As Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadan, Melan Mag contributor, Sue Omar explores the positive impact that fasting for 30 days can have on your mind, body and soul.
Fasting is one of five fundamental pillars of Islam that is required to be fulfilled by the billions of Muslims across the globe during the holy month of Ramadan. No food or water is allowed to be consumed between sunrise and sunset as an act of piety that propels believers closer to their creator, Allah. And despite the hunger pangs and dehydration that one may experience at several points throughout the day, this form of fasting has surprisingly been linked with many health benefits.
“The underlying message behind Ramadan is self-discipline and self-control,” says Dr Razeen Mahroof in his guide to effective fasting for the NHS. Read on to discover how fasting for 30 days can improve your mind and body.
Reduce your appetite
After fasting for the whole day, the size of your stomach naturally shrinks and while you may have intentions of eating everything in sight, you’ll find that it will only take a few bites to keep you full. As your appetite declines, you will begin to have a newfound appreciation for food and realize that over-eating is a bad habit as you can actually survive on less and still feel satisfied.
Learn How to Eat a Balanced Diet
Some people believe that the act of fasting alone will kick-start dramatic weight-loss which is far from the truth. In order for you to lose weight while fasting you need to incorporate healthy habits and a balanced diet into your new lifestyle. Muslims start the day with their pre-dawn meal known as Suhoor which should be moderate and wholesome to keep you energized until the evening meal, Iftar. “Slow digesting food like pitta bread, salad, cereal (especially oats) or toast provide a constant release of energy,” Dr Mahroof says. “It’s important to have some fluids with vitamins, such as fruit juice or fruit,” he adds. As for Iftar, this is where self-discipline comes into play, as tempting as it maybe to over-indulge, it’s all about the quality of food you eat VS. the quantity. Start by drinking plenty of water and eating dates in accordance to Prophetic traditions and then move onto a light meal that mostly consists of protein, healthy fats, dairy and vegetables. Try and avoid meals that are high in sugar and keep your intake of carbohydrates to a minimum along with fried foods.
Discover Your Inner peace
Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to work on your inner-self through thoughts, prayer and meditation. Through practicing acts of kindness such as helping the homeless or giving to charity – another pillar of Islam – during this period, you will gain a sense of spiritual fulfillment. When our inner-self is strong and nurtured, we are able to thrive as individuals and achieve overall self-improvement, whether this is within or outside of a religious capacity.
More Time for Self-Care
Believe it or not, food can be a major distraction in our daily lives which means that fasting gives you more time to do the things that are important to you. From catching up on reading to treating yourself to a face-mask and learning how to cook new dishes, you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll have to focus on things that make you feel good. And as the waiting-game continues, you can use these moments to reflect on life and plan your short-term and long-term goals.
Sign off from Social Media
As Muslims tune themselves into their religion during Ramadan – more recently – many chose to unplug themselves from social media for 30 days so that they can focus fully. Social media can often distract us from our connection with self as it fills our mind with unnecessary information about other people’s lives. And while this is not always a bad thing, by logging off from social media for the month, you’ll find that you have more time to give to yourself, which may even make you feel happier and better about yourself. “We compare our lives to others’ in order to reinforce our belief that we are not good enough in some way – social media is so accessible and therefore has its role to play,” says Psychotherapist Alex Carling.
So, what do you think? Are you ready to try the 30-day fast?