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Fitness instructor Dodo Harahap, 25, tries to remain faithful to his diet.
He said he has maintained a strict diet since 2009, despite his family’s fondness of fatty dishes such as rendang, a slow-cooked beef in a rich lemongrass and coconut sauce, and curries.
“I prefer not to eat those dishes, which are full of fat and white rice,” said Dodo, who managed to drop
17 kilograms to his current ideal weight of 82 kilograms due to a committed regiment of a strict diet and regular exercise.
His daily meals mostly consist of a high-carbohydrate complex including corn and cassava and high- protein foods, such as boiled egg whites.
Even for him, however, Ramadhan is a test of faith.
“During Ramadhan, my father often cooks rich-flavored dishes, such as curry. Once in a while, I eat a small portion of meat curry with rice, just out of respect for him,” he said.
Dodo admitted that his family would triple grocery shopping during Ramadhan, especially for fruit and takjil, which are light meals to break the fast in the afternoon.
Islamic teachings require abstinence from food and drink during daylight hours and encourage Muslims to also refrain from anger and harming others and themselves. Muslims are encouraged to focus on prayers and other religious activities during the month.
The change of diet, however, leads to more consumption of food, which actually could harm their bodies.
Indonesia Medical Nutritionists Association (PDGMI) secretary-general Yustina Anie Indriastuti said that during Ramadhan, people would consume food with high carbohydrates, protein and fat, as well as vegetables and fruit.
“People often eat too much during breaking of the fast. They are not familiar with the frequent small meal routine. Some have a tendency to skip sahur [pre-dawn meal] — mostly teens — because of oversleeping and, as a result, they are prone to stomach aches and cannot do their work well,” she added.
Yustina said the pattern to consume more food had actually been the trend for many years.
“People also don’t eat nutritionally balanced food,” she said. “Most people consume excessive amounts of fat, sugar and salt,
but less fruits and fiber. People in larger cities tend to eat fried and fast food, which mostly have high levels of oil, sugar, carbohydrates and protein.”
She said that in small cities, people still loved to have three cups of sweetened hot tea per day, smoke and consume salted fish and fried food, which might lead to diabetes and high blood pressure.
Yustina said that in general, Indonesians have succumbed to unhealthy lifestyles that lead to health problems such as obesity, high-blood pressure, hypercholesterolemia and diabetes.
Health Ministry’s Basic Health Research (Riskesdas) in 2010 found that the nutrition status of Indonesians above 18 years of age was dominated by obesity issues, with 21.7 percent considered overweight, higher than those who are considered underweight, who are only 12.6 percent of the population.
Obesity is more common among women, with 26.9 percent of Indonesian women above 18 considered obese, while the rate is only 16.3 percent among men. Nutritionist Phaidon Toruan said there are the “three musketeers” that harm people’s health, which are cooking oil, sugar and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
“They carry neurotoxins which encourage people to not stop eating,” said Phaidon, adding that the habit was maintained during regular and fasting months alike.
“Nowadays, we see a huge number of new franchise restaurants and mini markets popping up almost everywhere. It pretty much reflects the consumption pattern in our society,” he added.
Central Statistics Agency (BPS) reported that the average kilocalorie consumption of cooking oil and fat per person grew to 241 kilocalories in 2011 from 232 kilocalories in 2005. In terms of processed food, the average kilocalories consumption also rose to 304 kilocalories in 2011 from 233 kilocalories in 2005.
“I believe food like pizza is more popular than healthy grilled cassava or bubur kacang hijau [mung bean porridge], although the first menu is much more expensive than the latter,” said Phaidon.