Experts warn people not to over-eat during Eid Al Fitr

Ramadan 2012: As many people prepare to end their fasts for the final day today, experts warn they must avoid the urge to over-eat during Eid Al Fitr, which begins tomorrow.

Mehdi Popotte, right, with his friend Mohamed Walid, break their fast at their residence during the holy month ramadan in Abu Dhabi.
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As many people prepare to end their fasts for the final day, experts warn they must avoid the urge to over-eat. They say residents' health depends on them making the right decisions.

Even those able to fast healthily through Ramadan should allow their bodies time to adjust, said Dr Mazen Askheta, a consultant in diabetes and internal medicine at Tawam Hospital, Al Ain.

"What we usually recommend for people who haven't been eating properly throughout the month of Ramadan is really to continue to apply this diet of four to five small meals every day, rather than two or three large meals," Dr Askheta said.

People should also be careful about the type of foods they reintroduce into their diets, he said.

"Basically, we give the same advice [as for Ramadan], which is for people to try to avoid large, heavy meals with lots of desserts," Dr Askheta said. "These meals could cause a shock to their system."

He said this type of shock could disrupt hormone levels.

Some people will also notice a weight gain after Ramadan but this could be a sign of the body adjusting, said Dr Abdulla Hamed Kazim, a resident in internal medicine at Mafraq Hospital.

However, if people eat too much they can find themselves with unpleasant side effects, such as gastro-oesophageal reflux, when stomach acid rises into the oesophagus.

"Overeating does sometimes cause conditions like this when people tend to eat a lot and don't give a chance for the stomach to digest," Dr Kazim said.

"They usually have large meals and that causes a lot of problems."

A healthy attitude is important during the holiday, said Dr Arwa Al Modwahi, a senior officer for the school and family health section at the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi.

"We need attitude adjustment for the way we eat and move during Eid," Dr Al Modwahi said.

People should also realise that they need to adopt a healthy diet all year, not just during Ramadan, the doctor said.

"It is important to concentrate on quality of food as much as quantity, consuming from all food groups, and to remain physically active," Dr Al Modwahi said.

Although not normally one to overindulge, Basand Mohamed, 25, from Canada, finds it tough to keep from eating more than her stomach can handle during Eid.

"I don't find it too hard [to eat healthily during Ramadan], although sometimes I put effort into eating the right things and not always munching on sweets," Ms Mohamed said.

"But in all honesty I do over-eat when I'm at a dinner party. People might tell you to eat more and I don't really know how to say no. I also eat more when I'm at an open buffet."

Whether or not people over-eat during Eid celebrations depends a lot on where they break their fast, said Mehdi Popotte, a trader who lives in Abu Dhabi.

"I break [my fast] with a couple of friends at home," said Mr Popotte, 26. "We buy the groceries so we are able to regulate the quality and quantity of food."

In a friendly, relaxed environment such as this they do not feel rushed and will take their time to enjoy their evening meal, he said.

But when attending an iftar that has been prepared on a much grander scale, the balance can shift.

"What I've noticed - and it's the reason I don't want to go to any iftars at hotels - is the buffet is a big factor for overeating because visually it gives you more appetite than you actually have," Mr Popotte said.

"You tend to want to taste everything and you eat a lot of food and you end up full, but without having properly enjoyed the breaking of the fast."

Cultural norms also play a role in eating habits over Eid, said Dr Askheta.

"I think a lot of it has to do with our culture," he said. "There are a lot of invitations to events and a lot of people tend to see more of their family and friends, where the pressure is more on them to slack off and try to be a little bit more indulgent.

"They don't want to be bad. It's the availability of the bad stuff, the people around them and the culture. It might be very difficult for them to resist all of that."