In reality these few excess kilos are less likely to be baby-weight than they are ice-cream weight…the ice-cream-weight that being pregnant gave me carte blanche to indulge in. And that’s why I’m in a hurry to have it off, because I put it on. Three kilo isn’t anything to cry about, and – as long as I don’t try on the skinny cut jeans I was wearing at 18 (yes, I still have them..**hoarder alert**) – unless, I do silly things like that, I don’t even notice it’s here..but, M was baby number one. If I keep this friendly three, then (potentially) go on to gain an additional three with a follow-up baby, well..that just wouldn’t be good.
So, from Wednesday, carbs are out and protein’s in, along with an abundance of fruit veg and water. Is this a diet, or a lifestyle change? What determines the difference between the two?
Even if I wasn’t trying to shift some (excess) weight, this time of year always makes me more conscious of the food I put in my body. Ramadan rolls round again next month and with the fast inevitably comes an evaluation of the food we eat – the food I prepare, feed my husband, and now use to fuel my body to feed my son. (Though, did you know, even if a mother consumes only bread and water, her breastmilk will be substantial enough to provide for her baby? Ailhamduillah.)
Ironic for a month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, many people actually gain weight during Ramadan. Once the sun sets, there’s a window within which to refuel and replenish your body. After fasting for 12+ hours, your body craves sugar, and it’s so easy to give in to the common concept of “sugar”, and treat ourselves to an instant high. But it doesn’t work, and if you give into that cake, to accompany the coke, to wash down the burger, inevitably you’ll have a splitting headache and no energy at all two hours later. Experience talks. listening to your body, hard though it is to do when you are drooling at the fading sun, means you provide it with exactly what it needs, and often that’s a lot less than what you’d think – many people, myself included, find the appetite is satisfied after just a bowl of soup. But many of us, myself included, don’t stop eating with that simple bowl of soup.
The purpose of Ramadan is not to feel constant hunger the whole month-long, but to appreciate the bounty that the food we eat is. When you’ve fasted for a day, the smallest sip of water as the echoes from the Call to Prayer fade is as bountiful as it gets: throughout the non-fasting year, it’s our job to retain that sense of bounty as we sit down to eat, or boil the kettle for a brew. Obviously, ice-cream-weight and all, I’m failing somewhat here.
Just as I’ve set a day to start my “diet”, deciding to fast requires a preparation, too. But whereas for a diet, the preparation is more in the emptying of the fridge to give willpower a helping hand, preparing for a fast is a mental act of reigniting your faith. Unlike a diet goal where you can see the jeans hanging, the reward for a fast isn’t always so clear to see and unless you grew up with the concept, it’s quite a strange one to wrap your head around. Or it is for me. Still. I didn’t experience fasting as a child – my family don’t abstain for Lent -, but G remembers being a child watching those around him fast during Ramadan and longing to do the same; remembers being allowed to complete a “child” fast and then standing in the shower and catching a single drop on his tongue..thinking noone would know..then realising that God Himself would know. Eeeek. Scary thought indeed, but if you didn’t grow up with a solid base of religion and the ceaseless all-knowing of Allah swt, it’s good to remind yourself of that before attempting a month-long abstinence.
On Wednesday, I’ll cut the calorie count of my meals, boost my immune system with an increase of fruit and cut back on the caffeine…(all the ‘c’s, have you noticed? coffee, chocolate, coke..) But though Wednesday’s timing may look like the diet is the physical side of preparation for a fast, the irony is it’s really not at all. To fast would be to risk harming my breastmilk supply, and M’s nourishment, so, though I’ll continue to eat and drink when the sun’s in the sky, I hope the attitude with which I approach that food will support the ethos of the Holy Month; if this “diet” supports that too, well, that’s win-win all round.
It’s not just for the weight loss that I’m making this change, and it’s not just ‘til the weight comes off. M copies everything and he may be small now but he’s taking it in and he is going to learn his eating habits from my eating habits. Unless I’m the kind of Mum whose treats are the veggie sticks in the snack drawer in the fridge, I can’t expect him to be the kid who chooses an apple over desert. Unless I’m the kind of Mum who herself doesn’t eat in-between her meals, or have an extra helping just because it’s good, he won’t be a kid who makes positive choices, either. It’s going to be a tough ride whatever we do in this culture which supports, even encourages, eating between meals and puddings as a snack. If G and I are to teach him to be healthy in his food choices, to be appreciative of the availability of and consistent in his habits, we need to first eat the words we preach. And those words are no sugars, no simples, no extras.
So I’m giving myself three weeks to shift the flab, and refocus my mind, shake up my (our) diet. One point five kilo a week. Easy, no?