Starting tonight, the holy month of Ramadan will be upon us, and it is an exciting time for Muslims everywhere. We get to be reborn spiritually, and connect with God in a special way. While our hearts and minds are excited about the prospect, it’s our bodies we fear most.
Here in Kuwait we have 15.5-hour fasting days in sweltering heat that has reached over 50 degrees Celsius. So, while we’d love to be the happy-go-lucky faster that exudes only positivity, sometimes that’s just not going to happen. To help you stay on your spiritual journey, we at bazaar have created a list of 10 things you should avoid to get through this month in one piece. Preferably the same size piece that you started with.
Aunties at iftar- It can be difficult to work up an appetite on demand right at iftar. Some of us just want to have a cup of water, and some dates. Maybe wait a few minutes, and then nibble on some salads. You know, keep a flow going. Unfortunately when you go to an iftar dinner, the hostess tends to take it as a personal insult when you don’t try everything on her 3-meter long dinner table. Then there are the desserts, where every auntie in attendance expects you to try her specialty dish.
To avoid their scrutiny try these tips:
- Put something with a lot of sauce on your plate first, just a spoon. Then swirl it around to make it look like there was a lot of food that is now happily in your tummy.
- Find the smallest spoon possible (check near the tea tray), and serve yourself just one spoonful of everything on the table. There! You tried everything!
- When you are done eating make a big production of telling the hostess how wonderful everything was. Try “Everything was so good I can’t pick a favorite!”
- When all else fails, hide in a room or with the smokers on the balcony. Hopefully there are so many people she won’t notice you until the food is gone.
Azodicarbonamide and any other ingredient you can’t read: This should really be a rule of thumb in your everyday life. But, in Ramadan it’s especially important. You’ve got about 9 hours to eat every night. In the time you also need to pray, sleep and do anything that just won’t get done without coffee. Don’t waste precious stomach real estate with crap. Eat things that are full of vitamins and minerals (like fruit and salad). You can have potato chips again when the month is over.
Salt: Dehydration can make this month go from holy to torturous very quickly. Just drinking two liters of water a day won’t make as much of a difference if you are filling yourself up with salty foods like potato chips, pizza and salt crusted fish. Do your body a favor and replace the salt with spices. Or turn into a dehydrated monster the next day.
Eating really quickly. Breath! It’s been 15 hours since you could eat anything, but that’s no excuse to eat everything in under 15 minutes. The food isn’t going anywhere. Chew every bite for at least 10 seconds, and count to ten after you swallow before stuffing your fork in your mouth again. You will know when you are full.
Overeating: Your favorite dish may be on the table, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat ALL of it. The problem with Ramadan is that so often we find out most favorite dish ever right there when it’s time to break fast. Well, really any dish can become the most amazing thing in the world after 15 hours of fasting. Binge eating at the end of a long fasting day can really put your stomach through the ringer. Plus, your body needs to digest all of this food, which requires energy and will make you feel even hungrier the next day. If you overeat from day one, by day 30 life will not be pleasant.
Switching day and night. It is not OK to sleep all day, and stay up all night. That’s cheating, and not really fasting. (Unless you have a night job). More important studies have found that sleeping through the day and staying up all night is worse than not sleeping enough. Your genes (the little workers that make protein, which is the building block for almost everything in your body from enzymes to muscles) get confused, and only one percent of them are working when you are awake. A month of that, and you are bound to see the fat pile up, and the grogginess set in. Permanently.
Deep fried foods. Put down the samosa. OK well not that one, but really stop at two. Frying food is so easy, and usually a major crowd pleaser. In Ramadan it’s almost a must to have at least three different kinds of samosas at dinner: cheese, meat and vegetables. They are easy to eat too, and you hardly notice when you snag your fourth one off the serving plate for a quick bite before the real eating begins. Fried foods fill you up with wasted calories, making you hungrier later in the night and pushing you into a vicious cycle of eating but never feeling full.
Outdoor activities during the day. This seems so obvious, being in Kuwait. We try not to go out during the day even when it isn’t Ramadan. During this month, when you can’t even drink water, try to schedule your errands and outings late afternoon or right after iftar. Avoid ever being in the sun too long, or your car for that matter. Try to get as much done during the weekend as possible. You will probably get stuck in major traffic, but better to be hydrated and awake in traffic then dehydrated and driving around empty streets with a migraine.
Skipping suhur. You gotta get up to pray, so why not wake up 20 minutes earlier for suhur. Not only is breakfast the greatest meal of the day (foul, eggs, pancakes! YUM!), it’s also the most important. If you’ve followed all the other advice we’ve given you this should be really simple. Prepare your suhur before you go to bed. Then, when you wake up it’s just a matter of heating everything up. It’ll also motivate you to get up, because who wants all their hard work to go to waste.
Laziness The Ramadan lazy curse hits the Arab world every year. It’s a great excuse to not do anything. You’re too hungry all day, and too busy at night to really do anything. FIGHT IT!! Take a walk right before iftar to avoid hangry moments you might regret later. Take up a crafting project to do when you get home to keep your hands busy. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t nap in the afternoon. A couple of hours of sleep could do a world of good. Just don’t spend your waking fasting hours in front of a television. Unless you really like your waistline and want it to double in size.