Opinion | Ramadan fasting fuels disordered habits


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Columnist Milly Zafar believes that the practice of fasting during Ramadan increases the risk of obtaining an eating disorder.

By Milly Zafar, Columnist

Trigger warning: This column discusses eating disorders.

As we approach the Holy Month of Ramadan, people with eating disorders and behaviors relating to eating disorders may find it difficult to participate in this holy month and take care of themselves. Therefore, it is incredibly important to be cognizant of eating disorder behaviors and nourish your body. 

In Islam, Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, which is based on the lunar calendar. Millions of Muslims around the world fast from sunrise to sunset for around 30 days. They view abstaining from drinking both food and water as a way to practice self-restraint. It’s a month of introspection and prayer as well as cleansing. 

Sawm — the Arabic word for refrain — is one of the five main pillars of Islam that all Muslims must adhere to, and Ramadan is the main way that Muslims practice this pillar. 

At the end of the month is a celebration called Eid al-Fitr which is filled with lots of food, special prayers and gifts. While the path to Eid is meant to be difficult, people with eating disorders find it even more so; they encounter more obstacles to staying healthy.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    In general, staying healthy during Ramadan and continuing with regular life is hard to do. But adding an eating disorder and behaviors associated with eating disorders on top of that make it even more difficult to stay mentally and physically healthy. 

    One way people make sure they’re receiving proper nutrients is meal-planning for suhoor and iftar, the meals before and after the fast, respectively. However, with forms of eating disorders like orthorexia, this can be dangerous — orthorexia is a disorder where meal prepping and meal planning are practiced in excess. People suffering from orthorexia should be cognizant of their meal planning and ask themselves if it’s for the holiday or feeding into their disordered habits. When you are planning for suhoor, make sure you’re eating a balanced, nutritious meal instead of what’s easiest or most convenient. 

    Especially with eating disorders that involve restriction, Ramadan makes it easy to decrease how much you eat. Therefore, it may be helpful to discuss with your friends and family what your behaviors may look like. This might be an exceptionally challenging conversation to have, but it will help to have your family and friends understand and be able to support you.

    The option that would be the healthiest and the most beneficial for people with eating disorders, eating disorder behaviors, and those with prior eating disorders is to not fast at all. People with other illnesses don’t fast for Ramadan, so people with eating disorders shouldn’t need to either. Muslims can celebrate Ramadan in so many ways like going to taraweeh extra night prayers — or finishing the Quran without fasting. You don’t have to fast to prove that you’re a devout Muslim and that you’re faithful to God. But until the stigma disappears, keep these tips in mind and Ramadan Mubarak!


    Milly is a freshman in LAS.

    [email protected]