Written by: Sister Fiyona Valli for Idealwoman.org
The Prophet (SAW) said: “There are two blessings in which many people incur loss. (They are) Health and free time (for doing good)” – Bukhari
Good health is indeed a blessing bestowed on us by the Almighty, one which many of us take for granted, until it is taken away from us. Allah (SWT) says in Surah Baqarah, “…and be grateful to Allah if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” [2:172]. Looking after and maintaining our good health is one of the simplest acts of showing appreciation and gratitude to Him alone for this tremendous blessing.
However, for the majority of us not specifically trained in this area, attempting to make sense of and develop our own training and/or diet plan is difficult, stressful and can be very intimidating and demotivating.
This article will attempt to simplify this task by highlighting and correcting some typical mistakes we all make, whether in our thinking or action with regards to weight loss and exercise, In Shaa Allah.
Mistake #1: All I need to do to lose weight is go on a diet
Whether your definition of dieting is something as simple as eating less or extending to the more extreme forms such as crash dieting, counting calories, etc., we’ve all had this mind-set at some time or other. While correct ‘dieting’ is important and does offer some benefits in terms of health and weight loss, this alone is not the definitive answer to living a healthier lifestyle.
Even healthy food contains calories, and this can also inhibit or interfere with weight loss if the energy that is consumed is not burnt off by exercise/movement. Rather than sporadic dieting, aim to make healthy eating and regular exercise an essential and routine part of your daily life.
Mistake #2: Radical dieting: Eliminating food groups
“No-carb”; “low protein”; “fat-free”: by buying into all of these fads, we are inadvertently putting our own health and wellbeing at risk. Making such drastic changes to your diet will have a detrimental effect on your body and your health and should only be undertaken on the advice of a medical professional for a specific medical condition. Our bodies need all of these nutrients in the right amounts in order to remain healthy and maintain a balanced internal environment.
Instead of completely removing any one food group from your diet, rather opt for a healthier option from the same group. For example, replace ‘white’ carbohydrates that have little to no nutritional value with good brown or whole grain carbohydrates. Similarly, rather than fat-free, replace the bad saturated and trans-fats in your diet with the more beneficial mono- and polyunsaturated fats which can be found naturally in most fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Mistake #3: Avoiding strength training for fear of developing big, bulky muscles
Testosterone is the hormone responsible for bulking up the musculature in males. Since this hormone exists in far less quantities in a female’s body,women need not fear developing bulk at all.The only external difference will be a more toned, more defined, stronger muscle. In fact, weight training contributes highly to weight loss by increasing the muscle mass. In this way, metabolism is increased, which in turn allows the body to burn more fat than it would otherwise. It also strengthens the bones, which is extremely important for us women, who lose vital minerals that cause our bones to become brittle as we grow older. Weight training can slow this process down considerably, In Shaa Allah.
Mistake #4: Cardio Junkie
While cardio training is excellent for weight loss and for a healthy heart and lungs, doing too much cardio and not balancing it out with regular strength training will eventually begin to hinder the attainment of your weight loss goals.
Cardio not only burns fat, but if performed exclusively and consistently for an extended period of time, eventually starts using muscle tissue as fuel and burning this off too. So while you feel you are getting thinner, you may also be losing muscle mass and as explained above, muscle mass is important in maintaining a high metabolism. A significant loss of muscle mass will slow down the metabolism to such an extent that results are no longer being achieved.
The ideal would be a healthy balance of cardio and weight/strength training.
Mistake #5: Quick fixes and miracle weight loss gimmicks
Put simply and as with life in general, when it comes to living healthy and losing weight, there are no shortcuts. While diet and exercise fads come and go, the one enduring lesson we learn from these is that shortcuts lead to short-lived results, if any at all.
The achievement of lasting resultsbegins first and foremost with developing a healthy relationship with food, and a healthy relationship with your body. One can’t expect to always (over)indulge in good food, not exercise and still maintain good health and/or a healthy weight. At the same time, punishing yourself for over-indulging by starving your body of the nutrients it needs is also counter-productive to maintaining the same.
Attaining good health need not be a painstaking, overwhelming process. Incorporating some basic rules in your day-to-day life can lead to the results you desire.
Basic rules to healthier living:
Keep it simple: Keep your diet simple; keep your exercise routine simple. Don’t overthink or over calculate.
Eat in moderation, exercise in moderation, rest in moderation. Allah (SWT) says in Sûrah al-A`râf: “……Eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He does not like those who commit excess.” [7: 31]
Stay away from too much processed food and processed meat. Approximately 80% of the foods you eat should be fresh, whole, organic and natural. Allah (SWT) says: “…eat from whatever is on earth [that is] lawful and good…” [2:168] “…eat from the good things which We have provided for you…” [2:172].
Give water priority over other drinks. Water should constitute approximately 50% of your daily liquid intake.
Lastly, as Muslims, we know the importance and wisdom behind establishing a niyyah (intention) before pursuing any task. In this case too, check your intention, and correct it if need be. Then look at your goals,bearing in mind that the concepts of ‘thin’ and ‘healthy’ are not necessarily interchangeable. Now ask yourself, “Do you want to be thin or do you want to be healthy?” Remember, losing weight and getting healthy is more about changing habits than just changing menus. Making small, incremental changes to your lifestyle and sticking with them is what will transform bad habits into good ones.Make good health your goal and the weight loss will occur naturally with patience, perseverance and commitment, In Shaa Allah.