I am fasting – and I'm not a Muslim

30 Days of Fasting in Ramadan

When you are living in a cosmopolitan city like Dubai where more than 200 nationalities rub shoulders against each other at any given point in time, it is only organic that one will end up imbibing others’ cultures. Ramadan is one such example where we have seen many non-Muslims observing fasting to show solidarity with the culture that they are living in. Debbie, is one such example. She is also an active volunteer in the #FillingTheBlues initiative and you will find her breaking her fast with the men in blues every single day of Ramadan!

This is my seventh Ramadan in Dubai and the second one where I will be fasting. I don’t fast for religious reasons as I’m not a Muslim, but did find that a month of fasting really put me back in touch with food in a way that I hadn’t imagined it would. After a month of fasting and a bit of trial and error, I regained an appreciation of how good it feels to use food to fuel my body rather than as something I take a bit for granted. I also realised just how often I taste a dish when it’s cooking resulting in a lot of ‘innocent’ sneaky extra calories, and the importance of keeping hydrated, particularly because of the Dubai heat.

Here are my tips to having a healthy Ramadan based on my experiences:

Keep Hydrated – This is probably one of the hardest things to do but I found that with a bit of little practice, it’s possible. Drink plenty of water, coconut water and laban when you break your fast. Fruit juices and soup are also helpful as they are hydrating, provide energy and are not too filing. It’s also great to sneak water in through the consumption of fruit, watermelon, cucumbers etc.

Eat Sensibly – Eat nutritious food, which nourishes your body and provides slow releasing energy. Avoid sugar if you can as it just makes you tired and run out of energy. Don’t overeat as you will feel uncomfortable and equally don’t under eat, as you won’t have energy the next day. Play around with your meals until you find a winning combination that’s right for you. For me, it was a light meal at Iftar (dates, laban and maybe a small salad) plus my beloved coffee, followed by a few hours of exercise at the gym. This was followed by a heavier meal (protein and veggies) and lots of water to sustain me until Iftar the next day. Warning – Skip this part and you will find Ramadan much more difficult to cope with.

Sleep Well – Try to figure out a sleeping pattern that works for you and that you can maintain during Ramadan. A regular pattern of sleep worked best for me so whilst I slept late at night, I tried not to sleep in too late in the morning and preferred to take a nap at a set time in the late afternoon. I found that on the days that I slept well, fasting was less of a challenge and my energy levels increased.

Exercise and Keep Moving – It’s tempting not to train during Ramadan, certainly my energy levels were different than usual. I found that having a routine helped, and I trained late in the evening. There were a few nights when I just didn’t have the energy to train, mostly during the earlier part of the month when I was experimenting with food and had over eaten, and also once after I had been to an Iftar dinner and could barely move after eating – a huge mistake on my part. If you are planning to train, don’t use fasting as an excuse. You might need to modify your training to match your nutrition, but unless you have your nutrition completely out of sync, there’s no reason not to train.

Finally… Enjoy the experience – I chose to do a full fast without food or water during Ramadan last year and again this year. In previous years, I’ve done a food fast and drank during the day. If you choose to fast, for whatever reason, always make sure you are medically fit to do so. If you can manage the whole 30 days – fantastic, and if you can’t, it’s no problem. It’s great to do a fasting experience for the whole month and to appreciate the temptations around us and also to show solidarity with those who are fasting around us. And, the added bonus? I lost ten pounds too!

The one thing that I do miss during fasting is my morning cup of coffee as I am a coffee-addict! Read my coffee story here >> Turkish Coffee