Muslims view the fasting month of Ramadan with much sanctity and honor. The fasting month brings about a personal reflection of where we are, what we have done and where we hope to go. Many Muslims feel a heightened sense of excitement as well as anxiety. In this state of excitement, we try our best to welcome in the fasting month with as much preparation as possible. However, at times, we tend to forget the little things. Here are some practical tips to fasting during this blessed month.
Firstly, there’s the pre-Ramadan preparation. Reduce your caffeine habit, preferably a few days before you start fasting so you don’t crave your cup of java during the day. Try to do the optional fasts on Monday and Thursdays (or any day that suits your lifestyle). This will help you get into the Ramadan vibe. Overall, start eating less, especially during the daytime. Or you could have an early morning breakfast and eat lightly during the day then have a full meal at dinner time.
Next, during Ramadan, it is important to make a serious conviction to follow the Ramadan routine. Wake up before dawn, have the pre-dawn breakfast (suhoor) and perform the dawn prayers (fajr). This routine must be ingrained in your mind, body and soul. It is common to have a boost of faith during the early days of Ramadan. The spiritual energy is vibrant and you feel that it is easy to meet Ramadan head on. Then, we may get weak and lose our conviction. We may get lazy and tell ourselves that we have another 3 weeks or so to get back on track. It is best to stay the course and be moderate.
Reduce sodium in your diet, especially during suhoor. This will help to reduce your urge to drink throughout the day. Extreme foods should be avoided as well. These include super spicy dishes (again to reduce the urge to drink after suhoor), high sugar content (to avoid the ‘crash and burn’ feeling), fatty foods and anything else that normally disagrees with you. Try to include foods that have high fiber content (for easy digestion) and that are ‘filling’. It’s important to eat ‘complex carbohydrates’ as they break down slowly. These include grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, and unpolished rice. Lots of fruits and vegetables are not only healthy but also provide a good balance to your meals. These will help sustain yourself until you break your fast. If you are already taking multi-vitamin supplements, don’t stop. Check with a health advisor if you plan to start a new multi-vitamin supplement. Don’t look far to find a vital health supplement. Dates are abundant throughout the year and especially during Ramadan. Dates are known to provide a wide range of essential nutrients and potential health benefits. Another important tip: hydrate! Drink lots of water in the night and before dawn. During suhoor, remember that coffee and tea are known to be diuretics. This could cause you to lose fluids faster.
Don’t binge. Having an empty stomach during the day and then gorging yourself at night can cause lethargy and other gastrointestinal discomforts. The last thing you need is a sloth-like behavior at night and then you miss the precious dawn breakfast.
Bonus tip: meet the community. In the Bay Area, there are few mosques that prepare iftar (dinner to break the fast) for singles. The Muslim Community Association and South Bay Islamic Association conduct daily iftar sessions for singles. Many mosques also hold community iftar sessions on weekends. Meeting the community has numerous benefits including hearing about recipe tips, community events and hopefully some iftar invites!