Over the past few years, I've learned different little tricks that have helped me while I'm fasting. Some are things that others have shared with me and others are things I've picked up on my own. And every year I find myself adding another thing to help make fasting go as smoothly as possible.
One of the first things I learned was the importance of being hydrated. My first Ramadan took place in June when it was fairly hot out. (For those that may be unfamiliar with Ramadan and the Islamic calendar, it follows the lunar calendar. So Ramadan doesn't take place the same time every year. It moves up roughly ten days each year) I found that I struggled with thirst far more than I struggled with hunger.
Since that first Ramadan, I've made it a point to make some changes to try and help keep myself hydrated. For me, I have tried to incorporate eating more soup and fruits like watermelon that will help to replenish fluids. In addition, when I wake up in the morning for suhoor, I worry less about eating and focus more on drinking fluids. My suhoor for this morning was a bit of soup and a lot of water.
Another thing that I do to help me stay as hydrated as I can throughout the day is that I don't drink coffee in the morning. I haven't cut out coffee entirely, I've just changed when I drink my coffee. With coffee being a diuretic, I personally prefer to not drink it in the morning before staring my fast.
That said, there are many that swear by drinking coffee in the morning during suhoor. For those of us who are big coffee drinkers, the caffeine withdrawal can pose a serious challenge during the start of Ramadan while we are adjusting to fasting. During my first couple of Ramadans, I cut out coffee completely. However as the years have gone by, I have become a bigger and bigger coffee drinker making it really hard to cut out. One thing I tried was to try and wean myself off coffee in the months leading up to Ramadan. (Yes, months. I drink a lot of coffee haha) I would also mix the regular coffee beans with decaf as I gradually cut back. By the time Ramadan came around, I was able to fast with little to no caffeine headache.
Last year, that changed. As Ramadan grew closer, I tried my best to wean myself off. The week before Ramadan began, I tried to go without any coffee to make sure I was ready to go without for the month. The headache that I wound up with was beyond painful. With days to spare, I scrambled to come up with a plan B. I considered having a cup with suhoor, but really didn't love that idea. Between wanting to retain as many fluids as possible as well as working late evenings, drinking coffee in the wee hours of the morning wasn't ideal. So instead, I began drinking coffee with iftar after I break my fast. For me, it was the perfect solution. Having that coffee when breaking my fast at work helped me from falling into a food coma and helped me to get through the rest of my night of work. Plus, I still got my coffee fix.
When you're fasting, there are some days that I find I have no energy to cook. But of course I'm going to need food for when I break my fast. A good friend of mine talked about how she prepares for Ramadan by cooking different meals ahead of time and putting them in the freezer. It helps to not only not have to worry about cooking while fasting, but it also helps to plan meals for the month. Since she suggested this, I've taken to baking muffins in the weeks prior to Ramadan and put them in the freezer as something quick and easy to eat at work. I've also made up different soups and frozen them so they are ready to be pulled out and warmed up quickly.
In addition, I also make a point of cutting up different ingredients and throwing them in the freezer so even on the days that I cook, I have far less prep work to do. For example, I've diced up onions, celery, and chicken and have them all bagged up separately in the freezer ready to go when I may need them.
When it comes time to eat, it can be really easy to dive in and give yourself a stomach ache. As I said yesterday, I found myself doing that and having a stomach ache for the rest of the evening. However there are some thing that I've been told about and at times add in to my routine to help remedy that.
It's time to break your fast when the call for the maghrib prayer comes. When it is time to break your fast, you are to not delay breaking your fast and typically you would break your fast by eating a date. From there, everyone has a different approach as to eating and praying. Some people will pray right away. Typically that's what I do. I will eat a date, drink a big gulp of water, and then go to pray. Once I'm finished praying, then I will eat my iftar.
Others kind of do the reverse of that. They will break their fast with a date or maybe some water and eat their full iftar first. Once they are finished, then they will go and pray. And then there are others that will break their fast and have something small like a salad or a bowl of soup first. Then they will go and pray and finish with eating the heavier part of their iftar. Separating your meal like this can help to settle your stomach and pace yourself while you're breaking your fast. I've considered adopting this routine, but ultimately I find that I prefer my routine for myself.
Since my first Ramadan, I've found myself settling into a nice routine that makes things streamline for myself. But I'm always open to new suggestions of tips and tricks that others use to help make their fast a bit easier on themselves. Once you find your flow, fasting becomes more of a natural song and dance that takes place rather than this big daunting task. At least that's the way it's become for me.