‘EATING DISORDERS MASKED BY FASTING’
Experts say Ramadan fasting being used as excuse
Some teenagers with eating problems are using fasting during Ramadan as “an excuse” to lose weight, experts have said.
Dr Thoraiya Kanafani, a clinical psychologist and co-owner of the Human Relations Institute and Clinics Dubai, said that the clinic often sees teens who suffer from eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia.
She said: “All this year I’ve seen teens say they are either on a juice diet or some other kind of diet so they don’t have to eat a lot.
“So Ramadan becomes one more excuse for them to mask how much they have eaten. They need to have the right motivation to fast.
“For those who suffer from anorexia, because people won’t really notice how much they are eating when they are breaking their fast, they’ll have small things to eat and mask how much they’ve eaten.”
Kanafani shared a case study of one of her
patients who used to suffer from bulimia and her struggles of fasting during the Holy Month.
The 19-year-old patient would feel comfortable with fasting as she felt she was losing weight.
“The patient used to have bulimia around two years ago,” added Kanafani.
“This impacted her significantly in many ways, academically, emotionally, physically, socially, as she felt the need to purge every time she ate more than a certain small amount.
“Having an eating disorder also impacted her in religious and spiritual ways, which was especially
apparent during the fasting period of Ramadan.
“Two years ago, when the patient had an eating disorder, during the month of Ramadan, she felt more comfortable with herself as she felt she was losing weight because of the fasting.
“It was a stressful situation for her family, in addition to her, who would at times try to forbid her from fasting, as they knew about her eating disorder.
“At iftar, when she would break her fast, she would either eat too little or purge out everything she ate afterwards.”
The patient received professional help and she joined a support group to help recover. She still fasts during Ramadan but not to lose weight.
“Simply because she believes she is strong enough to overcome her disorder and excel spiritually,” said Kanafani.
Another clinical psychologist, Sabine Skaf, said that teens need to have the “right motivation” to fast during Ramadan.
She said teens need support from family and friends who can help them through the month.
“Whoever looks after them, they need to ask them why they are fasting, and what reason are they fasting for?” Skaf said.