Jul 1, 2011

Fasting: Will that help me lose weight?

by Nadine, from Nadoona

Rumbles, gurgles, and growls. All too familiar noises associated with a fasting stomach. For one month out of the year, most practicing Muslims gladly orchestrate the symphony of stomach noises (and not to mention some funky breath) for the ultimate reward from Allah swt. With Ramadan around the corner, many of us are getting ourselves ready for the yearly ‘restart’ button to life. But can this form of worship translate into weight loss benefits for those looking to shed a few pounds?
First, let’s look at how the body reacts when you’re fasting. So what happens is that since your body isn’t receiving substance to convert to energy (ie. food), the body dips into stored energy to get what it needs to keep going. So it’s inevitable, that you will lose weight. In fact, modern research has shown that fasting on alternate days can help people lose weight...but not for long. In one study, people who followed an alternate-day fasting diet shed weight, even when they ate all they wanted on the non-fasting days. However, they could not maintain the weight loss over time. You see, our bodies are genetically programmed to combat the effects of fasting. When you eat less food, your metabolism slows down to conserve energy. So then, when you go back to your usual diet, your lowered metabolism may cause you to store more energy, meaning that you will probably gain back the weight you lost and possibly even put on more weight when eating the same calories you did before the fast. 
So hold up, the Prophet peace be upon him steered us to a path of pudgy waistlines and muffin tops? WRONG! Our consumer, wasteful society is what steered us all wrong. There’s an interesting point that I think most of us have overlooked. So we have all heard the hadith in reference to portioning our stomachs with 1/3 with food, 1/3 with air, and 1/3 with water. But can you narrate to me the first part of this hadith? The hadith actually begins: 
“The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls, to keep him going...”
Of course the Prophet peace be upon him knew his ummah and could not just stop there. He then continued:
 “..If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi.
I have yet to meet someone who actually willingly abides by the first portion of this hadith. And unfortunately, rarely meet people who even abide to the second tier. Most of us are somewhere near the characteristic described in this hadith:
Ibn ‘Umar narrated that the Prophet (PBUH) said: “The believer eats in one stomach whilst the non-Muslim eats in seven.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim.
And with our portion sizes drastically increasing over the years, and the idea of buffets and filling your stomach to the point where you can’t breathe, we need to be cautious of this characteristic that the Prophet peace be upon him warned us about.
So what does this all mean?? Now in the case of the aforementioned studies done on the people who fasted alternate days, they couldn’t maintain the weight because they eventually ceased to continue fasting on alternate days. Now, ready for a subhanAllah moment? The Prophet peace be upon him taught us that the best fast was that of Prophet Dawud (or David), and that it was every other day or alternate days. If you did that, you surely would keep those extra pounds off for life. But is that why our beloved Prophet Dawud fasted the way he did? Putting weight loss aside, studies of fasting in both rodents and humans appear to indicate a connection between calorie restriction and longevity. In one study of overweight men and women, a calorie-restricted diet improved markers of aging, such as insulin level and body temperature. Fasting might also improve longevity by delaying the onset of age-related diseases including Alzheimer's, heart disease, and diabetes. Wow, so fasting can actually give you all these other benefits? Is that why the prophets fasted?
Look, the fact of the matter is, if Allah commanded or recommended us to do it, you bet it’s darn good for you, whether you think so or not. The people in the time of the Prophets knew nothing about insulin levels or what or who Alzheimer even was (maybe because he wasn’t born yet). But bottom line, the reason that they fasted was to worship the one who created them. Not only did the Prophet peace be upon him fast, he ate foods that were good for him and never filled his stomach, all for who? Allah. Because think about it, when we are fasting in Ramadan, no matter how juicy that burger looks, or how golden those fries look, or how decadent that chocolate looks, you would never think to defy the commands of Allah swt and eat them. Even if you are not exactly the most obedient of Muslims year round, it’s just that special air that exists in Ramadan where you can control these desires. So if we can do it in Ramadan, why can’t we do it year round? 
So as for the verdict, what does Nadoona, your resource for health and fitness, think about fasting to lose weight? If you’re looking for a quick fix, prepare yourself to be disappointed by any and every weight loss mechanism out there. If you’re looking to transform your lifestyle all together, then yes, you should definitely integrate fasting. The Prophet pbuh told Abu Hurayrah to never give up fasting 3 days out of each month.
           It was narrated that Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “My close friend [the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him)] advised me to do three things which I will not give up until I die: fasting three days of each month, praying Duha, and sleeping after Witr. Narrated by al-Bukhaari and Muslim.


MashaAllah! MayAllah (swt) reward you tremendously for sharing this nicely written and well elaborated post!

This article is really nicely composed-  I like their positivity and their approach, very professional marsh'Allah.

JazakAllah, we hope to continue to bring you accurate, inspirational, and islamically inspired health and fitness tips inshAllah! :)

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InshAllah we hope to be able to share much more with you and the rest of the Habibi Halaqa sisters!

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