2023 Ramadan Reflection
This afternoon, we will bring Mama again to the doctor to consult for the left ankle and left collarbone fractures. She fell two weeks ago while playing with my three and a half-daughter and we still don’t know exactly how she broke badly those joints. My mother already has a very weak left side due to a couple of strokes in the last twenty years and she has been living with us in Dubai for five years now. She has controlled diabetes Type 2 but at times she cannot remember where she is, what year it is, or that she was in our factory opening. She is in mid-stage dementia also probably caused by stroke. If you’re new to Co Chocolat or still don’t know me or my sister Luchie, you probably took a double take wondering if you opened the right email. You’re supposed to get yummy chocolates, promos or gift ideas, but yes, you’re on the right mail! 😊 My name is Iman and I am one of the co-founders at Co Chocolat. My mother inspired us in 2016 to start our cacao social enterprise and this healthy chocolate business. However, as I witness the quality of life of this once very smart, very tough iron-lady decline rapidly, it makes me sad but at the same time, it makes me angry too at how little has changed to regulate use of refined sugars for adults and especially children.
Two weeks ago just before Ramadan, I had intended to talk about this seasonal Ramadan product I saw in Carrefour. Loved the packaging, hated the chocolates, loved the toy:
I loved the shape, the carton and even thinking of something similar in the future as our market grows at Co, but where it went down the drain was when I tasted the chocolates inside. Subhanallah, how can people eat this? Just soooo sweet and so creamy that I’m sure if I didn’t drink enough water I’d probably end up with tonsilitis, and I am one who has a sweet tooth! AND to think, this is marketed for KIDS. For KIDS!
And we still wonder why there is an addiction to refined sugar as early as five years? Why there are so many cases of diabetes and comorbidities stroke, heart attack, kidney diseases. Sadly there are still no laws controlling the excessive use of refined sugar and hyper-sugars. We as a society scoff at people when they’re already obese and are struggling to get out of the ‘addiction’. Now if we look at the medical system specially Western medicine, it is BENT on the cure and not the prevention, because there is money in medicines.. a lot of money. Healthy people don’t spend much on hospital bills and medicines, sick people do. However, we as individuals CAN be the change that we want to see.
I remember the face of one parent who did one of our tours in the factory when I talked about how we as parents can actually wreck our kids’ palates early in their lives.
As I let them taste what chocolates are like with 37% cacao, real nuts and reduced sugar, their kid said it was too dark, so I candidly remarked, “When kids become addicted to sugary junk, who taught them what to eat? We chose FOR OUR KIDS what they ate when they’re young, they had no choice what we bought and fed them when they’re 3, 4 years old. WE trained their tastebuds.” And I saw this mom’s reaction; one moment she was smiling, next she was not. Maybe I hit a chord there.
The world does not consider diabetes a global pandemic that needs urgent attention, even though it kills millions yearly directly and indirectly, and creates havoc in the society. Simply because there is a lot of money in refined sugar, hyper-refined sugar and highly processed carbohydrates. It’s too commercially good (for a few) to be stopped, while families suffer from too many co-morbidities. Just two days ago, my old boss from medical research messaged me, “Remember AXXXX? Did you work with him when you were still here?”
“Yes, I did. He was internal medicine resident when I was there,” I replied.
“He died last week. He was 52.”
“He was on dialysis, then had a stroke, eventually pneumonia and went on septic shock.”
I remember AXXXXX though we worked together for about a year from two decades ago. I remember he told me once that their maid eats with them in their meals, because the maid is part of the family. He was that kind of guy. He had Type 2 diabetes.
All this may sound gloomy on this wonderful, hazy Monday morning but let me assure you: I am thankful! I write this with an impassioned mission. I am thankful that my mother is alive and she still gives advise when she is clear, despite her dementia. Alhamdulillah that we altered my mother’s diet, we got to control her diabetes and she is not on dialysis. Alhamdulillah. Twelve years ago, our nephro (kidney specialist) told me that I should be realistic looking at the prognosis of her kidneys. Her life expectancy charts show ten years if there are no medical events. She said Mama’s left kidney was much smaller than the right.. it was functioning at 32%. I cried alone that afternoon and did I not tell my mother anymore. I’m glad I didn’t because she has already exceeded by two years the life expectancy predicted for her. Mama is nearly 75 now. Alhamdulillah. Before the fall two weeks ago, though limping on the left side, she somehow, kinda-sorta-played by badminton. 😊 We would cheer her on if she hit twice and rallied.
So there is a lot of HOPE.. 😊 for us who have family members with a cardiovascular disease and, for us who have a child/children whose food choices later in life will likely depend on how we train their palates and their gut now. Let our fears make us choose better. And though I have medical background and many of my life-long friends are doctors, they don’t hold our destinies. They are not God and though they are very helpful in curing, we have to rely on ourselves on good nutrition and a balanced life to ensure a life well lived.
My mother aside from being a voracious eater in her younger days, also was quick to anger. She rarely took days off and she never had a day of spa, or went on vacation mode. She was just always on work mode I feel, always advising “don’t have too much fun because that’s when accidents happen,” and though this has a lot of wisdom that kept us away from accidents, I personally just had to go skydiving on my second year in Dubai! She could not fathom why Luchie and I both loved the adrenaline rush. This time around we are the ones teaching her the art of doing nothing. Balance.
This Ramadan we have decided as a family to go on super-mindful iftars after our fast. Nothing fried, totally no refined sugars, more veggies, more salads. No buffets! Eating less to gain more 😊
If you haven’t tried the Islamic way of fasting, try it for all its health reasons. Jennifer Aniston goes on intermittent fast, so does Scarlett Johansson. This is the best time to try it because people around you are likely to be fasting.
If you’re a Muslim, this is the month for fasting our stomachs and our tongues, and just being even kinder and more generous. Here is a beautiful daily series from Yaqeen Institute that gives an amazing reminder of Jannah.
May the rest of our Ramadan be filled with kindness, family and spirituality, and may our fasts and good deeds be accepted by the One from Whom all bounties come. Ramadan Mubarak!