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Food Cravings vs. the Benefits of Hunger Print

Allahís Messenger (Allahís salutations and peace be upon him) said, ďAdamís son does not fill up any vessel worse than his belly. Such morsels that keep his backbone straight suffices Adamís son. If he has to, then a third [of the belly] for his food, a third for his drink and a third for his breath.Ē [Tirmizi]

Overeating, the consequence of uncontrolled cravings, has a negative effect on oneís physical and spiritual health. This article offers some tips to consider in regards cravings, in additional to self-discipline.

Food cravings goes beyond yearning and impulse snacking. It is defined as an insistent desire that one goes to lengths in order to satisfy. Cravings for high calories sweet foods can lead to weight problems.  Control cravings by not going hungry to the extent that you fall victim to binge eating. Low-calorie high-fibre fresh fruit and vegetables and slow-release carbohydrates can assist in avoiding binge eating. These carbohydrates include pasta, muesli, rye bread and sweet potatoes. Small quantities of the craved food, instead of complete deprivation, can be better idea for some.

Some experts still hold to the theory that cravings are the bodyís way of indicating what it needs. It is now more accepted that food is emotionally triggered, e.g. stress, depression or triggers such as sights and smells of foods. Seek alternative, positive ways of dealing with emotional problems such as remembrance of Allah, reading, exercising and other positive outlets for your energy. Exercise self-discipline and avoid situations known to trigger cravings.

While the negative effects of cravings for chocolates, sweets and the like may be understood, cravings for healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables, also exist, and should be noted and controlled.

Imam Ghazali lists ten benefits of hunger:

  1. Purification of the heart and awakening of intuition, as well as giving vent to perception.
  2. Tenderness and purity of heart, which prepare it to attain the delight of contemplation and the impact of dhikr
    Elimination of ungodliness, oppressiveness and obliviousness of God Almighty. Nothing will curb the self and humble it more than hunger.
  3. Not forgetting the affliction of God and His torment, nor for those afflicted to forget; for, he who is satiated is oblivious of the one who hungers, and of hunger itself.
  4. Curbing lusts .To take charge of the self is to overcome evil.
  5. Warding off sleep. He who satisfies his appetite drinks a lot, and he who drinks a lot sleeps a lot.
  6. Facilitating continuous worship. Food prevents many acts of worship because it requires time, time to buy food and to cook it. Then one has to wash his hands and to excrete; this might entail frequenting the bathroom. The time spent on all this if spent on dhikr and contemplation would redound with greater benefit.
  7. Soundness of body is achieved by eating less and warding off sickness caused by excessive food intake.
  8. He who eats less requires little money; but he who is accustomed to satiation becomes a constant debtor to his stomach.
  9. Being generous with surplus food is more commendable than indigestion and satiation.


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