Fasting Helps Give Up Undesirable Habits

Afshan Ahmed
Filed on August 24, 2009

DUBAI Its a month when one can learn to eat healthy, exercise, connect with oneself and even quit smoking. Fasting during Ramadan, as experts put it, can help do away with unhealthy habits for a better life.

Fasting during the holy month alters the normal routine of Muslims and makes them conscious of their behaviour and choices.

Khulood Al Atiyat, cultural presenter and public relations manager at the Shaikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, said since Muslims accustom themselves to a certain lifestyle during Ramadan, it can help develop good habits. “It is a month to be a better person overall. It is also a period of self-discipline when one tries to be at his/her best behaviour. The hope is that once you do this for a whole month it becomes a habit. It takes a person 21 days to form a habit,” she said.

During Ramadan, people who fast need to abstain from worldly activities from dawn to dusk and are thus motivated and achieve self-control.

“One can habituate themselves to healthy food, give up smoking and drinking and teach youngsters good values as well,” said Nafeesa Ahmed, nutritionist at Zulekha Hospital in Dubai.

“Those who fast must include more fruits in their diet and are recommended to drink more water than usual. Generally people overindulge during the Iftar meal. But in doing so you are putting a stress on your digestive system,” she said.

Fasting slows down metabolism as food intake is lesser than that during other times of the year. Other body regulatory mechanisms function more efficiently during this time and due to this, nutrients like body and dietary fat are better utilised. A balanced diet is necessary to keep a person healthy and active during Ramadan.

Smokers need to wait for the sun to set before they can light up a cigarette. Those observing fast have to cut down the number of times they smoke and they will feel more energetic.

“A person manipulates his conduct during this month to abide by the rules of the religion. So a smoker will have to learn to manage his day differently, without the cigarettes. Thus if a person needs to change, he will be able to change,” said Dr. Ahmed Suliman, a volunteer scholar at the Department of Islamic Affairs in Dubai.

Harmony, tolerance and introspection are important virtues Muslims must uphold during the holy month.

“It is not only keeping away from food and drink that attributes to fasting but what a person does and says also matters. Some people use this month to connect with spirituality and understand religion. One can learn patience and tolerance during this month,” said Al Atiyat.

Devotion to God intensifies with individuals committed to praying five times a day and reading verses from the Holy Quran whenever possible.

Nutritionists believe exercise can be seamlessly integrated into the act of praying. “Those who do not pray must get into the habit as it too helps exercise the body,” said Ahmed.

With reduced work hours, families can spend more time together and people can connect with the community and understand culture better.

“This is an opportunity to learn about the religion and educate oneself with the culture. Fasting also contributes to the unity in the community when everyone is seen as equal,” stated Dr Suliman.

Al Atiyat said though it is difficult to break away, the holy month can give people the needed impetus to give up undesirable habits.

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