During the starting of the Ramadhan (the fasting month for Muslims worldwide), the day will begin with prayers and then a light meal is eaten- and for the whole day, those doing the fasting would not drink even a single drop of water or have any intake of food. They even have to give up smoking during the day. At after about 7pm, there would be the break fast- where they can eat and drink. The next day, the fasting will start about 5 to 6am.
The first two or three days would be tough and one would feel that one loses energy. For those who are heavy smokers, there would be withdrawal symptoms in the form of massive headaches and the lack of intake of food sometimes causes gastric and dizziness. One would feel tired and weak.
But after a few days, the effect would wear off as the body gradually adjust to the schedule of fasting and then eating only after breaking fast at about 7 pm plus.
For those who are used to fasting, they would not just devour huge chunks of food and have a feast after break fast. They tell me that usually they would only eat like a normal meal- and they have to drink and eat slowly for the empty stomach to get used to the food.
An additional factor
On the surface, having to fast is very difficult- there is no food intake, no water or sweets, cigarrettes or coffee. They are willing to put up with all the withdrawal symptoms and put in effort to perform their religious practice- and they succeed because of ……strong intention and faith.
A friend of mine who have been a devout Muslim sometimes fast and when asked, she mentioned that she had to repay back those days that she did not manage to fast during the last Ramadhan. I express admiration that she was able to restrain from eating and drinking amidst those around her who have drinks, food and snacks on their tables all around her all the time.
She shared that if she went on a regular diet or just fasting without any reason, she honestly doubt she could do it. But in fasting, there is ‘niat’ or intention and faith. With intention in place, other factors does not seems to matter and hunger does not get to the mind.
She mentioned that after a few days of fasting, the mind gets clearer and she could think and focus better. I am well aware of this because as a Buddhist, I have practiced not taking solid food after my mid-day meal as sometimes Buddhist also observed the 8 precepts on certain days. All I need to be bothered about is what I have for lunch. After which, I need not care about food or anything. Even if hungry, I would wait till the next day daylight before I ate. If it is due to diets, I would not have been able to stick to eat effectively.
And contrary to logical assumptions, I did not get gastric or feel tired. In fact, I recalled having my mind feeling more alert. It is very true that the less food we put in, and the more easier to digest the food is, the less harder our digestive system got to work. We would not need to put in so much of internal resources to digest food all the time. The mind focuses and work better. That is why when people go into ashrams or yoga retreats, little and simple food are being introduced. It brings out a more focused and powerful mind. And I seriously eat lots and lots of food- heavy breakfast and lunch, lots of carbohydrates- but do not put on weight easily. I even ate chocolates in the evening as it is one of the ‘allowed’ food’ but could easily maintain my weight. That was the only successful way of eating that I’ve stuck to without much discipline issue for more than 1 year.
A Hindu friend of mine recently went for vegetarian diet for about 10 days- where it requires her to stick to a pure vegetarian diet. If the dish has meat, she cannot just take the vegetables. After completing the vegetarian diet, she made a wish and aspirations. Christians also have their fasting and prayer guide.
If you find that all your diet plans do not work- and you seemed to have no willpower to stick to any of your plans, before you criticize yourself as a failure, consider adopting the prescribed eating ways as per your religious practice. Initially you can do it during certain religious observance days- and then perhaps consider extending it to more days.
I am not trying to preach any religion here but given the rising number of despair and depression that so many people are facing today, perhaps one need to turn to spiritual for that healing that is needed. From my observation, it can even work better than medication, drugs or therapy.