For the next 30 days, over one billion people around the globe will be observing the holy month of Ramadan. This month, able-bodied Muslim women and men abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset, and try to focus their energy on their spirituality. This month may seem impossible to those who are not accustom to it; but those who are know that Ramadan is as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical challenge. Mindfulness is a practice used in a variety of different health-related disciplines, including nutrition. I find mindfulness to be a huge part of Ramadan for those who participate in it, which is why today’s post is all about tapping into the strength of the mind during this holy month.
Don’t underestimate the power of your mind – If you woke up one morning and were told right then and there that you were not going to eat or drink anything for the next 16 hours, how would you feel? Not great. Would you get through it? Probably. Would you like it? Probably not. Why? Because you weren’t mentally prepared. Those who observe Ramadan know that they will be fasting for a prolonged period of time, everyday for a month. Their minds have had time to prepare for the month ahead, and for that reason, they can wake up each and every day ready to take on the day and everything it brings, sans water or food. This just goes to show how truly powerful our minds are, and how we can get through extremely challenging tasks with a little bit of brain power.
There’s another reason why Ramadan is something Muslims are able to do year in and year out. Ramadan is about more than just deprivation of food and water – it is also about focus; focusing on kindness, spirituality, and giving to those who are less fortunate. No one is saying it’s easy by any means, but to focus on important aspects of life apart from food, while also getting perspective on how truly fortunate many of us are makes the mind and body even stronger, and that much more capable to take on the month ahead.
Get to know the seven types of hunger – Did you know there are seven types of hunger? Yes, seven. That’s seven reasons we are driven to eat. Nose hunger, eye hunger, mouth hunger, stomach hunger, heart hunger, cellular hunger, and mind hunger are all ways in which our body justifies eating. As children, cellular hunger is the only real hunger cue we know – babies will cry when they’re hungry, eat until they are satisfied – no more, no less – and that’s that. As we age, however, our senses begin to play a bigger role, and behavioural patterns such “never skip breakfast” play a large role in when the body wants food. During Ramadan, many people have to adjust to the change in eating schedule, and the body and mind do not always make that easy. Begin to pay attention to where in your body you are feeling hunger. Is your mind telling you it’s breakfast time or is your stomach growling because it’s empty and ready to be filled? Ramadan is a great time to really begin to get to know your body in a new way, and get more comfortable identifying the types of hunger, so that when you are back to a regular eating pattern, you can practice mindful eating more often.
Your eyes are bigger than your stomach – I’m sure many of you who have fasted will know exactly where I’m coming from with this one. After 15 hours of fasting – no water, no food – your mind begins to mess with you. You see a commercial on TV for frozen dinners and all of a sudden, even though you’ve never had a frozen dinner in your life, the only thing you can imagine eating when the sun sets is a good ol’ frozen entree. You walk buy someone eating an ice cream cone, and even though you’re lactose intolerant, nothing would make you happier than an ice cream cone when you get the green light to eat. The hunger pangs after 15 hours of fasting (and for some that includes an eight hour work day) are real, you guys. You think you’ll be able to polish off two to three times the amount of food because you missed three meals, but that is far from the truth…not to mention it’s also not the point of the whole experience. After a whole day with no food and no water, the body needs to be eased into it. Slow and steady. Otherwise, you go from uncomfortably hunger to uncomfortably full in about 10 seconds, and it’s not a good look. When it’s time to break fast, it’s important to stay present, be grateful, and eat slowly. Just as you would in a workout – your body needs a warm up before you start lifting the heavy weights. Muslims will often break their fast with one or two dates and a glass of water, pray and give thanks, and then continue on to the main meal – allowing the body to adjust and prepare for the meal ahead. So remember, as much as your eyes are telling you to eat an extra-large double cheese, extra sauce, triple crust pizza – your stomach wants differently.
I hope that everyone observing this month has a blessed, joyful, peaceful and beautiful Ramadan. Stay present and positive, and take it into the months ahead. Happy Ramadan to all!
Keep checking in for recipes ideas during this month and be sure to sign up for the Lifeberry newsletter to get your free Energy-boosting Breakfast Recipe Book – perfect for your early morning breakfasts this month.