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.
Useful websites and helplines:
Beat, call 0845 634 7650 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Samaritans, open 24 hours a day, on 08457 90 90 90
Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393