Marathon of mind, body and spirit
Ramadan is a holy time where muslims fast for one month during the day. Fasting during this special period is an annual event. The occasion ensures families meet daily and are encouraged to eat together. I feel it is a wonderful opportunity for human connection. In this age of technology it is easy to have dinner with your phone, instead this time allows us to prepare special food together as a family. Such foods as chebakia (Moroccan pastry), harira (Moroccan soup), dates and sellou (Moroccan dessert) are Ramadan staples.
I have been fasting for 12 years now. It was much easier in the beginning because some of these fasts occurred in the winter. It felt like the winter suspended my judgement of time. The sunset was earlier, so the days seemed like they were shorter. Also, the weather was a factor, it was cooler.
Foods I ate…
- Shour (Sunrise meal) -Milk, oats, dates
- Ftour (sunset meal) harira (Moroccan soup with vegetables, meat and herbs) egg juice dates pizza briouat (sweet puff pastry)
- 4 glasses of water
- Ftour: egg juice milk dates maloui (flour, salt snack) chebakia (Moroccan pastry)
- Shour :juice,petit pain (French Bread with chocolate) ,dates,chebakia,melon
- 5 glasses of water
Challenges of fasting for a month
In the beginning it is always hard because we adjust and actively challenge our subconscious behaviours ( food, time, sleep, activities…). Gradually after a few days it is surprising how quickly the human body adapts.
“The hardest part is surely when it is hot and I cannot have water”
Managing my energy levels in warm weather without regular meals is a real test of will. Living in a hot country such as Morocco means that lack of hydration is something I must be vigilant of. The hardest part is surely when it is hot and I cannot have water. Hydration levels can also affect my ability to concentrate, which weakens as the day goes on. Luckily at work, hours are reduced during Ramadan and I make it a point to conduct important tasks in the morning when my brain is in gear.
“I don’t think about the number of meals, I think about the quality. We have dates, milk, the harira, we try to make a variety of foods that boost your will-power.”
Not having a great deal of mental and physical energy also impacts on my friendships. I notice during this month that I prefer to conserve my energy and reduce my social engagements. In saying that, we have a lovely habit before ramadan where we will call and message old friends and family to wish them well for the fasting month ahead. Even though people are not meeting as regularly, this time reminds me that humans are always connected through their daily struggles.
Emotions and fasting
There is a real collective spirit during this holy month, emotional traits such as empathy can be sharpened. It is true, that when your eating and sleeping habits change, you will change. In the western world, it is taken as a given that we should have 3 meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner. However, during Ramadan, we eat late at night (Ftour) and early in the morning (Shour). For me, it is not about the amount of the food that you eat in the day, but the quality (goodness and nutrients) that allow you to be at your best.
“Prolonged fasting does put a strain on your primal needs such as hunger, which certainly can affect your mood.”
As millions of people are following this pattern for a month, we really feel for each other. We are passing the time together. I believe we can better empathise with each other, understand human nature more closely and be more tolerant. Prolonged fasting does put a strain on your primal needs such as hunger, which certainly can affect your mood. What I find useful for my emotions is to think kind thoughts and to be compassionate toward others.
Controlling the mind is a task that can be difficult on the best of days. I do believe that fasting is a great way to improve discipline both in our thoughts and actions. When we are fasting, we are controlling ourselves to not eat, drink, and we check our default behaviours. It is true that humans are creatures of habits, and being able to improve will-power is truly liberating. I use this time as an opportunity to train my self-control. I remind myself that I am the boss of my life. I choose to resist the things that no longer serve me. I think it is true that self control is like a muscle, the more you work it – the stronger it becomes.