Ramadan | Fasting for the first time
UPDATE : This was written during 2015 which was my first year of fasting. I will be fasting again in 2016 and will share my experiences along the way.
Fasting | Ramadan 2015
So this year I decided to fast for the whole month of Ramadan, whilst not a Muslim I have many Muslim friends and wanted to experience fasting for myself. Not just for a day or two, or for a week, but for the whole month.
Today is Day 20 and the first time that I’ve sat down and thought about my experiences so far and put a figurative pen to paper. So here goes :
Day 1 Woke 9.30 am – Bed 12.30 am
As a complete coffee addict the first thing I notice is the big change to my routine, I normally make my first coffee almost on waking and drink coffee continually during the day. Linking to the coffee thing, I have a headache for most of the day and have a dry mouth partly due to fasting and partly, I’m sure due to a serious caffeine withdraw. Driving in the afternoon I feel less attentive and can’t concentrate, finding a parking space is hard, getting parked inside the lines is a bit harder as I can’t quite concentrate fully, this worries me, surely if I feel like this on day 1 it will get much worse by 30….
At 5pm I leave the comfort of my A/c apartment to stand outside for an hour as part of #FillingTheBlues – I was worried about how I would feel doing this with no water in my system, but honestly it’s ok.
Since morning I’ve been thinking about how to break my fast, and tonight it’s Dates and Laban followed by homemade french onion soup (made without tasting, I’m just realising how many times I taste something whilst cooking) and some lentil crisps – I’m missing chewing/crunching on something ! No gym tonight, but later in the evening I have grilled salmon and salad. I go to bed vowing to drink more water before fasting so set my alarm for 3.30 am and wake up for water then go back to sleep at 4.30 am.
Day 2 Wake Up 9.30 am – bed 4 am
I’m soooooo tired ! Thankfully it’s weekend so I nap intermittently and am fully awake by 3pm – I’m fairly sure most of this is as a result of a serious caffeine withdrawal and the effect of the weekend relax mode rather than fasting but who knows.
Iftar is a buffet at a local Indian Restaurant, followed by a gym session – big mistake – I feel terrible, I over ate at the buffet and find it hard work to exercise properly.
Supper is yogurt and honey, a piece of fruit and two digestive biscuits. I’m now wide awake (of course I napped a lot of the day) so go to bed at 4 am after drinking my water. I’ve a feeling that I’m going to become partly nocturnal …
Day 3 Wake Up 9 am – bed 2.30 am
I feel good ! Full of energy until mid afternoon when I feel dizzy am sure this is due to lack of water, so nothing I can do but suck it up til Iftar. Iftar is dates and laban and water followed by Soup, Salad and a huge mug of coffee.
This evenings gym session is much easier, I’m more of a morning training person given a choice, but I’m begining to get the hang of getting to the gym at 10.pm and training until close to midnight – seriously though my instincts are telling me to go to bed at ten rather than get ready to train.
After training, I’m not hungry at all so go to bed (late, it’s 2.30 am) on a piece of fruit and a yogurt, and then wake at 3.30 am for water.
Day 4 Woke 9.30 am – bed 2.30 am
Woke up feeing really really hot, can’t decide if I’m coming down with a bug or if I don’t have enough water in me to help my body keep cool. I’m sure it’s the water thing as I feel incredibly thirsty all day.
Iftar was soup and salad, plus dates and laban. No gym today as I had to work, late dinner of Yogurt and nuts, plus a few arabic sweets, some protein bread and cheese.
Day 5 – woke 8.30 am – Bed 2.30 am
Feeling good. I’m not actually feeling hungry, in fact I haven’t really felt hungry through the entire process, but do feel thirsty all the time and the last hour before Iftar usually means I have a headache, on saying that, I spend the hour before that outside as part of FillingTheBlues so that probably makes it a little worse.
Iftar and Suhoor meals become a big talking point of my day and I plan Iftar and Suhoor early in the day, in a way it’s replaced my coffee rituals. A friend of mine who is fasting stops conversation mid sentence, to go into a trance like dream where he vividly explains a meal he has been dreaming about, often a huge platter or brown rice covered in nuts, and with roast lamb over it, his description so vivid you can almost see him drool as he talks about it.
Because meals have become something to look forward to I find myself shopping daily rather than weekly, which I also find a bit more expensive, but at least I’m shopping for the food I need, or what my body is asking for, it feels like I’ve become more in tune with my body.
Iftar | Yogurt, Protein Bread and Cheese and dates plus coffee. The carbs were a huge mistake, my body doesn’t like processing carbs today and I slump into a terrible post carb crash so bad that I can’t train and stay home moping around instead. Dinner is soup, salad and an omelette.
Days 6 – 20 (and beyond….)
The days merge into one and are beginning to pass really quickly, fasting seems to be suiting my body quite well and most days I feel good and have plenty of energy to see me through the day (thanks fat stores !). I occasionally need a nap part way through the day, usually 30 minutes and I’m good to go, sometimes a bit more. I’m losing a bit of weight (10 lbs so far) and thankfully my mental clarity has returned so parking has gone back to the doddle it used to be. The bit that I find the toughest is lack of water and coffee, oh, sweet, sweet coffee how I miss you.
I’ve settled into a new routine :
- waking usually between 8 am and 9 am (occasionally later – has been as late as 11.30 am)
- 9am – 5pm- working and running chores until 5 *
- 5pm – 6pm is FillingTheBlues where we are feeding 100+ construction guys an Iftar meal,
- 6pm – 7.15pm back to the house for an hour or so and preparing my Iftar meal *
- 7.15pm – 8 pm Iftar Meal
- 8pm – 10pm tidy up, prep dinner for later (often something to put in the slow cooker) and head out for a coffee shop for a well earned coffee break *
- 10 pm – 12 midnight – Gym Time.
- Midnight – 2.30 am watch TV whilst sipping a protein shake then finish up dinner
- 12.30 am eat late dinner
- Bed is sometime after that, usually 2.30 ish but occasionally later.
- * Potential nap time
Most of my Iftar meals have been at home, I’ve been to a few Iftar dinners but the fasting means that actually I’m not that hungry at Iftar time and I actually like Iftar at home alone or with friends.
Food shopping has become a daily activity, as has meal planning and whilst my shopping bill has increased a little bit I’m enjoying my food more.
I’m worried that on some days I’m not eating enough calories particularly as I’m training hard, so have introduced some more nuts and dried fruit into my meals so that I can get calories without food quantity I also try and get a protein shake in most days if I can.
I’m missing my food rituals and routines and in particular my coffee, but am also savouring everything I have when I have it later, so there’s a plus side too.
Physically, I’ve lost a bit of weight but this should be expected as I’m also training hard (and it wasn’t the purpose of fasting), my skin looks better, it’s clearer and a few people have said that I look more vibrant and alive – this is week 4 with no alcohol and I am drinking less coffee and a lot more water than usual so this must be having an impact.
UPDATE : Day 24
Yes ! I’m still fasting and still feeling good each day I continue it seems to get slightly easier, they say it takes 21 days to change a habit, and I guess that’s true – I no longer automatically reach for a coffee first thing in the morning, I don’t grab water before I go out and to be honest I’m still not feeling hungry – well not until I start cooking just before Iftar.
After lots of trial and error I’ve finally figured out what to eat at Iftar to give me enough energy to train 3 hours later – basically I break the fast with a few dates, a glass of water, half a glass of juice or smoothie, a small bowl of homemade soup – I’m currently loving spinach and potato soup, then I have a some crispy crackers or crisps (I need the crunch). Add to this a few mugs of coffee and I’m good to train. If I eat more than this then I can’t train as I feel uncomfortable, and if I eat less then I run out of energy half way through my training. I’m training quite hard (Following a body building programme) so easily burn 600-700 calories in a 90 minute training session.
My day has literally turned upside down, I’m waking a bit later – say 9 – 10 am and going to be around 2 am or so – just as I’m getting used to these new times, in only a few days time Ramadan will end and I will need to revert back to normal hours – in a way if kinda feels like I’ve been adjusting to constant jet lag lol.
I’m not fasting for the same reasons as my Muslim friends and colleagues, so am not getting the more spiritual reward/feelings that they talk about, but I do feel a feeling of community and a much deeper appreciation of food and water in so many ways.
Handing out food each evening just before Iftar to nearly 200 construction guys, also makes you feel more grateful for everything I have.
UPDATE : Day 29 – probably the last day of Ramadan
At around 9 pm tonight, if the moon is spotted in the right position by the Moon Spotting Committee, then today will be the last day of Ramadan and the next few days will be Eid (if not we fast for a further day and then Eid starts on 18th July 1 day later).
I guess I knew quite early on that I would be able to do this properly for the whole time, although it’s been challenging to fast, workout and work, its not been terrible, I guess I can kind of describe it as a constant feeling of being jet lagged in terms of sleep and feeling tired at odd times of the day etc and, in typical jet lag fashion, just as my body has fully adjusted and it feels comfortable, it’s time to return back to normal and so the adjustment begins again LOL.
Mostly I’ve felt thirsty towards the end of the day, but sometimes all day. I’ve got a much bigger appreciation of the simple pleasures of eating, enjoying small meals or homemade soup at Iftar with juice or laban, and really looking forward to and appreciating my meal after training typically eaten around 12.30 am. Whilst my shopping bill has been a bit bigger as typically I’ve been shopping most days, also as I’ve not eaten out or grabbed a coffee on the go overall my shopping spend is about the same.
My toughest challenge has been the last few days where I have spent two days working in a restaurant taking photos of their menu dishes, tempting – yes, yes, yes – but I resisted and am proud that I did.
The final temptation is that the closer to the end of Ramadan, the more others around me have said things like ‘oh, only a few days to go, why not have a coffee / meal now – you’ve done most of it so why not stop now, you’ve proved that you can do it ‘ … tempting as that offer has been, I’ve declined and, subject to not drinking or eating anything until 7.15pm tonight I will have managed to fast for the whole of Ramadan which feels good.
Pssst – I’m down 11lbs as of today – as a result of fasting ? Maybe …. but I’ve also been watching what I eat and working out hard in the gym 5-6 times per week so it’s probably a combination of both, but 11 lbs is 11 lbs and not to be sniffed at, I’ll take it and add to it going forward.
I’ve been a fan of Intermittent Fasting (you fast for a set period of time each day or for 2 days out of 7 etc) for a while and am sure this is something I will continue to do when Ramadan has ended. Overall the experience has been positive and one that I am fairly sure I will repeat in future years.