This article was written by Sondos Al Sad, MD, MPH, NCMP, Mariam Rasheed, LMSW, and Issra Killawi, B.A. It was reviewed by Madiha Tahseen, PhD, Mehak Hafeez, LCPC, CRC, and Saba Maroof, MD Child, Adolescent and Adult Psychiatrist.
As the month of Ramadan draws closer, our minds turn in anticipation towards fasting, Suhoor (pre-fast) meals, festive Iftar (breaking fast) parties, and taraweeh with the community. But for some of us who are struggling with an eating disorder, Ramadan may be a stressful and challenging time.

The emphasis on food and the drastic changes in diet and routine during the holy month can be triggering. Ramadan can make it easier to disguise an eating disorder – after all, everyone else is avoiding food and drink for long hours too. People who struggle with binge-eating may be more tempted to over-indulge at mealtimes. Ramadan is also a time to get together and break fast with others, which can be very difficult for someone who struggles with eating in public. And if a person with an eating disorder chooses not to fast, they may feel a great deal of shame about not fasting or face criticism from others who may not know much about eating disorders.

To learn more about eating disorders, please refer to
this resource.
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If Ramadan is especially difficult because you struggle with an eating disorder, ease your way into the month by:

Decentralize Food

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During Ramadan, many of us focus on fasting from food and water during the day and indulging in elaborate meals at night. But, if we only focus on food during this month, we miss the whole point of Ramadan and unintentionally activate the triggers we may have related to food. Ramadan is more than just about fasting from food – it’s also about spiritual growth and doing good deeds that bring you closer to Allah (SWT).

This Ramadan, whether you can fast from food or not, make it your intention
not to focus on food. Instead, prioritize your self-development. There are so many ways to do this:

Use Social Media Mindfully

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Social media can be both helpful and harmful – depending on how we use it. For someone struggling with an eating disorder, social media can be especially triggering. Research findings show that the more that people used social media, the greater concerns they had about body dissatisfaction, negative or altered body image, and disordered eating. [1]

Whether it’s images of food, vacation, or friends, picture-perfect content can cause negative feelings and a pattern of constant comparisons to what we see online. This pressure can become an underlying trigger for someone struggling with an eating disorder. 


But guess what? Ramadan is a great time to
be more mindful of how and why we are turning to our screens. It’s an opportunity to limit the distractions and reprioritize what matters most: Allah (SWT) and our relationship with Him. Taking a break from the constant noise of social media can be clarifying and healing on a physical, spiritual, and emotional level.

Gather Intentionally With Others

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A big part of Ramadan is getting together with others. Sometimes, not fasting with everyone else can feel isolating. But rather than gathering around food, you can feel a sense of community with others this Ramadan by:

  • Volunteering or working on a service project 
  • Visiting the elderly in your community  
  • Joining a weekly halaqa (learning circle) that is focused on understanding the Quran more deeply
  • Finding other Muslims who struggle with eating disorders and starting a support group together 
If you do choose to gather with others and you think you may feel triggered, think of ways to support yourself. For example, you can bring along a friend who knows about your struggle and can be your “safe” person. If you get triggered, you can let him/her know and come up with a plan together. Or you can text your “safe” person in the moment for moral support, even if they can’t be there with you. 

Tell Someone You Trust

During Ramadan, we find the strength to do things that feel impossible any other time during the year (like fasting for long hours or praying throughout the night). This Ramadan, try to build up the strength to tell someone you trust about your eating disorder. It can be difficult to open up about what you’re experiencing, but letting close family or friends know what you are going through can help them better support you, especially during Ramadan. Choose a time to sit down and share what you are going through.
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Get Professional Help

If you can, schedule an appointment with your doctor a few weeks before Ramadan. Bring up your concerns and symptoms so that he/she can support you throughout the month.
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  • Eating disorders can pose serious health concerns, so it’s important to be honest about your symptoms. Anorexia Nervosa, which consists of severely restricting intake to the point of starvation and may include purging as well, can lead to organ failure and be a fatal condition. Bulimia, which consists of binging and purging, can cause electrolyte imbalances. An early diagnosis can increase your chances of recovery, and having proper medical guidance during Ramadan is a must.

  • Because an eating disorder affects an individual on physical and psychological levels, it’s also important that you get help from a therapist. Your doctor can provide you with a referral to a local mental health specialist. You can also use SEEMA’s directory to find a Muslim therapist near you and check out The FYI’s Therapy Guide for what to expect from therapy. Ramadan can present specific triggers for someone who struggles with an eating disorder, so it’s important to discuss your symptoms and feelings with a healthcare provider who can help you manage your triggers during this month.
  • • You might be wondering whether you should fast this Ramadan. The question of whether to fast is an important one as it can have serious implications for your health. Depending on your eating disorder and where you are on the recovery journey, fasting may or may not be suitable for you. If you are continuing to restrict or are actively purging shortly before Ramadan, strongly reconsider your choice to fast – these are signs that an eating disorder is still severe and that you are having active symptoms.

  • • Most importantly, consult with both your doctor (primary care physician as well as a psychiatrist if you have one) and your therapist. If you have symptoms of an eating disorder, share the recommendations you received with a religious scholar whom you trust – someone who can support your decision this Ramadan and guide you in making up your fasts in another way.

  • If your doctor has deemed it better not to fast, focus on other forms of ibadah (worship). Remember, Allah (SWT) does not want to burden you and that your health is an amanah (trust). We know that one who is sick or ill is exempt from fasting. Eating disorders are a type of illness that can take time to heal from. Be patient and give yourself time to heal with the full support of your treatment team.

Harness The Power Of Duaa (Asking Allah)

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Duaa is a powerful tool in the toolbox of every Muslim, no matter what he/she is going through. This Ramadan, harness the power of Duaa in your recovery.  

“And when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me.”


(Surah Baqarah v. 186)
Remember, Ramadan is not just for those who fast from food or drink. Ramadan is for anyone who strives to come closer to Allah (SWT). This Ramadan, use these tips to worship Allah (SWT) in a holistic way – physically, mentally, and spiritually. Getting help for your eating disorder, trying to meet your treatment goals, and focusing on becoming a better version of yourself are all things that Allah (SWT) will reward you for, and that can bring you closer to Him in this month.
For help with an eating disorder: 

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Eating Disorders (US)
Hours of Operation: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday

1-630-577-1330


National Eating Disorders Association (US)
Hours of Operation: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday

1-800-931-2237


Naseeha Youth Hotline (US)
Free confidential hotline for Muslim youth

Hours of Operation: 7 days a week, 3 p.m. – 9 p.m. EST

1-866-627-3342


Amala Muslim Youth Hotline (US)
Hours of Operation: M, W, F, Saturday and Sunday, 6 p.m. – 10 p.m. PST

1-855-952-6252


Find a Muslim therapist near you: https://seemamentalhealth.com/find-a-therapist/
For more resources about making the most of Ramadan this year, check out our Ramadan Toolkit. Follow The FYI on our social media channels and subscribe to our newsletter here.