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Given that Pakistanis are known for their healthy appetites and mouth-watering and extremely fattening culinary delights, I was not surprised that Pakistan was cited as the ninth most obese country in the world, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study, published earlier this year in The Lancet medical journal.
A few of my ‘slightly overweight’ (read: obese) patients have made it a habit to ask for dieting advice prior to Ramazan. As one of my patients Samina, an overweight foodie who has been on a diet for five years, puts it, “It helps me detoxify both spiritually and physically, and lose some weight as well. So you see it’s a double whammy!”
But, for Samina and a lot of my other patients looking to rid themselves of the extra flab by fasting, the weighing scale tells a sad story. Most of them complain that they end up with even more unwanted pounds than before. The reason, I tell them, is that “You gorge on all the wrong kinds of food during sehri and iftar.”
The basic rule to follow as religiously as possible is not cramming 24-hours worth of food in a six to eight hour span!
Sehri should be a simple meal. Instead of fat-rich khajla, pheni and parathas, opt for chapati or brown bread; fruit and yoghurt should be included and water sipped throughout sehri. Fizzy drinks, fast food and coffee are a big NO!
I have always advised my patients to forego iftar in favour of an early dinner and break their fasts gradually; a couple of dates with water followed by a meal half an hour later. Consuming slow-to-digest, fibre-rich foods for iftar, such as whole wheat bread/chapatis, pasta, beans and lentils keep the satiety centres in the brain satisfied for longer periods and eliminate cravings. If hunger pangs refuse to go away, have some fresh fruit.
With a bit of self-discipline and restraint, you can not only lose a few pounds but also end sinfully fattening food addictions this Ramazan! n
– Dr Summaiya Syed-Tariq
The writer is a senior forensic practitioner working at the Police Surgeon’s Office, Karachi.
First published in the Health Advertiser Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on June 22, 2014.