Pattern of overeating after Ramadan fast

A survey shows that many of those fasting realise that they overeat and waste food, although they have difficulty changing those habits.

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ABU DHABI // Overeating after fasting is common and culturally difficult to avoid, a survey of the region has found.

The poll, compiled for Al Aan TV's Nabd al Arab (Arabs' Pulse) programme by YouGov Siraj, studied the habits of more than 2,000 people from 18 countries. Overall, 93 per cent of the respondents said overeating was either very common or somewhat common. In the UAE, 89 per cent said the same.

Many respondents also took note of how much food went to waste. In the UAE, half of those polled said throwing away leftovers was very common, and another 29 per cent said it was somewhat common. A total of 84 per cent said overspending on food was either very common or somewhat common.

Abu Dhabi resident Mohammed Al Daqqaq said that during Ramadan he spends almost twice as much on food as during other times of the year. "During normal days, I eat one course only - either a salad or soup or a sandwich - but in Ramadan every single day I have to drink soup, eat salad and have a heavy main course," said the 27-year-old public relations executive. "Not to mention the sweets. Ramadan atmosphere requires that you eat more, because most activities revolve around food after iftar."

Fahad Al Jaberi, a 32-year-old police officer from Oman, said that although his eating habits remained the same in Ramadan, his family doubled the amount of food served, producing spreads of appetisers, three types of main dishes and five types of dessert.

"We are six people at home, but we cook extra in case some guests surprise us," he said, adding as an example the night of a recent Barcelona football match. "Many friends came over and they ate the food."

However, when no visitors appear, a lot of the food is left over, and if no one eats it, it gets thrown away, he said.

The data support statements at the beginning of the holy month by waste management companies.

In Abu Dhabi, for example, waste production increases by about 10 per cent during Ramadan, with food and food packaging responsible for the increase.

While the majority of people polled said overeating in general was common, they said they themselves ate less during Ramadan (56 per cent in the UAE), eat healthier (48 per cent) and lose weight (35 per cent).

Dr Raymond Hamden, a clinical and forensic psychologist, explained that people tend to blame others rather than looking at their responsibility.

"There are quite a few that would not admit to their own frailties," he said.

The Nabd al Arab producer Dana Shadid said: "The findings are not surprising and this is not a trend. It is normal when people don't have something to want more of it."

"It is important that people remember what the essence of Ramadan is all about and be humble rather than overspend and waste food."

The margin of error in the poll is 2.2 percentage points.

Nabd al Arab is on Al Aan TV at 8pm today.

* Additional reporting by Haneen Dajani