This is my first time fasting during Ramadan, as a non Muslim it has been a very interesting and rewarding experience. I first decided to start fasting to show support toward my Muslim friends, my friends told me the purpose behind the fasting was to build restraint and to work on your individual spirituality. Since my spirituality was something I had not paid too much attention to over the years, I thought that Ramadan might offer me the opportunity to work on that.
There were a few things that I needed to learn about fasting before I could commit to it, the first was that complete fasting also included not drinking any water. Usually most people think fasting is the act of not eating anything but drinking water is okay (like when you go to the doctor to get blood glucose levels checked), but complete fasting is not ingesting *anything*. The second thing I learned was that Muslims fast from sunrise until sun down. The meal that breaks you fast is called Iftar, and is usually celebrated with friends and family as a very large feast every night. The last meal before the fasting commences is called Suhoor. The actual times of Iftar and Suhoor vary depending on the day, so it was important for me to be woken up by my friends (typically around 2:30 AM) so I could get some water in me.
Waking up in the middle of the night to drink water and eat an egg or two did mess up my sleeping schedule a bit. Since the majority of Ramadan landed during finals season, I fasted leading up to finals, but decided to not fast the actual week of finals. I ultimately think this was the best decision for me personally because I pulled a couple “all nighters” and ended studying for a total of about 80 hours. My body while fasting was not performing the best, and I often felt a lot colder than I normally would, but I think this is because I dove straight into it without “half days” as some young Muslim children might go through. My friends told me that as kids their parents would have them fast for only half the day and maybe add an hour each day so that they could get used to it. I would suggest that if you are thinking of fasting (whether it’s for health or religious reasons), start off with a few half days to get into the rhythm of it.
In Islam there are a few people who have exceptions from fasting. These people include: young children, pregnant women, people with blood sugar problems (like diabetes), elderly folks, and people who may need to take medication at certain times of the day that requires them to eat. Fasting is not meant to worsen your health, it’s supposed to make a person stronger mentally and spiritually, so those who are in the categories mentioned above should avoid fasting or talk to a doctor before they decide to.
Overall fasting has made me realize that I am a lot stronger than I thought I was, and I have a much bigger respect for the Muslims in my life who practice this every Ramadan. It has also made me realize how dominated my life is by food, how much I look forward to meals throughout the day, and how fortunate I am to be able to afford food.
If you are fasting, or if you choose to fast in the future; I have composed a list of things that can help you from thinking of hunger. Here are a few things you could do to distract yourself from the emptiness in your belly:
- Read – a book, an article, a friend’s admission’s essay, anything! Suggestions: The Spirit Catches You When You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas, any of the Harry Potter books.
- Watch a YouTube video – catch up on your favorite vlogs that you’ve fallen behind on watching, or see what’s trending today (tip: avoid food videos).
- Binge a TV series or watch a movie – Suggestions: Handmaid’s Tale, any Marvel movie, The Office, Silver Lining’s Playbook, Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Hang out with your friends
- Clean up your room/bathroom/kitchen
- Read up on local politics
- Call your mom/dad/someone who means a lot to you, and catch up with them
- Make an album on your phone of your favorite memes for quick access during group chat conversations
- Do your homework
- Set achievable goals for yourself
- Do some light stretches that won’t tire you out or make you pass out
- Write some poetry
- Make a playlist of your favorite music from when you were younger and then listen to it
- Organize your desk space
- Go gift shopping for the next event you’re going to – graduation, wedding, birthday, etc.
- Call/text/facetime/or see your significant other
- Take your dog on a nice steady walk that won’t tire you out
- Take a nap until Iftar
- Paint your nails or chip the nail polish off your nails and repaint them
- See what you sibling(s) or friends are up to and go distract them
- Write a blog post
- Talk to a coworker about their gardening (or your own gardening)
- Plan out a vacation for the summer (or winter or fall or spring…)
- Set up a good budgeting system for yourself and stick to it
- Learn how to use Excel like a pro
- Make an Excel sheet of the med/dent/law/grad schools you want to go to and their admissions requirements/GPA/admissions test score averages
- Study for your classes even though you have nothing coming up… study harder if you do have something coming up
- Learn a new language (my favorites/easier ones: ASL, Spanish, and French)
- Brush your dog or cat’s fur if needed then clean up the mess afterwards
- Make an obscenely long list of things
- Think about your thinking
- Fill your online shopping cart up with things and then delete it because you can’t afford anything
- Actually buy something you need – a pair of running shoes, a notebook, socks, etc.
- Fix your posture and keep it that way
- Learn how to code
- Listen to a new genre of music that you haven’t given a shot at before
- Make food for when you can eat
- Reflect on why you are fasting
- Read up on Ramadan
I hope this helps you keep from thinking about food every 3 seconds and brings you closer to when you can break your fast! Happy fasting, and Ramadan Kareem!