A sufferer from Orlando asked me a question on how to manage food triggers and how to Stop Purging at Hajj. Hajj is one of the five pillars of Islam and is obligatory for all adult Muslims who can afford the journey and are in good health. Every Year millions of people from all corners of the world congregate in one location to perform this pilgrimage. It is important that people make all the necessary efforts to stay healthy and protect themselves from disease throughout the pilgrimage. You can attain this – through healthy eating, personal hygiene and boosting the immune system.
Can you imagine embarking on such a Holy Journey with Eating Disorder thoughts Running through your Mind? His whispers replacing Labaik allahuma labaik? Traveling with Eating disorders is very difficult. If you take an eating disorder out of its natural habitat, it is going to inflict all kind of mental torture on you. People tend to fall into two traps: they eat everything or, they restrict. Don’t forget that people travel to Hajj with various kinds of illnesses. They key is in taking precautions and managing their symptoms by following the advise of a practitioner. Those who suffer from Eating Disorders, same rules apply to them. You can only undertake this Journey, if your fit and healthy and NOT using any of the dangerous behaviors during the Hajj.
Bulimic on Hajj
“I’ve been suffering from Bulimia in secret for five years now. On average I binge and purge three-four times a day and this is on my very good days- no body knows my bulimic secret. We are leaving for Hajj on Sunday and I am panicking, I thought I’ll be OK, but the mere thought of not purging is driving me insane. There’s food everywhere and we are staying at hotels with buffet dining. My biggest trigger is buffet dining. I overeat and then I purge. If I don’t binge and purge, I simply go out of my mind, I feel the pain, I get shaky and I feel panicked. I hid this secret so well and I know at Hajj I could make myself sick anywhere and no one would guess what I was up to, but I am scared, for first time in my life, I am scared and not sure of myself.
Food Triggers at Hajj
One of the Main Trigger at Hajj is food. In the last decade, the global food industry has expanded extensively in Saudi Arabia. Every step you take out of Ka’aba, you’ll be facing the shops, restaurants, street vendors all selling food, food and more food. This is to accommodate Millions of pilgrimages and their dietary needs.
There will be very elaborate and extensive buffet dining at most of the hotels. The buffet is the worst temptation for people who suffer from Bulimia and Binge Eating Disorder. When faced with a table of varied foods it’s hard to show restraint, even a normal person gives in and over eats. All this presents a challenge for many who suffer from Eating Disorders, especially those who are in recovery and have a disordered relationship with food. This vicious cycle of binging and purging takes a toll on the body and emotional well-being. But don’t worry, change is possible. Regardless of how long you’ve struggled with Eating Disorder, you can learn to break the binge and purge cycle and what a place to break this cycle than Hajj?
Therefore, it’s advisable to have a recovery plan and a meal plan for Hajj.
Only One Way to Perform Hajj Safely
A person with an eating disorder has to be taught a new way to think about food and learn how to eat correctly.
Hajj is the most complex of the Islamic rituals and involves, among other things, walking long distances and camping in desert tents.
With the five year of Bulimia, you are under nourished, you are putting your body- and your life at risk. The most dangerous side effect of bulimia is dehydration due to purging. Vomiting, laxatives, and diuretics can cause electrolyte imbalances in the body, most commonly in the form of low potassium levels. Low potassium levels trigger a wide range of symptoms ranging from lethargy and cloudy thinking to irregular heartbeat and death. Chronically low levels of potassium can also result in kidney failure. You need good solid nutrition to perform Hajj, Period!
Managing Bulimia on Hajj
Step 1- Throw Away Diuretics, Weight Loss Pills and Laxatives – Please do not take them with you. Knowing that you are harming your body just adds to the stress and anxiety.
Step 2- Meal Plan – Fight Your Eating Disorder Desires, Perish Your Ego by Following a Structured Eating Plan.
Step 3- No Calorie Restriction or Cutting out Food Groups. Dieting triggers bulimia’s destructive cycle of binging and purging. The irony is that the more strict and rigid the diet, the more likely it is that you’ll become preoccupied, even obsessed, with food. When you starve yourself, your body responds with powerful cravings—its way of asking for needed nutrition. It is important to eat a healthy and well-balanced diet at all times. Diet should consist of high fibre and complex carbohydrate foods like potatoes, pasta, rice, wholemeal bread and green vegetables, that will keep you feeling full for longer, and provide you with increased energy levels.
Step 4- Going Cold Turkey on Purging
Purging Only Reinforces Binge Eating.
I attended a workshop on Nutritional Approaches to the Management of Eating Disorders and Eating Distress in Richmond, and our course instructor Jane Nodder really emphasized on dangers of purging. It’s simply not acceptable. Purging is lethal and very dangerous. It can just take one off episode to cause serious imbalance in electrolytes and can cause a heart attack.
Step 5- Follow Islamic Etiquette of Eating. No Eating in Isolation or by your self. There is something deep and sacred about the act of breaking bread together. Please consume all your meals with your family in a dining area. During Hajj Eating is an opportunity to connect and engage with beautiful people and exquisite cultures.
Step 6- Let Go off the Fiction and Face Fact. Perish Your Ego and Do Every thing Opposite to the Demands of the Demon of Eating Disorder. Eating Disorder is not worth sacrificing your Life for.
Relaxation Before Meals
Follow a Deep Breathing Exercise Before your Meals
Deep Breathing Exercise
1- Make your self comfortable in your room, make sure you are alone.
2- Close your Eyes and try to Relax.
3- Gradulaly slow down your breathing, inhaling and exhaling as evenly possible.
4- Place One hand on your rib and one on your abdomen, just below your rib cage.
5- As you inhale, allow your abdomen to swell upward (your chest should barely move).
6- As you exhale, let Your abdomen flatten.
Give yourself a few minutes to get into a smooth, easy rhythm. As worries and distractions arise, don’t hang on to them. Wait calmly for them to float out of your mind- then focus once more on your breathing.
When you feel ready to end the exercise, open your eyes. With practice, you will begin breathing with your diaphragm naturally- and in times of stress, you should be able to correct your breathing without too much effort. Taken from ‘Coping with Eating Disorders and Body Image’.
Eating for Mind Body and Soul and a Beautiful Hajj
Eating Three Regular Well Balanced Meals with Three Snacks in Between. At Hajj there are no set timings. But you need to stick to Your structured Eating. DO not leave more than 2-3 hours gap between each meal.
Top Tip= Carry a bottle of water and a rich Protein Carbohydrate Snack with you all the time.
No Skipping Allowed
Postponing your snack, your appetite will increase, and this may set you off for a binge and could set off the cycle of skipping meals.
Planning the contents of meals and snacks
In Saudi Arabia deciding what to eat, should not present too much of a problem. The whole world cuisine is there. But what you need to do is, plan in advance what you are going to eat. If your eating at the hotel, then make your selection carefully. Follow Eatwell plate method. Strike for balance. In Mena and Arafat Please do Take your Snacks with you. Do not skip.
Few Tips on Extensive Buffet Dining
Plan your buffet
Walk around the buffet table. Step Away sit and think- Ask yourself this Million Dollar Question: “What am I really Hungry for, What do I really want to Eat? Scan the buffet Table once again before putting food on your plate.
Best options; stick to your Eatwell Plate, strike for balance.
Sit away from the table as far as you can.
Put your Cutlery Down in between bites. Breathe Relax and Offer thanks to Allah.
Remember- It takes around 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full.
For desserts, pick one- Go for fibre based desserts.
Try to Limit yourself to only one trip to the table.
Sample Meal Plan for Hajj
8:30 am Breakfast – 2 slices of wholewheat toasts with Egg. A Glass of Fruit Juice, Or a Cup Of Milk or a Cup of Yogurt.
Bowl of Cornflakes with milk and 2 slices of Toast.
SNACK: Choose wholesome foods, and mix-and-match protein and carbohydrates for a satisfying snack. You can buy them from shops near the Makkah and Medina.
11:30 am Snack– Banana with a small pot of yogurt. Or 2 Oat Cakes, Or a wedge of Melon, A fruit smoothie.
2:00 pm Lunch (This will be after Afternoon Prayers)- One medium pita, One serving of rice noodles or pasta or couscous with a serving of curry, lentils (or a protein such as grilled chicken, fish etc) salad and vegetables.
Grilled chicken on Medium Pita Bread with a serving of Salad and Figs or a wedge of melon.
A soup with Bread and Fruit Yogurt.
5:00 pm- Snack- 1/3 mixed nuts or a Handful of Almonds with a Date or a dry Fig. Or 1/3 cup dried figs.
8:00pm- Evening Meal- You will be completely famished by then.
Eat a starter to deal with bloat and constipation- Sounds odd right? But beginning your meal with a high fibre starter, for example a green salad a serving of melon, or carrot and celery sticks with hummus. Fibre is an indigestible carbohydrate that is very good for you as it aids the digestive process and passage of food through the gut – and it also makes you feel full.
Soup is an excellent starter choice
Curry with a serving of Rice, serving of yogurt and some salad.
Felafel with bread, beans, vegetables and a wedge of melon.
10:30pm- Night Snack- Glass of Milk or a Cup of Yogurt. (No Diet Version) or a slice of bread with honey and butter.
Drinks should include plenty of water, fresh fruit, herbal teas and vegetable juices.
Bear in mind, this will take a lot of effort and determination. Always remember your doing this for your well-being, for your body, mind and soul. Do not eat the same thing every day. It is important to consume a wide variety of foods. Eating same thing means missing out on many vital building blocks of life, for certain foods build and regenerate only certain parts of the body. Your making healthier choices to nourish your body and to avoid complications with your digestive system. Your ED may hate you for making such drastic changes, each step you take towards recovery and well-being the demon will become more angry, so let the poor demon hate you, he has nothing better to do anyway.
Dealing with Anxiety
The Hajj duties can be demanding in terms of physical activities and mental effort
You may suffer from bit of anxiety. Your busy performing all the Hajj rituals and all of a sudden your hit by thoughts on your body, weight or general appearance. You may feel panicky. The best thing to do is to ignore these thoughts. As Ahmed Hulusi said, “thoughts are harmless, they are mere thoughts and they cannot physically harm you”.
According to Christine Craggs Hinton: “when you find yourself in difficult situation, it is also helpful to stay just where you are, however uncomfortable you may feel. In remaining within the situation, you will learn that it is tolerable and that your anxiety levels will gradually decrease. When you avoid a difficult situation, it is hard to believe you can bear the anxiety and that it can slowly enn away. “
Dealing with Panic Attacks
You’ve had your lunch and your panicked, your brain is telling you that ‘you’ve eaten too much’ ‘your stomach is expanding’. There are millions of people around you. Your thoughts are getting worst. You may start breathing faster. Light headedness, palpitation, sweating, tightening of chest with the feelings of fear, and loss of control….
Immediate Solution- Paper Bag
“As soon as your breathing becomes fast and shallow, place the paper bag over your nose and mouth and try to breathe more slowly. Breathing into the bag will ensure that most of the exhaled Carbon Dioxide is returned to your lungs. It will also calm down your breathing.” Christine Craggs- Hinton
Reclaim Your Power: Let go Off the Control, Stop waiting for the Demon of Eating Disorder to Make you Happy. You have been blessed with an opportunity to become Allah’s Guest. Connect with Allah and Reach for the Blessings. Your in the best of the best places. . No one will ever love you as much as Allah loves you. With this in mind, Please take care and be Safe.
Below are the Diet and Dietary Guidelines for Hajj from MUIS website: Health During Hajj
Diet and the Hajj
Eating a healthy diet during the Hajj is vital for energy.
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Constipation means you are not drinking enough water, not eating enough fruits and vegetables.
Diarrhea means you have eaten contaminated food. Always wash your hands before eating.
Eat a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
– Fruits and vegetables contain fiber, which helps eliminate body wastes.
– Without consistent elimination, you can develop constipation.
– Without consistent elimination, you can feel bloated, weak, and irritable.
Eat 6-11 servings of grains every day
Eat 3-5 vegetable servings, 2-4 fruits every day.
Eat 2-3 servings of milk and dairy products, 2-3 servings of protein foods every day.
You do not need a lot of oil, butter or fat.
As much as possible, eat a variety of foods:
• Take every opportunity to eat fruits and vegetables especially.
• Fruit and vegetables contain fiber, which will help you eliminate your body’s wastes.
• Without consistent elimination, you can develop constipation, which can lead to hemorrhoids.
• Without consistent elimination, you can feel bloated, weak and irritable and then may be unable to face the physical challenges of the Hajj.
Eat 6-11 servings of grains every day
• One serving equals one slice of bread, one medium pita, ½ cup of rice, noodles, or couscous
Eat 3-5 vegetable servings and 2-4 fruits every day.
• One serving is like ½ cup cut or cooked vegetable or fruit, 1 medium fruit, or ¾ cup vegetable or fruit juice.
Eat 2-3 servings of milk and dairy products and 2-3 servings of protein foods every day.
• One dairy serving is like a cup of milk or yogurt or 2 palms full of cheese.
• One serving of a protein food like 1 egg, ½ cup of cooked beans, or a piece of meat the size of a cassette tape or a computer mouse.
You do not need a lot of oil, butter or fat.