ADVICE ABOUT BREAKING BAD HABITS AND MAKING SMART FOOD AND EXERCISE CHOICES

by NAZIA KHATUN

MUSLIMS all around the world will be fasting during Ramadan.

This is the most scared month for followers of the Islamic faith, where we come to honour the time of God revealing the first verses of the Qu’ran. This annual observance is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam.

Some enter this important time in the Muslim calendar well prepared while others just about survive going without any food and water during daylight hours.

The month is more than just refraining from eating and drinking. It is about commitment, dedication, purifiation, instilling new habits and controlling one’s desires.

This year I have entered Ramadan slightly better equipped than before. The long days and heat wave during the summer last year got me thinking about my health and fitness and how this translates in different aspects of my life.

The first thing to remember is that the body and mind are powerful machines, and if trained properly, we can reap the rewards of putting them to work. It’s important to remember that the mind, body and soul are all connected to the way we eat, act and behave.

With heart-related diseases, diabetes and other illnesses increasing, now is a great time to reflect on how we are treating ourselves when it comes to our health and fitness.

With that in mind, the fasting period is a great way to finetune our health and personal develop- ment, and to test our willpower and strength. This guide will kickstart your fast, leaving you with so much more than just a health cleanse.

Iftari instinct

This is the most anticipated time for every Muslim household during Ramadan. Although the initial instinct is to devour everything in front of you in double quick time, it’s healthier to think about the way you eat. Taking things slowly is imperative at this time. the body has been dehydra ted for almost 20 hours, so we must properly hydrate it first. When it is time to break the fast, it is sun- nah to drink water and dates, just like our Prophet (pbuh) did.

The date has a lot of health benefits. it is a good source of various vitamins and minerals, and energy. it is a good sugar and has fibre. Dates also have essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, magnesium and zinc. in addition, they contain vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, vitamin A and vitamin K.

Together with water, eating dates triples the effects of hydration for the body. this is also brilliant because the body needs an easily avail- able energy source in the form of glucose for every cell, particularly the brain and nerve cells.

Iftari should be planned ahead and a little planning goes a long way. You don’t want to be spending the whole day in the kitchen. Make a healthy meal plan and write down what you intend to cook the next day. Having a plan will enable you to do bulk shopping beforehand.

Eat simple foods slowly. Don’t go crazy mixing everything up that is laid in front of you. the digestive system is getting reset, so we don’t want to place a heavy emphasis on it every day.

Water wisdom

A common mistake a lot of people make is gulping down two litres of water during iftari time in one go. this will leave you bloated and uncomfortable. sip the water slowly. carry a bottle of water with you when you go for evening prayers. An hour is enough to feel rejuvenated and hydrated, so don’t drink it all in one go. if you feel your muscles are cramping, add a pinch of sea salt to the water to ease the cramps.

Get into the habit of drinking coconut water. it helps reduce blood pressure and triples hydration levels. it is rich in nutrients and good for the skin. it is also very good for athletes, who will be carrying on with workouts during Ramadan.

eat healthy

cut down on foods like (white) bread and pasta, as the nutrition is stripped away. instead try having brown rice and wholegrain-based foods. cereals, muesli and cereal bars should be given a miss if you want a successful day of fasting. these products and others like them are high in sugar, which you don’t need in your body. they will tire you out and spike your blood sugar levels.

Reduce your consumption of processed and greasy foods. Every culture has several traditional dishes that aren’t good for you and mine are deepfried snacks. i am not saying you can never have them, but just find a different way of cooking. Baking instead of deep frying will make a difference to the total number of calories consumed.

SEHRI TIPS

The early morning meal is critical in the way your fast will go during the day. This is not the time to eat empty calorie foods like cereal or toast. If you can stomach it, eat a similar meal to what you had at dinner- time. That way you are fuelled with carbs, protein and good fats to keep you going during the day.

If you find that difficult, you should focus on eating thing like porridge with hon- ey, berries or peanut butter. This is a great

slow-energyreleasing food, which will keep you full for a long time.

Dates are also a great source of energy.

Wholegrain-basedfoods such as brown rice and rice cakes are another good option.

Understand your body

The body is a precious gift, the only home we will ever possess that goes everywhere with us. We can either keep it clean or treat it mean. As a fitness coach, I know my body needs love, honour and respect in the same way if it were a very expensive gift from a loved one.

The way we eat, exercise, think and act stems from the nourishment we give to our bodies. Just as a plant needs the correct nourishment, including water and sunlight, for the roots to grow, the same applies to the body. But in our

fast-pacedsociety, the sources of nutrition can easily get confus- ing, and we don’t understand what gives us more energy and what depletes it.

So an important starting point is the cor- rect knowledge about your own body and what benefits it most. There is literature available, and you can speak to healthcare professionals, and fitness and nutrition ex- perts, to help you gain the knowledge to- wards understanding your own body.

During Ramadan, you can cleanse all the toxins that have been building up in the body. It’s also a great time to give the diges- tive system a rest by thinking about what you eat, so it can work better in the future.

There are times when your hunger will test your body, so eating correctly during Sehri and Iftari times is critical.

A common mistake people make when fasting is eating greasy food, too much com- plex carbohydrates and meals high in sugar. This will leave the body feeling lethargic and fatigued. Ideally you should cut down on unhealthy foods a few weeks before Ra- madan so your body doesn’t go into shock on the first few days. This also will help you get into the flow without the headaches and tiredness.

Do this next year if you haven’t done it this time around, but most of all, learn to love and understand your body.

keep Moving

the long hours of fasting can be exhausting and tiring, but this isn’t a reason to stop exercising. i want you to think of your body in terms of movement – 30 days is enough for your joints and limbs to get rusty and for you to get stiff. i intend to go for my daily workouts after prayers, whether it be a jog or 15 minutes of circuit training at home.

You are already without food and water for 19-20 hours, so naturally your body is under stress. We don’t want to strain it any more as this will only raise your cortisol hormones and stress levels. You are more likely to put on weight rather than lose pounds if this happens. so change your workout routine and remember, you won’t be able to lift as much as you did pre-Ramadan, so think lighter weights and increase the reps a little. We are not aiming to be action heroes here, but to utilise the mindset to give us the power we need to live in a functioning body.

Ramadan, for me, is like the best training camp for altering mindsets and resetting habits to enhance my spiritual and religious growth and it is the perfect place to know exactly where you are with life so you can aim higher.

it is also like the best-ever course that you can take for discipline, commitment, dedication and motivation.

Nazia Khatun is a fitness and body transformation coach who takes clients on a journey to discover the amazing things their bodies can do, maximising health into wealth and recreating old habits to lead happier lives. Log onto www. twitter.com/FitnessReborn1, www.instagram. com/fitnessrebornuk1 or find Fitness Reborn UK on Facebook for more information.

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