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Category Archives: Mission X-20

Ramadan Reconcilliation

Alhamdulillah, I’m fasting. I didn’t think I would be able to, and while Day 2 of Ramadan may be a little early to announce success, I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to continue for the entire month, InshaAllah. The heat isn’t bothering me, Alhamdulillah, and neither is the hunger. Even the dehydration is mild despite feeding a seven week old baby.  The only challenge is the sleep. Musfira fussed from 6pm until 1am yesterday. By the time I was able to put her down, I had one-handedly:

  • Served iftar
  • Eaten Iftar
  • Prayed Maghrib
  • Had the kids put to bed
  • Eaten dinner
  • Attempted to clean off the table
  • Cooked for suhoor- daal and oatmeal
  • Watched three short documentaries and listened to Surah Mulk twice

Yes, all of this was done either one-handed or hastily in between being able to put Musifra down for five to ten minutes before she woke up again.  Sometimes we have weird nights, and sometimes they spill over into weird days as well- Musfira will fuss- tired but refusing to sleep- and I will rock/walk/bounce her to sleep only to have her wake up again five to ten minutes later, regardless of whether I stop rocking/walking/bouncing or even holding her.  Normally, Alhamdulillah, she sleeps easily for four hours at a stretch, and that’s more than enough time for me to get stuff done in between.  Occasionally, she has these weird days, and those are the ones where I never get of my pajamas and Musfira cries, fusses, sleeps, wakes, and cries- later, rinse, repeat- for hour after hour until the sun rises and sometimes even until the sun sets the next day.

So last night was a weird night.  By the time I was able to put Musfira down (1am!) I was too exhausted for any Tarawih or any Qur’an, and had barely any concentration in my prayers.  I crashed into bed and just two and a half hours later, had to get back out of it for Suhoor.  HF kindly got me out of bed, steered me to the kitchen and placed a bowl of oatmeal into my hands as I stood with my eyes closed and my head against the kitchen door.

Then we prayed Fajr and went back to bed, and two hours later, Musfira woke up in need of a diaper change and a feed.  I’m not hungry or thirsty as much as I am tired and, yes- disappointed.  I love Ramadan.  I need Ramadan desperately, in order to counteract the downward spiral I’ve been in for the rest of the year and to help realign myself mentally and spiritually.  Ramadan is the reset button, ideally because you’re conquering your laziness, kicking bad habits, and remembering the sweetness of Ibada- ideally.  In actuality, I’m so busy juggling Musfira, cooking, shopping, taxiing Khalid and Iman around town, and working that I feel like I’m losing out.  My immediate thought is that I need to prioritize extra worship and the energy required to do it, but I’m not doing anything that I can cut out of my schedule.  I need to take time for Ibada, but I don’t know where to take it from.  If I get any less sleep than I already do I’m going to crash.

(Two nights ago I jumped out of bed to pick Musfira up.  I took a wrong turn somewhere along the way and crashed face-first into a corner.  The next morning I had a headache and a swollen eye, and it took a few moments for me to remember why.)

So here’s the reconciliation.   Allah is responsible for any circumstances I am in, and they are all good, regardless of whether I am able to recognize that.  Last night, when I wanted to pray tarawih but instead spent the six hours between maghrib and qiyaam rocking Musfira, there was good in that too.   Ramadan is challenging enough, Ramadan plus young motherhood must be the next level for me.  I need to push through the busy-ness and the tiredness and somehow find the energy that I need to make the most of it.  I’ve always said Ramadan is spiritual boot camp.  Now I’m at bootcamp with a baby on my back, a spatula in my hand, and two children dragging me backwards by my apron strings.  It’s no longer enough for me to reach the end on my own, I have to make it there with a serene smile, clean and alive children, Surah Mulk memorized, and a tray of freshly baked samosas.

May Allah make the path to righteousness easy for all of us, and grant us the trust in Him to know that all of His decrees are good ones.


Mission X-20: Progress Zero.

I fell off the wagon and landed in a donut.

It’s been three weeks since the beginning of Mission X-20, my attempt to publicly shame myself by blogging about my weight loss or the lack thereof.  I did ok for the first week and even managed to lose a pound, Alhamdulillah!  But then, the house-hunting picked up, and I was driving down to Dubai from Abu Dhabi every other day, having breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the road, drinking less-than-gourmet coffee with cream and sugar from those machines in the petrol stations, bolstering my resolve with emergency chocolate pick-me-ups, and then Alhamdulillah we found a house, and then the packing began with limited home cooking and lots of junk eaten amidst cardboard boxes ensured.

We’ve spent the last four days moving ourselves from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, one truckload at a time- breakfast, lunch, and dinner on the road with munchies in between- boxes of greasy biryani from the public cooks, roasted chickens from the cafeteria up the road, Burger King, McDonalds and Blah.

Today was the first time in three or four days that I’ve cooked food at home.  Alhamdulillah, I made daal.  Lentils.  Red lentils.  Then I accidentally left the stove on and went to the mall, and when I came back, it was remarkably charcoal-like on the bottom but extra thick and -kapow- on top.  So I made really good dinner, I just made most of it inedible.

I digress.  Also, I get sad.  I gained my one pound back, and it’s been three weeks.  I was supposed to have lost three pounds.  Not lost one and found it again.  But hey, I re-learned some old lessons!  I am becoming better at spotting the common obstacles and outright enemies of eating according to the Sunnah- and they are:

Portion Sizes: You buy one burger from a fast food joint, and it’s so big you could use it to stave off starvation for the winter during hibernation.  And you didn’t even order the double.  A single portion size at a restaurant is enough for two people if you have Sunnah Eating Buddy,  which is fitting really, because Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said-  “The food of one person will be sufficient for two, and the food of two people will be sufficient for four, and the food of four will be sufficient for eight”. (Muslim)

Sometimes I miss the good ole days when Owlie and I used to split one meal and one dessert and be more than content.  We were in control, we were superfly, we lost over fifty pounds together.  That was amazing, Alhamdulillah.  HF used to make fun of me when we were first married because all I needed for dinner was half of a shawarma.  Not two.  Or even one.  Just half.  But then kids came, and life changes, and good habits were lost and ground once gained was so badly lost that Cindy, the housekeeper, came across an old photo album of mine and exclaimed “Oh!  You really were thin!” as if this whole time I had been bemoaning my previously more streamlined state I had been making it up, because someone *this* plump being *that* thin seemed unbelievable.

Good Friends, Bad Choices- “Come on, have some fries with me!” It’s simple, you love your friends and your friends love fries.  But what is more important, pleasing your friends for the ten minutes (or less) that the fries are there, or making a permanent change in your life towards good health and amazing self-discipline?  Mona, I blame you for those cupcakes.  Those yummy, yummy cupcakes…Ok, it was my mistake for accepting them, and my repeated stupidity for eating one and then another and then another over the course of a few days so that eight cupcakes became zero.  And willpower needs momentum too.  Every day you do something right, you become stronger, more committed- you pick up the forward motion from each day that comes before, and you can think things like “Eight cupcakes?  No way, I’ve lost five pounds and I don’t feel like gaining them back!”  In my case though, I was thinking “Eight cupcakes?  With adorable nonpariel decorations of flowers and ladybugs and grass?  Can I get an order of fries with that?”

Stress: Stress eating is my achilles heel.  In fact, it’s both of my heels.  When I am angry, frustrated, upset, or depressed, I overeat to feel better.  And then I feel worse.  In fact, overeating makes me feel angry, frustrated, upset and depressed.   I used to channel my anger into ice cream so frequently that I had a personal Baskin Robbins guy.  When I finally realized- consciously-  what I was doing, I had to stop.  But it was hard, because I had to make the decision that I did not deserve to be sabotaged, especially by myself.  And if other people made me mad, then they should be the ones to get fat as a consequence.   Ha!

I still stress-eat though, and it’s a very hard habit for me to break.  Ice cream is not involved as often- it’s usually just an extra portion after I know I really don’t need any more food.  It’s just enough to  jab myself in the slightly achy gut and think things like “Take that.”  I must have a streak of masochism, because when I’m angry or upset, I settle on hurting myself rather than addressing the issue at the risk of hurting someone else.  But please don’t call me passive-aggressive, there’s a Baskin Robbins up the street from my new house too and I might have a double sundae just to show you what’s what.

Poor Planning: If you pack yourself a lunch, or wake up ten minutes early so you can make yourself breakfast instead of inhaling junk to tide you over until lunch, then you’ll have saved yourself the extra calories that lack of foresight tends to bring on.  Keep an apple in your purse.  Or a granola bar in the glove compartment.  It’s not a meal, but it can be enough nourishment to keep you from making a bad choice out of desperation.  Like that box if greasy biryani at ten o-clock last night.

Lack of Willingness Due to Loss of Hope: I gained my one pound back, what’s the point of trying?  I was honestly thinking that yesterday over that aforementioned box of biryani.  That and ‘this is so spicy I bet there’s smoke coming out of my ears’.  I had fattening food, and too much of it, and I went to sleep, woke up, and had a donut for breakfast, not because I couldn’t have had a bowl of cereal, but because I had thrown in the towel after a series of failures on my own part.  I was *trying* to eat responsibly, but I was also moving and packing and had no time to cook, and the smallest things I could buy outside were still too big, and well-wishers brought us junk food and friends met us in malls, and one slip up after led to stop trying  because I was just going to slip up again anyway.

[Note: Friends don’t buy friends donuts.   Next time I’m moving, come over with a fruit salad or suffer my flabby, donut-powered wrath!]

Yesterday I wasn’t even trying.  As of now, I am trying again.  Public humiliation can be a good thing sometimes.  And that’s why I swallowed my pride and admitted that I had 20+ pounds to lose.

I could stand to lose forty, actually, but I figure 20 would be pretty amazing start.  Provided I climb out of this donut and get back on the wagon.  So I am trying again, InshaAllah.  Which will be a challenge, because tomorrow we go back to the old house for the last time to pack the last boxes and load up the last truck, and there is no stove, no food, and no refrigerator for me to keep pre-packed lunches in during this 100+ heat.  Please make dua for me, cuz I really, really need it!

Mission X-20: Coming soon to a blog near you

Out of the chub that covers me

Though soft I sit from pole to pole

I thank forever the Lord that Be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the sweet clutch of circumstance

I have not pinched nor snacked around

Under the bludgeoning of chocolate chance,

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of fat and fears

Looms but the horror of the shade

And yet the menace of these years

Finds, and shall find me, unweighed.

It matters not how great the plate

How charged with condiments the roll

I am the Master of my fate

I am the captain of my…stomach.

I first mangled William Henley’s Invictus six years ago, and I was then, as now, trying to lose weight. I wasn’t dieting, but I was exercising and trying to eat according to the Sunnah, which, on a side note, is possibly the only weight loss plan endorsed by God Himself. SubhanAllah. 🙂 Fast forward six years, and I’m not trying to lose weight so much as I am trying to try to lose weight.

To say that I’m trying to lose weight implies that I am actively doing something about my weight. I’m only trying to try, which means I forget I’m supposed to be trying, have a second helping of Thai green curry and then later remember that I wasn’t supposed to be filling my stomach. And then I feel sad, so I have a cookie. I’m not joking. I’m struggling here, and like many other young mothers, the only proof I have of a previous life and waist-size are some pre-marriage abayas lovingly kept and impossible to wear except as righteous-looking wetsuits. With matching sheilas.

And I’m typing this as a much, much needed reminder to myself, because I will be turning 30 in five months, and while there’s no magic to the number, there is the fact that my health as a human being isn’t going to automatically improve or maintain itself. I’m not old, but I’m not getting any younger, and the older I get, the harder it will be to get into shape. Besides, the excuse that you’re only carrying a little post-baby weight only works when you actually have a baby. Iman is no longer a baby, she’s an all-singing, all-dancing, hair-pulling, toe-biting, cookie-stealing two-year old. With whipped cream and a cherry on top.

So it’s time for me to dust off the old resolve, and bolster it with some imperative and structure it with some best practices. Here I go.

I resolve to lose weight, InshaAllah. I have done it before, and with Allah’s Grace I will do it again. I once lost 50 pounds with the same- God’s help, eating according to the Sunnah, and exercise. The exercise wasn’t very intense, and it was secondary to controlling my stomach. So how does one eat according to the Sunnah?

“No human ever filled a vessel worse than the stomach. Sufficient for any son of Adam are some morsels to keep his back straight. But if it must be, then one third for his food, one third for his drink and one third for his breath.” –The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, recorded by Ahmad, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasaa’I, Ibn Majah – Hadith sahih.

It took me almost two years to master eating according to the Sunnah, and it was one of the hardest battles I had ever fought against myself. Once I finally did it though, I can testify- it feels amazing. Eating according to the Sunnah does not mean that you go hungry, it means that you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you are satiated, not full. Being satiated means that the need to eat has passed, though the desire may still exist. The need is a function of how empty your stomach is, but the want being a function of how good the food tastes.

The funny thing about eating this way is that in a few hours, you’ll get hungry. Surprise! If you’re eating to satiation, and not fullness, this is natural. So eat again just until you’re satiated, and life goes on. And gradually, your stomach shrinks, you start to feel light and energized, and you can enjoy a meal without having a belly-ache afterwards. The weight begins to fall off by itself- no dieting, no counting calories, no carbs this or protein that. You are consuming enough calories to fuel your body’s basic needs without putting excessive amounts into storage (fat). And you have mastered one of the most overpowering urges that humans can experience- the desire to overeat.

Of course, you do need to exercise common sense- don’t fill a third of your stomach with bon-bons. Don’t drink a third’s worth of grape soda. Eat normal food, drink water, and remember that you are in control of your body. You’re in charge, not the stomach!

When you start losing weight, and passing by mirrors and thinking things like- hey, that doesn’t look half bad! Then you’ll probably want to accelerate the melting process. That’s where moderate exercise comes in. Do something, anything aerobic for fifteen minutes a day. Take a walk around the block. Run up and down your stairs, get on a bike- just do something, anything, to get your blood pumping and your muscles moving.

Weight loss is, simply speaking, a matter of math.
Input vs Output

One pound of human fat contains approximately 3,500 calories. In order to lose one pound a week, you need to decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories a day. And yeah, you could starve yourself briefly, creating miserably sudden weight loss, but there’s a good chance you would cut into muscle mass, mess with your metabolism, and then fall face-first into a gallon of ice cream once you had reached your goal, thus, undoing all your hard work.

Dieting NEVER works, because dieting is a reduction of calorie input that is generally a) drastic, and b) unsustainable, and therefore temporary. Temporary changes in eating habits only yield temporary results, because the underlying problem (consumption of excess calories) has not been addressed. Once you go back to your old habits, you inevitably go back to your old weight.

Eating according to the Sunnah is different, because a) you are never hungry, only satiated and b) it is a permanent shift. It is a change in how you perceive food, eating, and the purpose of your stomach. It’s a fuel tank, not a bean bag.

So here I go. And to keep myself honest, I’m going to blog updates. If X is my starting weight (and no, don’t ask me what X is) then the goal is X-20. I’ll weigh myself tomorrow morning, and I have five months to lose 20 pounds. I was going to say 30, but with my grinding, groaning right knee and a move to Dubai coming up soon, I need to keep my goals reasonable. Make dua for me, ladies. (Brothers are exempt for praying for my weight loss, thank you) I’m going to need it!