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This Ramadan, let’s take a step back to reflect about why we fast in the first place. Studies have shown that our mind, body and spirit are all enhanced when we’re fasting, so this month, let’s embrace the joys—and the benefits—of giving up toxic influences.
Fasting is a beautiful way to cleanse the body. When we abstain from food and water, we often feel dizzy and experience headaches and fatigue. The good news is that these are some symptoms that tell us that the body is impure and it is going through a cleansing process. The cleaner the body is, the more sensitive we become to how different types of foods affect us. For example, have you ever noticed how many hours worth of energy one date and a glass of water or milk can give you?
The real reason we eat is to help the body support the mind so that it can do what is required. For example, sometimes our body feels sluggish and the mind needs to work. That’s when we need foods that are high in sugar to energize the body such as bananas, dates, mangos and dried fruits. Other times, the mind is ready to relax but the body is full of heat and stress, and that’s when we need foods that are high in water to help the body cool down like cucumbers, watermelon, cantaloupe, lettuce and other green leafy vegetables.
This Ramadan, break your fast with a date and some milk, but before rushing to the main meal ask yourself why am I eating? Is it out of habit? Do I feel pressured because of the social gathering? Or is it out of fear that I am going to get hungry later?
Fasting allows us to reconnect with our willpower and mind power. Suddenly, all of the cravings and ongoing demands of the body for coffee, chocolate, water and food, can be ignored. Isn’t it amazing how much power we can exert to control the body?
But when the body is impure, it is challenging for the mind to gain control over the body. This is because many of us consume foods that act like drugs and produce chemicals in the brain that induce a craving, essentially developing into an addiction. For example, foods such as sweets, cheese, caffeine, refined wheat products (like pasta, pastries and breads) and sugary carbonated drinks. But if we come to understand that the real reason for eating is to sustain us through life, then we can align our willpower with a desire to eat healthy foods and say no to the foods that produce cravings and addictions.
If you can say no to food and water for 16 hours a day in Ramadan, then why not take that a step further and say no to addictive foods and behaviors (like excessive smoking) when the month is over? Moderation is often the key, as is gradual substitution. Replace sweets with natural honey and fruits and drink herbal teas to reduce cravings.
Fasting is a wakeup call. It allows us to really feel what it’s like to live without food and water. It gives us the opportunity to feel the pain of those who do not have access to food at any time of day, and we realize how often we take food for granted and eat out of pleasure or boredom.
When we fast, we come face to face with our emotions. We feel bored, sad, afraid, angry, frustrated, disappointed. Most of us react to our emotions by grabbing a drink, chocolate bar, cigarette, shisha or a coffee, but when we fast, it is no longer possible to hide behind a curtain of food or stimulants to shelter us from how we feel. Thus, fasting is an excellent way to reconnect with how we feel and take ownership of our feelings. After all, it is feelings that propel us into new directions. They are a little like traffic signals: red, yellow and green.
So this Ramadan, why not take the fast to a new level and take ownership of negative emotions rising up inside you. Respond by embracing the emotion—you’ll notice that when the emotion is strongest you’ll feel an urge to shout at someone, bang on the desk or even grab a drink or have a cigarette. At this point just pause and ask yourself, what is the reason or trigger behind this emotion? What is it trying to tell me about me?
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