginning of recovery, and some may fast all 30 days with no breaks. Don’t compare your journey to that of others, and prioritise your own health and eating disorder recovery.

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