By Dr Wail Abu Hendi
Translated by Karim El Sahafi
by IOL Staff
October 20, 2005
Our relationship with food can at times be a grievous one. Counting
calories and weighing ourselves constantly can make the eating process a burden rather than something to enjoy. Taking time
to become more aware of what we eat does not necessarily mean restricting our diet to a certain type of food intake. Its more
about giving attention to how we eat. This concentrates more on the process rather than the food itself.
Abu Hendi is a psychologist with interests in dieting, obesity, and slimness, as well as eating disorders. Abu Hendi believes
that modifying eating behavior is more effective to accomplish weight loss than traditional dieting methods. Abu Hendi developed
a therapeutic behavioral program for patients in Egypt suffering from obesity and extreme slimness. This therapeutic behavioral
program was designed in accordance with the Sunnah of the Prophet (may Allahs peace and blessings be upon him).
can be looked upon as not only something pleasurable, but also as an act of worship. Thus, our Prophet (peace be upon him)
emphasized the concept of food as an act of worship by performing ablution prior to eating just like for prayers, as well
as having the intentionniyyahof seeking Allahs favor.
Like other acts of worship, this form of worship shouldnt take
up too much time. Dr. Abu Hendi says that we begin to feel full (satiated) after twenty minutes of eating, regardless of the
amount of food we have consumed, so dedicating approximately 30 minutes to each meal would be better than wolfing it down.
Also, eating should not be made a secondary activity while watching television or listening to music in order not to avert
your attention from the food unnecessarily.
Duties, Sunnah, and Manners
The first duty in
Islam concerning eating is ensuring that the food is both permissible (halal) and comes from a permissible source. You should
also feel satisfied with what Allah has provided you and believe that these provisions are a blessing from Allah. The Prophet
(peace and blessings be upon him) once told `Ali ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), O Ali! There are twelve rules
a Muslim must learn to adhere to before the table (of food), four of which are duties, four of which are Sunnah, and four
of which are manners. Knowing what you eat and its source, mentioning Allahs name prior to eating, being grateful for provisions,
and being content with them are duties. Sitting on the left foot, eating with three fingers, eating from the food closer to
you, and licking the fingers (used while eating) are Sunnah. Restricting the size of each mouthful of food, chewing very well,
refraining from looking people in the face, and washing the hands (afterwards) are of manners.
Good or Bad?
It is best to eat three times a day (or twice if fasting), and try to eat a variety of foods; do not shun bread, rice,
fruit, or other foods in their natural form.
Classifying foods as good or bad according to the calories they contain
can lead to depriving the body of essential needs, which may drive the body to react adversely. Severely depriving the body
of calories may result in cases of binge eating (excessive overeating), or nocturnal eating where a person gets up at night
half asleep, heads to the kitchen, and begins eating large amounts of foods that were originally avoided during the day.
to change your usual sitting position while eating. So, following in the footsteps of the Prophet (may the peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him) try sitting either on both knees or on your left leg while keeping the right one upright. Its best not
to change the position you choose before you finish eating. If this position does not suit you, particularly at the beginning,
then you may take the position you prefer most, but try not to lean on anything. The Prophet (may the peace and blessings
of Allah be upon him) would seat himself attentively before food.
First and foremost say bismillah(in the name of
Allah) before your first mouthful. It would be preferable to begin your meal with some fruit. If you wish to use the first
three fingers on your right hand (starting with the thumb), try as much as possible not to involve the last two fingers while
eating to buffer yourself against overeating. Incorporating the fingers into the eating process has several merits, including
increased awareness of the food you eat and pleasure from enjoying the foods texture.
using your left hand while eating unless you are left-handed, though you may use it to peel fruits or separate meat from bones.
In any case make sure that your left hand does not carry any food up to your mouth (due to explicit and strict cautioning
against this in the Sunnah).
A merit of using just one hand while eating is to decrease the amount of food a person
consumes, in addition to increase awareness of the food one is eating. Each time you notice your left hand involved in the
eating process you should pull it back and attempt to complete eating with just one hand. This will help prevent slipping
into excessive eating. Training yourself to adhere to this procedure may not be easy at first, but repetition and ongoing
trials along with your persistence to follow the Sunnah will gradually facilitate the matter.
After bringing something
to your mouth with your right hand, do not extend your hand once again to the plate before properly chewing and swallowing
your food. This may be very difficult at the beginning, but this is the fashion by which the Prophet (peace be upon him) ate.
Gulping down food without proper chewing, or eating in a hurry is not healthy. This is an important reason behind obesity
and overeating. Since the feeling of satiety comes after twenty minutes of eating, we must train ourselves to chew food properly
and not to reach out for more food before finishing whats already in our mouths.
After finishing your meal, it is
sunnah to lick the three fingers you used while eating. Do not be disgusted to lick your fingers, if you used them, after
you finish eating, since these fingers carried the food to your mouth.
After you finish your meal, thank Allah and
express your gratitude to Him, for this is an imperative duty.
After a meal, the sunnah is to wash your hands and
mouth, and it is preferable to renew your ablution.
The above steps are guidelines for those who wish to keep in shape
and maintain their ideal weight. These steps do not involve resorting to the pains of modern dieting, and rely completely
on the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him). This diet has no negative side effects since it preaches responding to our
bodies signals, by eating when we feel hungry and only when we feel hungry.