- 7 August, 2011
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I fast. Finally. I’ve been doing it for seven day straight. This is my first Ramadan fasting. But I’m not a Muslim and don’t believe in it. So what does this mean?
At first, I decided to do this only because it was one of the things I wanted to do in life, an item on my bucket list, nothing more. I was introduced to Ramadan in 2005 when I lived in Sarajevo. I landed in the country on the day of the Eid ul-Fitr, the festival celebrating the end of Ramadan. This country, the people and Muslim events forever has left a strong impression.
I’ve always wanted to live in a Muslim country in the Middle East, and once came so close to achieve it and while there I would fast. Unless you are a Muslim or live in a Muslim country, Ramadan isn’t something on the back of your mind. I kept forgetting about it. The Muslims around me either didn’t observe this tradition or if they did, they would not shout from the rooftop. This year, I met a Muslim colleague from Malaysia. She fasts regularly. We talked about it and here I am.
The 5 Pillars of Islam
I’m a loose faster and don’t observe anything else other than not eating anything from 4.00 to 20.00. Any Muslim will tell me that my fasting is invalid and means nothing since I’m doing it for myself. They are right. My fast is absolutely invalid under Islamic rules which are very strict. To see why, you have to understand the five pillars of Islam.
- Shahada – Chant, accept Muhamad as God’s messenger and believe it.
- Salad – Pray five times a day.
- Sawm – Fast during Ramadan.
- Zakat – Give alms to the poor.
- Hajj – Make a pilgrimage to Mecca.
For one to be valid, you must also do the one(s) precede it. For example, it doesn’t mean anything if you pray five times a day and don’t believe in Muhamad or fast and don’t do the first two. This is my 1st violation according to the Islamic pillars.
The 2nd violation is that I drank water, not only water but together with vitamin tablets and protein power to maintain energy throughout the day. In addition, I popped chewing-gums every couple of hours to keep my breath from descending into a bacteria pool because as I need to talk to people.
I don’t follow the strict fasting hours, my 3rd violation, which change every day (319, 342, 354… to 830, 812…). To simplify, I rounded up to 4 in the morning until 8 in the evening. I can’t help it if my first fasting coincides with the summer when the day is much longer. My last one is I do the things that even Muslims violate.
Why Fasting is Unhealthy
Fasting isn’t as bad as I thought before trying, however I don’t think it is a healthy habit if one does it for a long time. The first day of course was the worst. My head hurt so much due to the lack of morning breakfast. I felt hungry every hour. It was unbearable already at only 10 in the morning.
Food was the only thing I thought about before, during and after lunch hour. I walked past someone’s room at work and immediately noticed a bowl of chocolate. In the evening, I arrived at a Vietnamese restaurant 45 minutes before 8 so I took a tram going away and then back on the hour and shoved an entire plate of grill-duck noodle and tempted to ask the waiter to bring me some more. I went home and stuffed a giant bowl of salad after that. I boiled two eggs and made a big plate of spaghetti for the breakfast the day after which I ended up didn’t eat because I woke up later than 4. This brings another serious issue: possible weight-gain and packing around my waist-line. By eating less regularly, your hungry body thinks that it should store the food instead of burning it. I can feel the effect almost immediately. Though I felt very hungry, I also felt stuffed.
The Benefits of Fasting During Ramadan
Nonetheless, fasting brings many benefits.
- Wake up early – For a few days, I woke up a quarter before 4 to have breakfast to not have an empty stomach for 24 hours. I couldn’t go back to sleep again with a full stomach and did a few things before going to work.
- ‘Everyone is wonderful‘- Occasionally, on my not so good day I complain this and that about other people, and on my worst day I scream murder on the world. For the last few days, every time I really wanted to stick it to somebody, I tried to switch immediately. This didn’t happen smoothly though as ‘b’ and ‘a’ words occasionally slipped from my tounge.
- Discipline – Anybody who knows me knows discipline is not my strong suit. For years, I’ve tried to working on following things through and sticking to a schedule. To keep up with a rigid diet without food and only water and vitamin for 14 hours a day in god-knows-how-many days I plan to keep this up requires a lot of self-discipline.
- Happy – The other day a colleague said to me when I passed him after work “Must be a very satisfied woman!” and explained that I was smiling the whole time. How was that even possible? My stomach was begging for mercy and my brain was practically on strike for being deprived of food, and he thought that I was full of content? Maybe the thought of having doing all the above in addition of doing something so secret yet so interesting and no-one else around me has a clue.
- Keep busy – Another trick to forget about the food is to keep busy. I stopped procrastinating and started on pending and new tasks immediately and finished them asap.
- Social – If I have no meeting or things to do, I intentionally sought out other people for chit-chat to distract myself from the food. Instead of being subdued and lethargic, I became even more hyper with all these meetings with people I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t fast.
- Independence of food – Now I know I can be perfectly fine for hours without food. Beside the main meals that I ate, the rest was often from craving.
- Eliminate junk food – For the entire seven days, I have not touched any junk, sodium and sugar loaded food. I can only eat one a day; I can not afford to weaken myself with high-calorie and low-energy food.
- Prepare food slowly – With the odd hour of dinner, I can’t stay at work until 8, and then eat a quick dinner nor can I prepare a quick 15-minute dinner before I eat which I usually did. I thus stay at work longer, go home and then slowly prepare my meal. By the time I finish, it’s also about time for me to eat. Also, why hurry to prepare food if I can’t eat it right away anyway.
I am throwing in the white flag next week and reconsidering whether I should continue until the end of the month.