Some of us believe that fasting is simply a religious ritual found in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. But in fact, fasting is much broader than this. Fasting gives our body a chance to heal and repair itself. Even animals are aware of this fact, as theories suggest that animals instinctively fast when sick or injured until their wounds are restored. Fasting can also be traced back to pre-historic man and the great early philosophers, thinkers, and healers used fasting in healing therapy. Buddhist monks fast in their retreats to help them with their self and mind-training, as well as to focus on their meditation. Yoga masters believe that fasting is a natural method of healing the body, mind and soul. Today, holistic healers and physicians use fasting as a healing technique too. Even dietitians created what they call ‘fasting diet’ clinics to help people lose weight!
What are the real benefits of fasting for Ramadan?
- Our bodies are full of toxins, whether it’s from the chemicals in our food, the cleaning products we use to clean our bodies or our homes, the skincare products that are full of chemicals or the polluted environment that we are living in! The holistic approach believes that if the body is given a break through fasting, it has the ability to detoxify itself and get rid of all these toxins in a natural way such as through sweating, urine and stool.
- Our digestive system is like a car’s engine. It needs to rest every once in a while to be able to last longer and perform better. Fasting gives a break to our digestive system and the breakdown of food takes place at steady rates.
- Some experts assert that fasting may promote healing of inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis.
- Fasting promotes weight loss, as long as we break our fast the right way (more below).
- Fasting can help fight addiction. Since abstaining from what you are addicted to for so many hours a day can break your addictive habit if practiced for 30 days. Want to give up smoking? Use your fasting hours during Ramadan to wean yourself off of the habit and addiction.
- Our spiritual life is nourished through fasting since it reconnects us to our bodies, hearts and minds as well as people and the world around us.
- Fasting does promote a healthy diet! When you fast, you learn to discipline yourself against temptations. This is a training process that should help you say no to your unhealthy cravings after the end of these 30 days.
What is the right way to break your fast?
- While you are fasting, your stomach shrinks and your intestines become idle, so solid food must be re-introduced very slowly to avoid kidney failure or digestive distress.
- Start breaking your fast with water, since the most important thing is to re-hydrate your body.
- Slowly ingest foods that are easily digestible such as dates, fruit and vegetable soup.
- Follow this with protein and carbs and make sure you provide your body with a healthy and balanced diet.
What are some bad fasting habits people do during Ramadan?
- Breaking their fast with too much carbs, protein and fried food which can strain the kidneys and digestive system.
- Eating quickly and not chewing food properly which leads to overeating and digestive problems.
- Eating in front of the TV, also known as mindless eating and a contributing factor of obesity.
- Non-stop eating from Maghrib to Fajr which strains the digestive system, disturbs the insulin release in the body and leads to weight gain.
- Over-consumption of desserts, another factor leading to obesity and a disturbance of insulin levels in the body which can contribute to diabetes.
- Drinking carbonated water, coffee, tea and sweetened beverages and neglecting plain water. This leaves the body full of empty sugar calories and caffeine yet still dehydrated.
- Ignoring a specific illness or ailment, or not consulting their medical doctor to check if they need a special diet during this month (or even to avoid certain kinds of food).
- Not getting ready for Ramadan before it starts: by fasting a few days the previous months, cutting down on their caffeine intake or cigarettes or any form of addiction, doing a medical checkup and consulting their doctor to make sure they are eligible to fasting for 30 days.
- Skipping suhoor, having it too early or eating the wrong items, all which make it harder to fast the next day.
- Over-stress and under-sleep because of the increased amount of banquets, gathering and meals that leads to burnout and bad dietary choices. Try to make it easier on yourself by preparing as much food as you can that can be stored in the freezer.
Finally, choose one addiction to drop this Ramadan. It could be an unhealthy food, drink or habit/behavior, but whatever it is, make your resolution and stick to it.