The Islamic Post Blog

Dr. Jemille: Health Care Symposium Includes “Body and Soul” Contest by Khalida
May 21, 2009, 7:09 am
Filed under: Magazine/ Culture, May Volume I - 2009 | Tags:

By Dr. Jemille Smith
Islamic Post Staff Writer

As the American Muslim Medical Relief Team (AMMRT) is preparing to kick off our health symposium later this summer, we are looking for ways that people can boost their health in the interim. As we were discussing the details of the event, the topic of obesity and weight were brought up and to what extent it is a problem in our community. Many of our people are quite rotund and suffer from adverse medical sequelae associated with being overweight.
Our team considered what we could do to inspire people to be healthier? What would prompt people to want to get a health screen? By the grace and mercy of Almighty Allah the idea materialized to host a competition between the different locales. We always joke about whose state is better at this or that and now we can prove it. We will see who is best at being both physically and spiritually healthy for this competition will employ elements of physical and spiritual well being. It will be a program aimed at improving your body mass and spiritual “heaviness.” The contest will involve the following:
1. 20 minute exercise program.
2. List of food tips to try to incorporate into your routine.
3. Fasting two days per week. You may also send the spiritual credit of the fast upon a Sufi saint in gratitude to Almighty Allah for His guidance sent through that holy person. This brings great reward.
4.Sufi diet one day per week (details given further down).
Exercise Program
One of the major factors leading to a healthy life is to always include some activity. It is better to try structured activity, such as exercising; however, anything that involves movement will help. A sedentary lifestyle is one the major contributors to obesity and high blood pressure. Do you know that for people with high blood pressure, if they incorporate life style changes (i.e., diet and exercise) it can have the same affect on lowering blood pressure as starting one antihypertensive medication? The exercise program will be of minimal duration so that it may be convenient for all involved. It is a 20 minute low impact, circuit training routine the details of which will be given to the mayors at every locale. It is the hope of the AMMRT that multiple participants from the same locale will do the workout together thus providing support and encouragement for each other as well as increasing community ties.
Food Tips
Though exercise is important, food control is even more vital to losing weight and improving health. I know that a lot of what is considered “healthy” foods are more expensive but there are plenty of healthy options in the things we eat everyday. Additionally, one should try to avoid processed foods as much as possible and eat fresh foods whenever available. Another part of the contest includes replacing all daily drinks, including juices and sodas, with water. Also, we will be cutting processed breads out of our diets for the contest. Homemade flat breads like chappati and naan are sufficient, in moderation. What you can do is eat your normal sandwich “innards” in the form of a salad with the same ingredients (I realize though this may be hard to do with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). Try not to eat foods late at night for it may increase the stress response and usually people go to sleep soon after thus adding to calorie production.
Although fasting does have some health benefits (it helps your gastrointestinal system reset and get rid of “sludge”) the major benefit is spiritual. Thus fasting is not merely abstaining from food, but includes refraining from vile and despicable behaviors and thought patterns the whole period that you are not eating. The contest participants could fast two days per week sending the credit to the Holy Last Messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him), and/or other holy personages. An added facet to this is that if you are among a group that works out together, part of that time could be spent with one person of the group giving a brief account of the man of God to whom they sent the credit of their fast. You should take turns so that everyone gets to present to the group at some point.
Sufi Diet
The last caveat to the contest is the idea of a Sufi diet. While on our medical mission to Pakistan part of our daily lives included eating a light breakfast, such as a boiled egg, a full lunch, and a light dinner as well. This is the Sufi diet and it –to me– is harder than fasting for it takes real will power to only eat an egg and drink a cup of tea and nothing else. The idea behind this is to help with our self-control. As far as the contest is concerned, we are going to do Sufi diet for only one day per week. Those of us who want to be more ambitious can do this on a more regular basis.
The contest will be six-weeks in duration. A central person from each location should be assigned to take care of the details. This person will be responsible for the sign up sheets and for tallying the weights. As far as the days fasted and the total days performing the Sufi diet are concerned, that will be on the “honor system” and you are to report your totals to the assigned individual on a weekly basis. For it to truly be a contest we will have a fundraiser aspect to it. Each locale should try to have a fundraiser dinner in fitting with the idea of a potluck. All participants should contribute something for this meal. If you do not want to or can’t participate, you can sponsor someone for a little money for every pound lost or for every day fasted. At the end of the contest, whichever locale has the greatest percent of “weight loss” (i.e., actual pounds loss, days fasted, and Sufi diet days with the weight loss being the major determining factor) will win. In order to be eligible each locale has to have at least eight to ten participants. Twenty-five percent of the winnings from all of the “defeated” locations go to the winning location to be put in an Islamic village development fund for their particular location. Additionally, the overall top winning individual will get one percent of all of the participating locales monies.
This contest is to promote improving the health in our communities and decreasing the negative outcomes that result from being overweight. We would like to see the health symposium and the Body and Soul Contest be an annual event to eventually include all members of our religiously diverse community. High blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease kill millions of people on a daily basis and anything we can do to keep the incidences of these ailments down, will likely keep our communities strong for many years to come. As always only from Allah, Glorified is He, the Most High, can we be healed.


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