Many many MANY apologies for being away for so long! It’s been a truly hectic month and I still don’t know how it all flew by – so before I waste any more of it babbling and nagging about work and life stresses, I’m going to go straight into today’s topic.
A lot of religions use fasting as a part of their faith – yet fasting goes beyond that and has actually shown to have many benefits. Many are observing fasting this very month, however, lack the proper understanding of how to maximize the benefits of fasting – this is what we will discover together today.
What exactly are the benefits we are talking about? Not much, only that fasting might improve longevity by delaying the onset of age-related diseases including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and diabetes. However, contrary to popular belief, fasting DOES NOT lead to sustainable weight loss. Funny enough, some even gain weight during fasting. This is because a person’s metabolism slows down during the fast, so if you tend to over consume food after the fast or you compensate with the wrong types of food – you could be doing more harm than good. In fact, you could overeat to the point where any benefits or calories lost during the fast are wasted. Fasting 101 mistakes such as overeating could even lead to hospitalization, like this story tells us – it’s been reported that a person in Qatar, a few days back, was hospitalized on the first day of Ramadan* for overeating and many more expected (oh the irony!).
How do we prevent this?
HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE
Especially during the month of “Ramadan” where many abstain from food AND drinks – it is important to be conscious of replenishing the body with the fluids it needs. This prevents mistaking thirst for hunger (it happens!). A good tip is to actually keep a measuring jar around so you can visibly see the quantity being consumed. Another tip is to also include broth-based homemade soups.
SKIP THE CARBS
There’s a trick in this one – because I don’t mean ALL carbs, but “sambusa” or “samosa” are popular appetizers used in Ramadan, and these are high in fat (as many are fried) and are usually made from pastry that is high in calories, and stuffing that is even higher in calories. Again, it is MUCH easier to avoid these clogging foods if you are starting your meal with soup and a big bowl of salad. If you must include pastries, baking them and using vegetable stuffing is definitely the “healthier” option – also limit your consumption of these to 1 or 2.
PACE YOUR MEALS
I like to keep reminding everyone of the 20 minute rule because when fasting, both your mind and body are playing tricks on you – not really tricks since it is actually physiological hunger, but your mind might exaggerate the effects of fasting into making you feel like you could eat a cow (in my case, maybe an entire school of fish?). Reality is, your stomach shrinks during the hours and days of fasting, so it takes LESS food than usual to make you feel full BUT it still takes the same 20 minute for your mind to realize it. So please, pace your meal, enjoy a yummy drink, chew longer, make smaller bites, play footsie under table – whatever it takes to change your meal from a food contest into a more appropriately timed event.
Just because you are fasting does not mean you should/can not exercise. All it takes is a little adjustment, maybe do less cardio and more weight training, change your exercise timings and duration – hydrate differently and a lot more. This all has to be tailored to YOUR lifestyle but if you have the right attitude then fasting should not hinder your fitness routine. It is also important to keep in mind that pacing your exercise regimen will differ based on the type and duration of your fast, as each affects stamina and performance differently (if at all)
Finally, fasting should not be viewed as a weight loss method – it could be viewed as a detoxifying technique and as said previously, might have great health benefits – but in itself it is NOT a weight loss method, especially not one that provides sustainable weight loss. That being said, it CAN aid weight loss by providing discipline to one’s daily meal plan and help fend off cravings.
It can also make you rich.
How? Well, if you live in Dubai, you have the chance to win GOLD for every kg of weight lost in a HEALTHY way during the month of Ramadan. I’m pretty sure there are more than a few out there who don’t mind lifting weights if it came in the form of gold bars!
Have a blessed month and healthy fasting!
*Ramadan is a holy month in which some 1 billion+ muslims observe as a month of fasting from food and drink, from sunrise to sunset.