Ramadan is fast-approaching (pun-intended!) and I am both nervous and excited. I have to admit it has been quite a while since I last fasted in this holy month of the Islamic calendar. With a growing family, I was either pregnant or nursing these last few years which for health reasons exempts you from the long fasts. But this year I am finally ready; I feel the call and yearn to embark on this spiritual journey again.
Since I started fasting as a child, I have always been greatly humbled by this holy month. There was something about the challenge of self-discipline that was motivation enough to get through the long day without food or water. Waking up with your family to have the morning meal before dawn broke (Sehri) to breaking your fast with them at sunset (Iftar) with a delicious spread evoked memories and emotions of togetherness that have helped ingrain in me the importance of this fundamental pillar of Islam. That feeling of familial love and security easily extended into one of giving and charity. If followed with the best of intentions (niyat) observing Ramadan is a wonderful opportunity for rekindling or further reinforcing your spiritual connection to God and equally important to forging a deeper connection with humanity.
Of course, to benefit from the full spiritual experience, it is wise to be prepared for the daily and practical duties involved to ease into the new routine. With the holy month falling during the summer season the last few years this year too will have Canadian Muslims fasting 16-18 hours a day. Whether you are a busy parent managing the kids and household or working outside the home, or both! You will need to ensure you utilise your food consuming hours wisely. How you start and end the day will greatly affect your energy efficiency throughout the fasts.
The following are my tips to make your transition into Ramadan a smooth one.
(…Keep reading to find out about the awesome giveaway
in partnership with Real Canadian Superstore® and No Frills®)
I don’t know about you but meal-planning on a regular day is a chore enough for me. Now with sunset after our kid’s bedtime, a routine we usually come out of exhausted because which kid goes to sleep without putting up a fight? My husband and I will not have the energy to make quick food decisions, whether it is planning for that night or for the next few days meals. Grocery shopping usually means having to divide our time between at least two stores, one of which would be catered exclusively for South Asian flavours. Because where else would I get my masala and halal meat from? Thank God this is no longer the case. We live across the street from No Frills® and it is a lifesaver. Real Canadian Superstore® and No Frills® are a one-stop shop committed to making shopping for groceries simpler for Canadian Muslims and all at a low price! Every time I go there I am pleasantly surprised by the availability of Zabeeha by hand products from Sufra, all the desi masalas I ever need, semolina for my son’s suji in the mornings and Gujarati style roti to appease the half-gujju in me and some great chai brands! These are just some of my favourite desi finds at No Frills® to go along with the rest of our groceries.
Pace your food intake
Now that you’ve stocked your pantry with all the essentials and a few indulgent foods (because who isn’t going to crave some chocolate after a fast!) It’s time to make sure you are eating the right energy boosting foods and drinking as much fluid as possible. The khajoor (date) traditionally is the first food to break your fast with as observed by Prophet Muhammad and health-wise a great energy provider. A tip I got from my parents is to have a glass of warm honey water after the date. It’s supposed to be good for the digestive system, reduces acidity and gas build up. Pacing yourself after such a long duration of no food and water is advisable so you don’t suffer from indigestion and bloating from overeating. Culturally us desis love our traditional fried foods, pakoras samosas and sweets like jalebi and fruit chaat as a first meal followed by the main protein dish but ideally, we should ensure we meet all our basic food groups in small course meals. Have your dessert but in moderation and after you have gotten some nutritious food in you first. The same goes for the morning meal before you start your fast, which should be wholesome like porridge with fruits or eggs and flatbread.
Water is going to be your best friend during the non-fasting hours. Consume lots of it throughout that time but don’t leave it to the last minute before fasting is about to begin. You’ll not only end up with a bloated feeling but will be interrupting that sweet sleep after your fajr morning prayers and before you get up for work with many a bathroom break. For all the caffeine drinkers out there, word of advice, if possible try to reduce the dependency on tea and coffee before Ramadan starts to make your transition to fasting as headache-free as possible. Have lots of fruit and vegetables, especially water based ones like melons and cucumbers.
I am aware that the last thing on the minds of anyone fasting is exercise but if you can somehow squeeze it into your routine, your body will thank you. An hour or so before you break your fast maybe get in a short run, a brisk walk or some level of activity that gets your heart rate up but doesn’t over exert it. If anything, this will distract your mind from staring at the clock, counting down the minutes. Or if you prefer why not try to get in the exercise earlier in the morning before you start the fast. For the eager, do both! Of course, always do a self health check and see how you are feeling. Fasting first and foremost is for those who do not pose any health risks for themselves.
Of all the things about a fast that seem daunting this is probably the only issue most people have difficulty in exercising. Especially in the first couple of weeks, you’re hungry, you’re tired, you have children, enough said. Irritation and impatience will be at an all time high it’s human nature after all. But that is the beast to tame and a big part of the self-discipline of fasting. Can you remove yourself from the daily manic, the mundane and materialism of every day life and get to that almost Zen-like state where you can see beyond the squabble and hear past the white noise? That is the goal we try to attain through prayer and charity and a stronger spiritual connection and what ultimately defines a successful fast. Heck, that defines a successful life, but that is a much longer discussion. For now, for this one month is it possible to achieve a glimpse even of that self-actualized state of mind? That is the real challenge of this month. I feel the best way to get there is to surround ourselves with as much positivity as possible. It starts with our mindset as we enter this month. Unfortunately, there are many who are misguided into adopting a holier-than-though attitude because they are fasting. Those that carry on with unethical and unkind behaviour. Ramadan is a great re-set button. Enter the month with the conscious effort to be a better person than you were yesterday and try your best every day to follow through on that. Every day wont be a win but the point is by the end of the month you’re an improved version of yourself and hopefully it carries on into your daily life and beyond.
I hope these tips will be helpful to you. If you have been fasting regularly or after some time like myself, just remember all it takes is a little preparation to start the month right. So, let Real Canadian Superstore® and No Frills® do the hard work for you and provide you with all your grocery needs.
And now for the fun part. In the Ramadan spirit of giving I am hosting a giveaway with Real Canadian Superstore® and No Frills®, where one lucky reader will have the opportunity to win a $50 gift card to keep and another $50 to give to a friend!*
To enter, all you have to do is like this post and share it explaining how a friend could benefit from these Ramadan tips. Don’t forget to tag us!
Twitter: E.g “My friend @xxxxxxx has two little ones at home. I hope a gift from @RealCdnSS @nofrillsCA & @SSanober makes #Ramadan snack prep simpler for her!”
Facebook: E.g “My friend @xxxxxxx has two little ones at home. I hope a gift from @RealCdnSS @nofrillsCA & @drivingmsdesi makes #Ramadan snack prep simpler for her!”
For extra entries: ‘Like’ the Facebook page Driving Ms Desi and comment on the article post tagging another friend!
The last day to enter is Saturday June 3rd 2017. The winners will be selected through a random draw and announced the following Monday. Hurry and share away! Remember to tag us and your friend! (*Canadian residents only)
May you have a successful and blessed Ramadan!
This is a sponsored post, however all opinions are my own.