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Why You Aren’t Losing Weight During Ramadan

1. You Are Eating Too Much Sugar...

.. Even dates, while being nutrient dense, are high in sugar, so if your goal is weight loss, limit your intake to one date when you break your fast.

2. You’re Drinking Too Much Sugar

You may ask, “why have a separate point for drinking sugar?” Didn’t we just cover sugar in the first point? Yes, we did, but I hope to emphasize the fact that sugar is the main culprit in your lack of Ramadan weight loss, and also highlight the fact that sugar consumed in liquid form is the most harmful. The worst way to take in sugar is in liquid form. It is like taking a sugar I.V. straight into the bloodstream. It is absorbed directly into the blood and causes blood sugar levels to skyrocket.

Most people know that sodas and other fizzy drinks are bad for you. A single can of coke, contains a whopping 38 grams of sugar, which exceeds the recommended maximum daily allowance! If you drink even one can of soda a day during Ramadan — or half a can for that matter — you can forget about losing any significant weight. Hopefully this news is not surprising to anyone in 2017. But, what a lot of people don’t realize is that juices (yes, even fresh squeezed juices and smoothies) usually contain immense amounts of sugar as well. When we eat fruit, the natural sugars inside them are wrapped in fiber, but when we drink fruit juice we introduce an intense blast of sugar to our system. If you want to lose weight, skip the fruit juices. Skip the smoothies too unless they are predominantly veggies without a whole lot of fruit.

All in all, the easiest step to lose weight this Ramadan (and beyond) is to just cut out all sugary beverages altogether. Many people find that they lose significant weight by following this step alone. Stick to water (flat and sparkling), tea and coffee (without adding sugar obviously) and you will quickly find that you don’t miss your sugary drinks at all. Make juice a rare treat and you will come to appreciate it more. And if you care about your body at all, proceed as if soda is haram for you.

3. You’re Eating Too Many Things That Turn to Sugar

A lot of people cut out sugar and then are surprised that it doesn’t give them the desired results, or they lose a bit of weight but then they reach a weight loss plateau. Even with all my interest in health and nutrition, it took me until my early 30s to fully understand the way that grains also turn to sugar in the body. Bread, rice, and other carbohydrates are converted to glucose in the body. The liver secretes insulin when you eat them. For some people this is no problem. For people who are insulin resistant (if you are overweight this almost certainly includes you) it wreaks havoc on the body. As David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital Boston states clearly, “refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are the single most harmful influence in the American diet today.” If you are eating bread, rice, cereal, etc, you are spiking insulin and thus storing fat instead of burning it. If your goal is weight loss, you have to cut down on carbs.

4. You Aren’t Eating Enough Probiotic/Prebiotic Foods.

Modern science has confirmed what Hippocrates said 2,000 years ago, “all disease begins in the gut.” We now know that there is more bacteria in us and on us than there are human cells in our entire body! Walt Whitman was right, “[We] contain multitudes.” There are trillions of microbes in your stomach that help you digest food and protect you from harmful bacteria, fungi, and viruses. These microbes also deeply influence one’s propensity to gain weight.

Studies have shown that mice with imbalanced gut microbes become obese even when they are fed the same diets (with exactly the same caloric intake) as mice with healthy gut bacteria. Furthermore, when bacteria from the healthy mice is put in the stomach of the obese mice, the obese mice loses weight even when their diet is not changed at all. The field of study on the human microbiome is a hot topic in scientific and medical circles and is expanding rapidly. A lot of this science is still less than a decade old and has not yet filtered down to common popular knowledge outside of health conscious circles. But it is important to understand that we are in the middle of a revolution in the fields of medicine and nutrition due to recent findings about the human microbiome. So how does one attain a healthy gut? For starters, the worst thing you can do for your gut is to eat a high sugar, high carbohydrate diet (are you seeing the trend here?).

Some of the best foods for a healthy gut are as follows:

Fresh VegetablesHerbs, Spices, Teas (Turmeric, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Green Tea, Coffee)Probiotic foods (Yogurt, Kefir, Kimchi, Kombucha, Sauerkraut)Garlic, OnionsRaw Apple Cider VinegarCoconut OilBone Broth

5. You Still Think Fat is Bad

Fat does not make you fat! Sugar does. I personally lost 20 plus pounds in 5 months by cutting sugar and grains, while eating as much fat as I cared to consume. Two great forms of fat are coconut oil and avocados. Try a spoonful of coconut oil for iftar and for suhoor (it is also great for the microbiome). Avocados are the perfect suhoor. Eggs (yolks and all) and meat (especially organ meat) are also good sources of fat and are incredibly nutrient dense. Seeds and nuts are a great source of fat and serve as the perfect snack for that midnight hunger between taraweeh and suhoor. Fat is also slow burning so it keeps you going throughout the day during long fasts. Butter is excellent and delicious. Cut out all the “low-fat” garbage. These are usually laced with sugar, high fructose corn syrup, or other frankenfoods not fit for human consumption. Fat is not bad. And it does not make you fat. Sugar does.

6. You Aren’t Moving Enough

While body composition is 80% what you eat. It is also 20% how you move. The body gets weak if the body doesn’t move. During Ramadan we have less energy during the day and consequently going to the gym or keeping up with workouts can be difficult. However, simply adding in some walks throughout the day and some bodyweight exercises can go a long way. Instead of being sedentary for 23 hours and then running for an hour on a treadmill, try incorporating movement into your daily schedule. Walk to work, or take the train/bus and walk to and from that. Do you talk on the phone for work? Go on a walk while you talk. Cycle to the grocery store or to your friend’s house for iftar. Take an invigorating walk around your neighborhood after ‘Asr as the sun is going down and you are getting ready to break fast. It is not true that you need to workout really intensely to burn calories. Engaging in low level aerobic activity throughout the day (walking, hiking, gardening, yoga, swimming) does wonders.

Set some goals for simple, yet extremely effective bodyweight exercises and calisthenics. Four of the most tried and true bodyweight exercises are
1) Pushups
2) Squats
3)Pull ups and
4) Planks.

If you are able to: do 100 push ups and non-weighted squats a day. If you find that easy after a few days try 150. See if you can make your way up to 200 by the end of the month. Do 60 second planks. Do as many pull ups as you can. If you can’t do any then just hang there as long as you can. Set goals that push you but are not impossible. Don’t worry if you are weak at first. Start off with 5 sets of 10 push ups if that’s all you can do. Do them from your knees if that is too difficult. You will see rapid increase if you just remain consistent and push yourself. Don’t forget to have fun. Play games or sports with your friends and family. Run, jump, do handstands and somersaults, feel the joy of being in your body. You will find it easier to be consistent if you enjoy your exercise.

7. You’re Too Stressed Out

Stress causes your body to release cortisol which tells your body to replenish energy even when you haven’t expended very much or burned many calories. And your body keeps pumping cortisol as long as the stress continues! Also, in situations of stress we aren’t likely to reach for broccoli and kale. As Elissa Epel, a researcher on stress eating at the University of California, San Francisco remarks, “ [When we are stressed] we crave sweet, salty, and high-fat foods because they stimulate the brain to release pleasure chemicals that reduce tension.” This soothing effect becomes addicting so that you start to crave fattening foods every time you feel stressed. The good news is that if you have a daily exercise regimen you will naturally feel less stressed out. The benefits of eating well and exercising regularly for me are about mental health just as much as, if not more than, physical health.

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