Ramadan is an Islamic month of the calendar and is a time when Muslims practice one of the five pillars of Islam, which is fasting. The fast lasts from sunrise to sunset so in northern countries, in the summer, that can be incredibly long. Yes, Yes, I know your first question is “But how do people fast in the Northwest Territories in the summer with 24 hours sunlight?” There is a solution to that too. You follow the country/city closest to you that does have a “night”. There are some cases in which the fasts are 21 hours long regardless. In Toronto, our fasts this year are about 18+ hours a day. It is not an easy one, but it’s absolutely doable for those of you who ask “But how!?” You realize people stay hungry for a lot longer than that all over the world right and it is without choice? Just pretend you’re even poorer than you are. Hah!
So what kind of fasting is it? We don’t eat or drink anything during the 18 hours, and we abstain from being intimate as well. Relax yourself over there Anxious Jane, you have 5 to 6 hours to eat and drink and cuddle your brains out if that’s your sort of thing. People who don’t need to fast? Anyone who is physically unable to; such as, the elderly, sick, children, travellers, or pregnant women. Who wants to mess with a pregnant woman’s food anyways? Can you imagine? Women also don’t fast during that oh so special time of the month, but wait- you have to make up those missed days any time after Ramadan. A-ha!
With regards to the effect fasting has, you may shake your head thinking, “But aren’t we supposed to eat multiple small meals a day because that is healthy for our bodies? Why are you sending your body into starvation mode only to eat all together twice and that too, late night?” It is ONE month out of an entire year. Do you really think your body won’t be there to support you when you have put it through so much? Don’t tell me you’ve never gorged on an entire packet of chips at 3 am or eaten a whole pile of butter chicken on your own. How about those chocolate bars you’re hiding in your office? In fact, fasting for part of the day allows you to eliminate toxins from your body and if you eat well/right at Iftar and Suhoor, you will feel great! The fasting time is just enough that your body first turns to glucose for energy and then to your fat stores, then to protein/muscle mass but by that time you’ll have eaten and probably started the cycle again. So the key? Eat the right things.
There are many tips on how to eat healthy and make the most of Ramadan- just do a quick google search. I personally think the easiest and most practical way to eat during Iftar and Suhoor is to cover all food groups: Vegetables, Fruits, Grains, Protein, Water, Dairy, and Healthy Fats. It is easier to keep track of. Here is a good article on Suhoor foods for those of you who are not sure what to eat at 3 am. All over the world people (I didn’t say I haven’t done this) tend to feast at Iftar right up until Suhoor. What is the point then of fasting all day if you break your fast with deep fried spring rolls, fried dumplings, 10 kinds of meat, and all the desserts you don’t even normally have.
Eat real food and don’t waste your time making all those snacks and fried treats. We all plan to eat healthy but when Iftar time rolls around, oh man it’s tempting to eat the unhealthiest deliciousness first and then look at the fruit or something of the sort. To prevent this, you have to be organized. If you find it’s not easy for you to cook during your fast, cook right after Iftar! It will mean you’re not just lying around after eating. Use that time to prepare your Suhoor and Iftar for the next day. Also, just don’t dish out the other food unto your plate with your salads and vegetables. Eat your greens separately and first. It will fill you up and you won’t eat as much of that scrumptious lasagne or steak. I know some of you are looking at your phone or computer screen going “What do you mean no samosas or sambousek?” Look, you’re going to be invited for at least a couple of Iftars at someone’s house, eat that stuff then. At home or at the mosque, go for the healthy items first. It will be worth it. If I can change how I eat in Ramadan, you definitely can!
But the fast is not just for the body, it is for the mind as well! In fact, for me, it is definitely more about the latter. We’re supposed to be patient, kind, thoughtful, charitable, friendly and all things sugar and spice. That is infinitely harder to do when you are hungry, thirsty and possibly low on sleep but are working hard regardless at your job and/or at your home chores. This allows you to practice self restraint and to take everything good that you have turned into a habit during this month and carry it through the rest of the year. “But aren’t we supposed to be like that all year around?”- yeah I heard you say that. Duh. It is a month long training session to remind us what we should be like and doing it under tougher circumstances enables us to focus. It is a time to reflect on your character, behaviour and relationships, especially with God. You will notice that you’re more honest with yourself and are able to reflect on self improvement even more.
So use this time to train your mind, body and soul to learn and reinforce the right habits for your day to day life for the rest of the year until next Ramadan when you’ve forgotten it all and need another reminder. Think THIS:
Now, mandatory shameless plug please check out our recipes to see what suits your needs during this month of fasting.
P.S: Somewhere around 2025 onwards Ramadan will be super short in Canadian winter months. WIN!
hAPPY eATING & kEEP sMILING
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