Getting Started


Salam Walaykum! (Peace be with you), and WELCOME to Fit Islam! This is my blog, based on my theory that health and wellness are often not recognized in Islam as much as they should be. Allah SWT has given us the tools we need for every aspect of this life, including how to take care of ourselves. Part of doing so requires that we practice better eating habits, exercise, and cleanliness so we can lead overall healthy and vibrant lives. Remember our bodies are a loan from Allah, eventually they will return to Him. Why not try to return our loan in the best possible condition? Insha'Allah there are many many rewards and blessings to be had from taking care of your health, so make your intentions now, brothers and sisters and let's get healthy while serving Allah!!!

My goal for this blog, beithnillah is to look at health and wellness from many angles. Please bear with me as I get this up and running, insha'Allah soon. As always, never start a diet or exercise program before talking with your doctor, as I am NOT a doctor, nor a personal trainer, I can only provide information that has helped me, and may motivate you. May Allah grant us a safe and healthy journey towards fitness, Ameen!

Eating


On the authority of Al-Miqdaam ibn Maadiy-Karib who said: I heard the Holy Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying:
"No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath."
[Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa'I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih]

This is a well-known hadith about eating in Islam yet how many of us actually do this? Generally we'll say , "Oh yes, that's the Sunnah." But when the family is gathered together, and the dining room table is practically breaking under a mountainous buffet of delicious home-cooked food, who REALLY remembers and only takes 1/3 of what he needs? I admit, I used to be the first one to fill my plate and the first one up for seconds! (think Ramadan Iftar!) And that was WAY more than 1/3 of my stomach, probably more than twice as much as it! What gluttony! And this is the point I'm trying to make. Overeating is so common, and it's not that we're all trying to be animalistic in our eating or we're trying to store up for a famine. It's that we're conditioned to eat like that, through bad habits. Habits of emotional eating (post coming soon insha'Allah), habits of unconscious eating (also coming soon insha'Allah), and no clue about portion size. I want to clear up a misunderstanding about the hadith, too. Since most of us are used to eating 3 times a day -breakfast, lunch, and dinner- it's easy to think that we should only eat 1/3 of our stomachs worth, 3 times a day and that's it. 3 handfuls of food a day, water, and nothing else. Well, if you have that kind of willpower that's great, but I know I would be extremely hungry if I tried that and probably would end up binge eating out of sheer desparation. Perhaps you would too. Allah designed hunger to tell us when we need nourishment, and we feel hungry at certain times throughout the day. Instead of thinking rigidly, and limiting ourselves to 3 tiny meals, there's no reason why we can't eat more frequently, with the 1/3 rule. In fact, you've probably heard about the new health movement away from the standard "3 square meals a day" routine and into the "6 small mealas and snacks is better for you" one. They don't mean 6 MEALS, like doubling your already increasing daily intake, they mean small portions of food, every 2-3 hours on average. A protein and a carb, for instance. A fruit or vegetable and a serving of dairy. Things like that, which fill you up about 1/3 of the way! This way, you're satisfying your hunger, but not overdoing it. And frequently, throughout the day, this keeps your metabolism up too, so insha'Allah you'll feel energized as well. Ok, now I challenge you. Let's give it one day, of frequent eating, and every time before saying "bismillah" and taking the first bite, making sure our intention is set and we're eating 1/3 of our stomach's capacity, drinking 1/3 and leaving 1/3 for our breath. Insha'Allah you'll feel great, and you'll have received a good deed too, for following the Sunnah!

Recognizing Emotional Eating

I quoted a hadith in the previous post, part of which says the Prohphet Muhammad (PBUH) said, "No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight."
It is clear, from these words, that the intention of food in Islam is for nourishment, and that we as muslims should eat to live, and not live to eat. However, that does not mean that we can't enjoy our food. Nor are we forced to eat something we dislike. In fact,
"The Prophet (PBUH) never criticised any food (he was invited to) but he used to eat it if he liked the food, and leave it if he disliked it." - Sahih Bukhari
The key here is, as with almost everything in Islam, Subhan Allah, moderation. Sometimes we overdo it on the bad stuff, especially junk food, and don't eat enough of the good stuff. This isn't necessarily related to hunger, in fact it's emotional eating. I know some of the brothers are like, "What emotions? That's for women!" Haha, well maybe we're more emotional, but how many times have you, brothers, drowned out the stresses of the workday grind with a faceful of pizza or potato chips? Probably more often than you'd like to admit.
To tell if our eating is emotional or not, let's go down the list of charasteristics for emotional eating, from an article entitled "8 traits of Emotional Eaters" by Dr. Roger Gould, Emotional Eating Expert. (full article here.)If you think these sound all too familiar, than maybe you are eating emotionally.

1. My hunger comes on suddenly.
Physical hunger comes on slowly. Hunger from emotional eating often comes on quickly and suddenly.

2. I crave specific foods — generally not carrot sticks or steamed broccoli. Cravings for specific, usually unhealthy foods is a sign of emotional eating. Often people like the rush they get from satisfying their cravings. That rush is fulfilling emotional hunger.

3. My hunger feels urgent — I need a particular food right away and I'm willing to walk out of my way, or get in your car late at night, or raid my kid's candy to get it. Physical hunger, unless you haven't eaten for a very long time, is usually pretty patient. It will wait for food. Emotional hunger demands to be satisfied immediately.

4. My hunger is often paired with an upsetting emotion — if I backtrack a few hours or a few days I'll usually find an upsetting event and feeling that triggered the urge. Hunger that's connected to an upsetting emotion or situation is definitely emotional hunger. Physical hunger is not typically triggered by emotions.

5. My eating habits involve unconscious eating — all of a sudden I'm eating ice-cream and I find the whole container is gone. When you're eating for physical reasons, you are usually mindful of what you're doing. If you catch yourself eating "just because," then it's likely you're eating for emotional reasons.

6. I don't stop eating in response to being full — I keep wanting more of the taste of the food.
Physical hunger doesn't need to be stuffed in order to be satisfied. Emotional hunger on the other hand often demands more and more food to feel satisfied.

7. My hunger isn't located in belly — I crave the taste of a certain food in my mouth or I can't stop thinking of a certain food. Feeling hungry in this way is usually a sign of emotional hunger. Physical hunger is happy to get what it can, while emotional hunger usually focuses on specific tastes and textures.

8. After I satisfy my hunger, I am often filled with a sense of regret or guilt. Feeding your body what it needs is not something to feel guilty about. If you feel guilty after you eat, it's likely because part of you knows you're not eating just to satisfy physical hunger.

Well? How'd you do? If you're like me, you were probably surprised at just how many of them seemed to fit. Which is okay! Emotional eating is very common, but the good news is, there are ways to conquer it -and not all of them require you to seek psychological help. In fact, my next post insha'Allah will be about ways we can help ourselves overcome emotional eating habits. Salams for now, and remember to STAY HEALTHY!

Way Number One On How to Cope With Emotional Eating

Practice Conscious Eating!  Easier said than done, LOL.  And I know personally.  Well, I've noticed a pattern in my eating habits that I thought maybe someone else might have been dealing with too.  It's eating unconsciously.  As I go to eat, my weight loss goals, my health, and my hunger/satiety signals all disappear and all I'm aware of is the food in front of me.  Especially if it's gooooood.  And I don't listen to my body and stop eating when I'm almost full, no, I enjoy the taste so much, my mind convinces me more is better and then I end up overeating in the end and feeling sluggish, lazy, and guilty afterwards.  I believe this could be partially remidied by practicing conscious eating.  The first thing to do  is to create some reminder at mealtimes for your reasons for watching your weight or staying healthy etc.  I used to have the phrase "How Badly Do You Want It?" taped on my fridge so every time I snuck in for an unneccessary nibble, I'd remember why I'm doing what I'm doing.  Our weight gain/ declining health/ habits etc. didn't happen overnight, and it won't go away overnight either.  It's a systemic problem, we need to be consistent in our efforts, not just sporadic.  If you don't have any goals, you might want to create a separate list of reasons WHY you want to lose weight, or practice better eating habits, or concern for your health.  Once you have the reasons behind your desire for a change in behavior it will subconsciously aid you in the process because you've named your goals, not just fantasized about them.  Then, create a fridge reminder or a kitchen reminder or even a table reminder so you can catch yourself before eating and "plan" in your mind what and how much you're gonna eat, and WHY.  Other ways to "wake yourself up" before eating so to speak is to eat on the same plate every day, in the same spot, with no TV or excess noise (if possible) to distract you.  Fill your plate with serving sizes BEFORE you sit down, (you'll probably be less eager for seconds if you have to walk to the kitchen to take more whe you're already full)  Better yet, put the food away before you sit down to eat.  Also, you can pause between bites, sip water with the meal, and in general SLOW DOWN.  As with our prayers, it's easy to be forgetful and slip into bad habits if we rush.  Eating is the same.  Chew slowly, smaller bites may seem so trivial but savoring the food instead of inhaling it will help us feel full faster and make us more aware.
Conscious eating is the first thing I'm going to try to help myself, why don't we try together to make an effort at being more conscious about our eating.  To Good Health insha'Allah!