Z's Personal Blog
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I don't like fasting (Part 2)
Why I Now Fast Voluntarily
We always talk about the spiritual benefits of Ramadan but fasting is such an amazing way to regulate your eating and correct your bad habits. My food affects my physical energy, and my mood, which in turn impacts my ibadah.
I reached a point after Ramadan where my eating habits were unhealthy. I needed to do something about it and I could either rely on my non-existent self-discipline or I could decide to fast. I would never normally choose to fast because like I said, I don’t like it. But enough years of experience have taught me that having that ability to restrain your nafs voluntarily has amazing knock-on affects on all other aspects of your life.
In this case, I knew I needed it would help me with my eating habits. So here are the things that I remind myself of to help me.
The 1/3 Rule
“I heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say: ‘A human being fills no worse vessel than his stomach. It is sufficient for a human being to eat a few mouthfuls to keep his spine straight. But if he must (fill it), then one third of food, one third for drink and one third for air.’” [Ibn Majah]
During Ramadan, I strictly apply this rule, and it is hard. I love my mum’s cooking and I wanna eat just for the sake of eating but I know that it doesn’t take much to fill me up, especially when you’ve broken your fast on dates and water. People(including me) say that fasting shrinks your stomach. Apparently, the correct terminology is it regulates your appetite cues meaning it can change how your stomach adjusts to hunger and feeling full. But you have to actually put the effort into that by not overeating and follow the thirds rule. Put less on your plate, drink a glass of water before eating and if you’re still hungry, then go for more.
I read a book on mindfulness that said it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to register that it’s full from when you eat. Now I eat disturbingly fast. I can finish a meal and dessert in 5 minutes and still feel ready for seconds. I can finish my meal before the Maghrib athan finishes and that’s a problem.
In order to actually eat mindfully, especially outside of Ramadan, I have to drink a glass of water slowly, and then put a spoon in my mouth and put my spoon down and not pick it up until I have swallowed my food. It’s a conscious effort but I’m able to realize when I need to stop eating, and not gonna lie I will still feel sad that I wasn’t able to eat more and savour the taste for longer.
(Please note, I’m not eating and staying hungry, I am completely full, and I know that if I eat more, I will feel heavy and sluggish.)
Initially, it was a struggle because shopping on an empty stomach meant I had a huge supply of junk food that I only had a 5-hour window to eat. It was very painful to watch the food expire and be thrown out because I couldn’t eat it in time. But that made me reevaluate what I ate.
Eat for Energy
Fasting makes you choose your food wisely, especially when you’re doing long hours, and you’ve decided that you’ve learnt to stop overeating. You will have no choice but to make healthier choices for foods that will keep you full and give you energy. I avoid fried foods, I pick the useful fruit and vegetables. I avoid things that are sugary or very salty and it works. For healthy recipes, check out my cousin Monty and his wife Ayesha’s youtube channel here.
Exercise your Self Discipline to Consume in Moderation.
As a former lover of takeaway and someone with a massive sweet tooth, this one is hard. I have to exercise my willpower to say no to unhealthy foods when they’re in front of me. I’ve never cut anything out from my diet, and I don’t classify food as good or bad but it requires regular willpower to make sure I don’t overdo it. If there comes a time when I really want to eat something, I will have it and enjoy it, but in healthy moderation. Takeaway is so easily available that it makes it even harder. If you’re not bothered to cook, just order a pizza instead.
I have to tell myself “Z don’t worry if you say no to this now, it doesn’t mean that you won’t eat it again in future This isn’t the only opportunity to eat this food.” Plus the cravings will go away. In my case, I had severe sugar cravings which I think were also withdrawal symptoms too since I have way too much sugar in my diet.
Last week I reached a point where I was gonna order 6kg of brown/dark brown sugar to make an endless pile of cookies, all because I was craving subway cookies. It’s so easy to lose control when it comes to food, and exercising self-discipline isn’t easy but it gets easier. Also if you up your cooking game, takeaway will no longer be able to compete.
I have also come to realise that with the exception of pizza hut, anytime I have ordered takeaway, it has never been worth the money. I eat it, and I’m like…why did I succumb to my cravings?
Call a Friend Who Can Help
I have a friend who studied biomedical sciences and I have ordained her as my doctor and ask her about all things related to health despite the fact that she’s not a doctor and she gets all her answers from google and is as clueless as me.
I called her on day 5 of fasting and spoke to her for an hour and told her what my struggles were in terms of sugar cravings, and feeling hungry and we talked through everything with her giving me advice on what worked for her. I needed that. We compared our eating habits, talked about the way we snack and broke down how our foods affect our energy levels and productivity during the day, and it was a good reminder for me of things that I already knew, but needed to hear again. If you’re feeling stuck, call a friend who can help.
Fasting voluntary days is hard. Fasting when the days are long is harder, but it is the best way to discipline your nafs and Allah says ‘Every good deed of Adam’s son is for him except fasting; it is for Me. and I shall reward (the fasting person) for it.’ [Bukhari] One of the best ways to evaluate how much control you have over your nafs is by looking at your eating habits, and if there’s work to be done, take up fasting.