Ramadan: Still in the grips of anorexia

ramadan-still-in-41Nv

Every year when Ramadan comes around, I open up about my experience with an eating disorder. It can be such a tricky time for those of us struggling with an eating disorder. For the past seven years, I’ve been strictly told not to fast by medical professionals who were treating me for my eating disorder in hospital. In the past, I had to be monitored extra closely in case my weight dramatically dropped due to fasting secretly.

This year is different. This is the first year that I am not in treatment for my anorexia in seven years, so I feel anxious because now I have a choice. I hate having a choice because I’m more likely to choose the unhealthy one. I’m not being watched anymore and I’m not being threatened with inpatient if I lose weight, so this is the perfect opportunity. I am in no way recovered. In fact, I’d say the thoughts have been creeping back in, especially recently.

A year into my recovery without treatment has been tough. Every day is still hard, and there have been both massive relapses AND recovery wins in the past 12 months and I truly believe this is how it will be for the rest of my life. I don’t think I will ever be fully recovered.

Ramadan brings out a lot of negative emotions and triggers for me. But this year, having a choice to fast or not to fast and still seeing Ramadan as a chance to lose weight and to become sicker is not helping and confirms, yet again, that I am not in a good state of mind to fast safely. I don’t see it as a religious thing. So if I fast, I will be doing it for the wrong reasons.

Rationally, of course I know that I must not fast if I am still in that eating disordered mindset. I know that health and my recovery comes first. But anorexia is so powerful that even if I say I will not take part, I will most definitely act on behaviours because everywhere I go, there will be someone fasting, someone talking about how much they’re “starving” and restricting will be inevitable. Plus, there will be triggering food everywhere and everyone will be talking about food.

I have made the choice, however, to not take part. People close to me have been expressing their concerns about me fasting. I’d be lying if I said I don’t engage in behaviours anymore so fasting in the month of Ramadan can absolutely land me back in hospital.

I’m in a good place career-wise. I’ve got a new job that I love, but I’m worried if I’ll be able to hold it down if I go down that path again. Anorexia makes me not believe in myself. Every day now, it tells me that I don’t deserve this job, that I don’t deserve to be successful. It makes me question if I’m capable of holding down a full time job without getting sicker. It makes me anxious about disappointing my colleagues and managers. It’s been keeping me awake at night worrying about how anorexia, especially in Ramadan, might impact my mental health this year.

In the past, it was anorexia that made me become this successful. It was anorexia’s perfectionism that made me work hard (without food) graduate and get my dream job. People tell me it wasn’t anorexia, but they don’t know how strong anorexia can be. It was this illness that demanded I prove to people that I can do things. The less food I ate, the more weight I lost, the more successful I became…and it worked.

I cannot keep letting anorexia take credit for everything I’ve achieved. I cannot let it take over me anymore. People tell me that I can do things, that I am capable without this illness. Maybe they’re right?

Ramadan is a spiritual month. It’s about health and helping others and about being kind to oneself. I cannot fast because I am sick, but what I CAN do is help others and take care of myself. I can be thankful to God that I am here in this world. I am alive and I am living.

Ramadan shouldn’t be just about controlling yourself from eating food. It should be about taking care of yourself whatever way possible and if fasting isn’t right for your mental and physical health at the moment, it’s okay not to take part.

For others like myself who cannot fast in the month of Ramadan due to an eating disorder or mental illness, why not turn it around and work on your recovery? This year, I’ve come to realise that putting your own health is more important than religion, career or opportunities. Look after yourself first. Make yourself a priority. That is what I will try to do.

This was originally posted on Beat‘s website.

It Shouldn’t Be ‘Wrong’ To Celebrate Christmas As A Muslim

Christmas Tree Pan.jpg

Far too many times, enjoying Christmas as a Muslim is looked down upon. “But we don’t celebrate Christmas. It’s haram”, I often get told when I say to those around me that I absolutely love Christmas time.

Yes, Muslims don’t celebrate Christmas but what is wrong with enjoying it and taking part in all the fun surrounding it? In Islam, Jesus is also one of our prophets. We’ve become a society where it’s so offensive to take part in other cultures, religions and their traditions, that we aren’t even allowed to talk about it.

Muslims often get told to integrate into British society but when they try to integrate, they get slated for disrespecting their own religion. Christmas is a Christian holiday but nowadays it is a universal holiday that is celebrated by anyone and everyone – even those who are not even religious. This can be offensive to some but it’s just the way it is now. It may have lost its purpose but the main thing about Christmas, I believe, is a time for everyone to come together, reflect and celebrate diversity.

As a Muslim myself, brought up in a Muslim household, we still get together as a family on Christmas Day and have a big Christmas lunch, with all the traditional trimmings. I’m British, all my family are British and we live in a mainly Christian country – we are integrating to that culture. What is so bad about celebrating Christmas the traditional way, but as a Muslim? We don’t exchange gifts or have a tree but we do what Christmas is meant to be about – which is being with family and friends and helping the needy. We often see a huge amount of effort by non-Muslims during the month of Ramadan, feeding the poor and even taking part in fasting themselves and as a Muslim myself, I am so grateful for those who do that. It makes me feel warm and thankful. It’s only right that we give something back. When it comes to charity and empathy, religion should not get in the way because at the end of the day, we are all human.

Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain has recently released a book about her favourite Christmas recipes, and many went onto criticise her because apparently, as a Muslim she has no right to cook festive foods. Many fellow Muslims are even questioning as to why she would write a book about Christmas. Well, why not?

Boxer Amir Khan and his wife Faryal Makhdoom have put up a Christmas tree in their house, with the help of their little daughter. As we’re the generation of ‘snowflakes’ it’s not surprising that they are getting death threats because of this.

What I like about Amir putting a Christmas tree up is that, he isn’t, like many Muslim parents, telling his child that it is “haram” (forbidden) to celebrate Christmas. Far too often, parents are telling their children this, and it just leaves a very bitter image about Christmas whilst their growing up in the UK. This is a very dangerous thing to do. Personally, I fear it can lead that child to an extreme path. Living in a western society, we must teach kids to be open about and respect other religions and cultures. Radicalisation can happen in any form and telling children that other religions and cultures, other than Islam, is “wrong” can lead to a very dangerous path.

Christmas is my favourite time of year. I like to decorate my room all Christmassy and watch Christmas movies and just generally feel festive. I would like a tree but for my family that is too much. When I have my own house and family I will certainly take part in Christmas in a more traditional way and I will never tell my children that Christmas is forbidden.

Struggling With an Eating Disorder During Ramadan

Screen Shot 2016-02-28 at 20.14.32

As a Muslim suffering from an eating disorder, I understand how hard the month of Ramadan can be for others with eating disorders. For the past few years, I have been medically advised not to fast as it could trigger negative thoughts and cause the inevitable weight loss, which will be rather counterproductive because I should be gaining weight not losing it.

I want to fast. I really do. However, I am ashamed to admit that I don’t want to fast for God. I am not there yet. I still want to fast to lose weight. I want to fast because everyone else would be fasting and that makes me feel triggered. I want to fast to get back to my lowest weight again. Every meal missed would be a victory, an achievement. Ramadan is always exciting for me, because I can starve myself and get away with it.

These thoughts are dangerous and automatically confirms that I am still not ready to start fasting. It would be wrong to fast with these disordered thoughts. For the past few years and even now, my eating disorder has been so strong and it is leaving me with an ultimatum, a dilemma – God or anorexia? As I am still in eating disorder treatment, I have been again been advised not to fast by my treatment team and to make sure I don’t fast, I have my family to watch over me.

In Islam, the sick are exempt from fasting during Ramadan because of being mentally or physically unwell and instead charity should be given in replacement.

But even though Ramadan is about not eating for a period of time, it is ironically still all about food, which is another reason this month is difficult for eating disorder sufferers. Food seems to be everywhere. Iftar preparations fills the whole day and everyone talks about what they are going to eat for Iftar, how hungry they are and invite you out for an Iftari meal. There is really nowhere to hide. Ramadan is still all about food, food and more food.

I should stick to my meal plan during this time and I will try my best to not let anorexia get hold of me and drag me back to the misery of the long endless starvation. I should put myself first and continue to fight this disorder and I urge other sufferers in my position to do the same. I am not doing this for anyone else. I am doing this for myself. Maybe one day, I will be healthy and in the right mind-set to fast in Ramadan and not only that, but actually fast for the right reasons.

This post was published in The Huffington Post.

 

Eid-Ul-Adha 2013 – Modest Western Eid Outfit

Image

Eid is coming up (October 14th or 15th) and of course it being the Qurbani Eid, this one in particular is the big one. Eid is the only time of the year where I branch out and wear a rather expensive Eastern outfit such as a churidar dress or just a general Indian outfit. However, there are two Eid’s in a year and one Eid I like to highlight my Eastern culture and the other Eid I like to wear a more Western dress to highlight that side of my background, yet still very modest.

Here is what I would wear if I want to add a more Western/British feel to my outfit yet still looking quite cultured and modest at the same time so I do not offend the family, even though everything I wear in general is always modest and conservative!

Maxi Dress – I would just simply wear an elegant long dress from neck to toe. The one above is a beautiful light blue/mint green maxi dress perfect for special occasions such as Eid. Now, because this dress is sleeveless which I would never wear on its own,  I would definitely add my own sleeve to it. I usually wear a shrug under all my sleeveless dresses to make it modest. With this dress above, I would pair it with a light blue shrug.

Shawl – Because it is Eid, I like to colour match the whole outfit. I would wear the same colour shawl over this dress to make it more elegant. With this extra piece of accessory the outfit does not stray away from the general Indian look because every Indian dress comes with a little scarf, so this outfit still adds that element to it.

Heeled Sandals – I am not the one for heels but Eid is an exception. I would pair the dress with a nice strappy heeled sandals of the same colour.

Clutch Bag – A nice sparkly clutch bag looks amazing with this outfit.

Bracelet – In Eid, people usually wear full jingly bangles on both hands which does tend to annoy me. The noise does anyway! However, with this outfit, I would keep it simple and just add one elegant bracelet matching the dress. Personally, I would keep jewellery to a minimum because as you know, I hardly ever wear jewellery but if you like wearing necklaces, rings – the lot, then go for it!

Floral Crown – As I always say, if you wear a floral crown, there is no need to wear any other accessory because floral crowns are a big statement. I would team this outfit with a nice cute floral crown which I love. I think floral crowns just make an outfit that extra bit stunning.

Should The Government Ban Muslim Women From Wearing Veils?

Jeremy Browne, a Liberal Democrat has said that the government should consider banning Muslims girls from wearing the veil (Niqab) in public places. He said that there needs to be a national debate about whether the state should step in to protect young women from having the veil “imposed” on them.

This comes after the decision by Birmingham Metropolitan College to drop a ban on the Muslim students from wearing full-face veils, which caused a public protest.

Mr Browne said he is “instinctively uneasy” about banning behaviour, but suggested the measure may still be necessary to ensure freedom of choice for girls in Muslim communities.

He told The Daily Telegraph, “People of liberal instincts will have competing notions of how to protect and promote freedom of choice. I am instinctively uneasy about restricting the freedom of individuals to observe the religion of their choice. That would apply to Christian minorities in the Middle East just as much as religious minorities here in Britain.

“But there is genuine debate about whether girls should feel a compulsion to wear a veil when society deems children to be unable to express personal choices about other areas like buying alcohol, smoking or getting married. We should be very cautious about imposing religious conformity on a society which has always valued freedom of expression.”

Mr Browne spoke as Nick Clegg prepared to speak at the Lib Dem conference in Glasgow. Speaking at the conference today, Clegg said “I think one of the great things about our country is that we allow people to express their identity, their faith, the communities to which they belong in the way in which they dress.

“There are some exceptions clearly. I don’t for instance think it is appropriate to have the full veil through security checks at airports. I think there is an issue about teachers having the right to address their pupils and their students face-to-face and make face contact. But otherwise I really do think it is important that we protect the British principle that as long as people are law-abiding citizens going about their business in a law-abiding fashion, we shouldn’t be telling people what garments of clothing they can wear.”

People I have spoke to have said they think banning girls from wearing the veil is a form of religious discrimination. However, some think that girls under the age of 16, should not be wearing the veil because they are not at the age of fully understanding the reasons behind wearing it and agreeing with Mr Browne, they feel girls are often “imposed” to wear it.

What do you think? This debate is a controversial one but definitely something that people from all sides have a view on.

Ramadan and Eating Disorders

The blessed month of Ramadan is upon us once again and for those of us with eating disorders, it can be somewhat of a triggering and a stressful time. If you are in recovery or in treatment and are still physically unable to fast due to health concerns, then you should not be fasting, which is the case for me this year. You need to be able to fast with a healthy body and a healthy mind. There is no point if you do not have those two important things.

In Islam, you are excused from fasting during this month because you are sick and instead, you give Fidya (charity) which is paying for someone else such as the poor to be fed. However, the eating disorder could be so strong that you could be faced with a dilemma leaving you to choose between God and your eating disorder.

It does not help that Ramadan is still all about food. Food seems to be everywhere. Iftar preparations fills the whole day and everyone talks about what they are going to eat for Iftar. It can really mess with a disordered persons mind.

An eating disorder is a mental illness that the individual cannot control without the right help and it can certainly be worsened by fasting. The point of Ramadan is to bring someone closer to God, however if you have an eating disorder, it could get stronger during Ramadan and it turns into a battle in your head.

During this time, you need to be focused on what is good for you. Distraction techniques is a useful tool to prevent any destructive behaviours during this time. I find that writing down all my feelings helps. Praying should also be a massive thing during this month. Your recovery is the most important thing. Have an intention in your head to be healthy for next year’s Ramadan so you can fast for the real purpose.

You could be unsure about recovery and still in the grips of your eating disorder and if that is you then be sure to reach out for help as soon as possible. Alternatively, talk to a religious leader. Without health, nothing is possible.

This article was published on the UK’s eating disorder charity Beat website. – http://www.b-eat.co.uk/get-help/online-community/beat-blog/ramadan-and-eating-disorders/