Ramadan fasting 'masks' eating disorders.
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: "I've seen this year all around, where 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."
Dr Kanafani shared a case study of one of her patients who used to suffer from bulimia and her struggles of fasting during Ramadan. 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 Dr 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 Dr 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 of Ramadan.
"Whoever looks after them, need to ask them that why they are fasting -- what reason are they fasting for?" Skaf said.
British celebrity cook Nigella Lawson
The practice of masking eating disorders with fad diets has become more evident in recent years. British celebrity cook Nigella Lawson, a critic of "clean eating" diets that shun every day foodstuffs, spoke about the issue last December at London's JW3 Speaker Series.
She said: "People are using certain diets as a way to hide an eating disorder or a great sense of unhappiness with their own body. There is a way in which food is used to either self-congratulate -- you're a better person because you're eating like that -- or to self-persecute, because you'll not allow yourself to eat what you want."
Dr MK El-Yousef from the US-based Fairwinds Treatment Centre added: "What makes some eating disorders difficult to diagnose is that many people define a disorder only by its symptoms. However, individuals don't have to appear emaciated to be suffering from a harmful, sometimes crippling disease.
"Many people are successful at masking their eating disorders by claiming that their diets have simply been successful, even though they are actually suffering from anorexia or bulimia."
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