Fasting and its impact on Indonesian eating habits: myth and reality

Ramadhan is a time of year that often sees a rise in both consumption and food prices, as reported in The Conversation. Recent findings from YouGov show a significant increase in spending on food amongst Muslims in UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. These facts show how Ramadhan can change Muslims’ behaviors.


Infographic taken from here.

The change in behavior during Ramadhan not only affects the way people spend their money. In Indonesia, as the country with the largest number of Muslims, Ramadhan is the time for families, friends and relatives to gather to break the fast together (in Indonesian it is called ‘Buka Bersama’ or ’BukBer’). So, of course, Ramadhan also changes eating habits. Nielsen conducted research in Indonesia in 2011 and found that during Ramadhan, Indonesians behave the same way as people in UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. They spend more on food.


Illustration about how breaking fast together becomes a trend during Ramadhan.  

The conversation about Indonesian eating habits during Ramadhan often includes some health myths related to fasting. Here are some of them.

  1. Physical exercises is not necessary during fasting because it only causes lethargy (found here).
  2. Fasting is good for weight loss and can cure various diseases (found here). 

The persistence of these myths is interesting, because there is information available on the Internet to debunk the myths. For example, National Geographic tells us that fasting is only an effective way to lose weight when healthy eating habits are maintained, such as reducing sugar and avoiding certain fats. In spite of this, many women in Indonesia still believe fasting alone is an effective way to lose weight.

And there are other factors at play. In order to find out more, the Tulodo team asked a random citizen near the Tulodo office in Jakarta about her motivations for fasting.

So, when promoting healthy lifestyles, let’s think more about why humans need to eat. First, of course, to provide energy to enable human functions, such as movement and thinking. Second, there are social reasons why humans need to eat. Understanding the intersection of these personal and social dynamics is crucial in developing programs and campaigns to address issues such as healthy lifestyles. Happy fasting!

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Nicholas Goodwin

Behaviour change and international development guy.

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