Recovery in Ramadan
**Content warning: This is one person’s story; everyone will have unique experiences in recovery and beyond. Some stories may mention eating disorder thoughts, behaviors, or symptoms. Please use your discretion when reading and speak with your support system as needed.
Farheen Ahmed is a second-year undergraduate student at the University of Maryland, College Park, studying Neuroscience on the pre-medical track. She is originally from Virginia and spends almost half of every year in Houston, Texas. In her free time, you can find her working at her research lab, volunteering for Rock Recovery, hanging out with her friends, or reading romance novels. Farheen struggled with an eating disorder throughout her high school years and can proudly say she is a recovered survivor.
Ramadan is an Islamic holiday where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 days. The purpose of Ramadan is to allow one to spiritually grow and become close to one’s family, friends, and God. Abstaining from pleasures and avoiding smoking, eating, and drinking between sunrise and sunset is also a reminder of everything there is to be grateful for. At the end of the 30 days, families and friends come together to celebrate Eid—the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan.
As a recovered survivor of an eating disorder, I unfortunately faced many challenges during the holy month of Ramadan in the past. Avoiding a restrictive diet is something I struggled with for a long time and fasting can potentially trigger restrictive thoughts and habits. The main thing I found helpful to avoid triggers during Ramadan was surrounding myself with friends, family, and prayers (the three most important things during this holy month). Support from loved ones and reminders of why I was fasting in the first place encouraged me to continue my fasts for the right reasons. Fasting helped me feel grateful for the amazing food I had available to me at sunset when it was time to break my fast.
Although many people may experience triggers with fasting, it is important to remind yourself of the true reason you are fasting. Fasting can allow you to recognize all the resources and opportunities that you have access to that other people do not. This can make you even more appreciative of the food and family you get to share your meal with when you break your fast.
Another extremely important thing to remind yourself of during Ramadan is that God is forgiving. If you feel like you may relapse, you do not need to force yourself to fast. My parents support me during Ramadan by reminding me that I do not need to fast if it would be detrimental to my recovery. This support helps me defy my eating disorder and allows me to take part in such an important month.
To those in recovery during Ramadan: Remind yourselves of the reason you are fasting and the many good deeds you are receiving during the holy month. Additionally, give yourself credit for every minute you spend fasting, as well as the time you spend giving back to those in need. If fasting every day is too overwhelming, perhaps you could try fasting every other day. Remind yourself that your intentions are important and Ramadan is meant to be filled with gratitude for all we have.