A Letter to Those Struggling with an Eating Disorder During Ramadan
By: Marissa Ranahan
“Your Lord did not abandon you, nor did He forget.” – 93:03
I see you, beautiful.
This is a letter of solace for the continuous seekers of inner healing. I feel your faithfulness through the prayers you make, itching for relief. I empathize with you during the tear-filled devotionals between you and God. Most importantly, I cry with you while navigating through the pathway of loneliness paved by mental illness.
I have many close friends devoted to their beautiful faith. Ramadan is a month of endless blessings, purity, and spiritual rejuvenation. The act of fasting is a reminder of those in less fortunate circumstances. I had a sudden thought mid-conversation with my close friend (a practicing Muslim) regarding Ramadan. I thought about those engrossed in an eating disorder during this holy month. From a disordered eating mindset, it is (unfortunately) a perfect situation to leap into unhealthy habits. It offers an acceptable gap to not eat or drink for hours at a time. In turn, this can cause an acceleration of eating disorder symptoms. The constant eating obsession is an overtaking of your daily focus. The world, full of endless beauty, becomes inconspicuous in the center of such a mental battle.
I feel you, beautiful.
Your current struggle does not define your devotion of faith. Our society stigmatizes eating disorders, maligning it as a choice and a result of constant body comparison. Hardly the case; those suffering can consciously acknowledge these false assumptions. Every meal is an open invitation for anxiety. Every bite is an ongoing inner battle. Every period of not eating (or overeating) is a mental competition without a winner. Over time, your life becomes endlessly stagnant, stuck in a guilt-ridden purgatory. In better moments, we are lucky to be granted the promise of hope from birth. Favorably, God graciously gives hope with the slightest appearance of hopelessness.
I want you to know, beautiful:
You are loved.
You were made in the image of God and placed here as the creator of your human experience. You have been a product of love since your beginning. The human journey is not a linear process. Challenges are the push to fight for self-betterment and bring us closer to our faith. Eating disorders are not a part of your identity. Self-worth is not defined by numbers on the scale. Your self-worth comes from your inner goodness reflected out into your world. Remember to keep God close during bouts of depression. The inability to fast is not the absence of love for God. The beauty of God is His ability to love you through all of your hardships.
You are supported.
Support is readily available at all times. Support does not just come in the form of a family. Support comes from your close community and those you surround yourself with daily. Unfortunately, family relationships may be awry at the psychological severity of eating disorders. In the absence of family support, do not be afraid to turn to a friend or mentor for advice. Speaking with your imam or a spiritual mentor is also a wonderful support for those seeking non-judgment. Nobody is your enemy and nobody wants to see a relapse while recovering. Asking for help provides bravery and opens a window to vulnerability. There should be no shame in exposing vulnerability during periods of pain.
My prayers go out to those who have been truly abandoned due to their current fight. If you are a victim to endless loneliness, please reach out to a professional. Eating disorder support groups are common and occur on a regular basis. Sharing similar hardships with others is a beautiful way to center relationships around healing. Life was made to embrace you in the arms of perpetual support.
You are strong.
Self-reflection is an essential part of self-care. Nobody knows us more deeply than we know ourselves. During Ramadan, celebrate your small victories while turning to your faith for support. Use prayer to find strength in spirals of overbearing emotions. Define your own courage and how it takes shape in your life. Start with activities that strengthen your faith during Ramadan. Create daily reminders of positivity throughout your day. Every time you confront a food obstacle during suhoor or iftar, practice self-kindness. Remove the guilt of overeating or undereating and replace it with non-judgment. Find faith in the promise of tomorrow’s new start. God does not turn blindly to those putting their best foot forward.
You are going to be okay.
Reflecting on a former dilemma, a close friend took my hand and said, “You know what? Not now, but eventually, it is going to be okay. It really is.” Having hope for the future is crucial for someone with an eating disorder. This Ramadan might not be perfect, but try shifting your mindset to envision recovery for next Ramadan. Visualize the freedom from guilt, overeating, or anxiety surrounding your meal times. Picture yourself consumed in your faith rather than consumed by food. The mind is our most powerful birthright. Regardless of time length, things will always turn out okay. Again, things will always turn out okay. Striving for progress over perfection is an open door for kindness. The sun always rises for those anticipating brighter days.
Keep going, beautiful.
Be the seeker of heartwarming abundance as you begin to heal. Seek surrender in the simplicity of peaceful moments. Seek the sustainable light given from the Creator above. Seek the priceless guidance of daily prayer. Through intuitive whispers, choose to listen to the voice of God’s love. He is whispering. He is near. He will not fail you. You still have not failed you. Remember that.
Have a blessed Ramadan.
“Verily, with every hardship comes ease.” – 94:5-6