18 Tips for Successful Fasting
Here are a few tips I gleamed from approximately 418 days of sunrise to sunset Fasting (over the past 22 years). Now, mind you, that does not include the current Fast-- 9 days into it, but who’s counting.
As a Bahá'í by Faith, every year I log another 19 days of Fasting in keeping with this commandment of God.
I do it because, according to the Bahá'í Writings,
““As regards fasting, it constitutes, together with the obligatory prayers, the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. They act as stimulants to the soul, strengthen, revive and purify it, and thus insure its steady development.”
– Shoghi Effendi
I thought it would be good to share some basic tips that I have learned over the years in order to assist any newbie Fasters in their quest to fulfill this spiritual obligation.
So here are my 18 fasting tips, in no particular order:
1. When you break the fast, especially in the evening, always start your meal with a cup of hot or warm liquid. My favorite is herbal tea with honey, sometimes with a little lemon squeezed in for good measure. The hot liquid is said to expand your stomach and get it ready for food after so many hours respite. Drinking something warm before your meal should also prevent any kind of cramping that you could get when you rush right into a meal with nothing to coat and soothe the stomach.
2. Do not go to the grocery store during the active period of the Fast. You will be more prone to buying things that you do not need.
3. Do not buy large quantities of raw fruits and veggies while fasting. Since you are effectively eliminating one meal with your sun up to sundown fasting routine, you will not be able to consume your regular amount of these perishables, and they will end up being wasted if there is not someone else around to eat them.
4. Eat some protein with each meal. I remember when I first started fasting; I used to try to do the vegetarian thing during the fast, thinking it would assist me with the cleansing process. What I found was that it was much harder to sustain my blood sugar when I did not eat protein with my meal. Coming from a family of diabetics, it was important to have that protein if I was to have any chance of being successful with my fast.
5. For weigh lost during the fast, try drinking and combining fresh vegetable and fruit juices with your meal. This aids the detoxification process greatly, and when you include a variety of juices, it helps ensure you are getting all of your daily recommended nutrients, in a period of reduced food intake.
6. When that headache comes after so many days on the fast, or for some, the very first day, try to ignore it. Many people think they can not be successful with a fast because they get a really bad headache when they do not eat for a certain number of hours. The headache is normal, unless you have some underlying medical condition. Of course you should be checking with your doctor before fasting if you are not sure if you should be participating in it. As the body cleanses and detoxifies itself, the poisons that are released as a byproduct can sometimes cause a headache. I think eating protein with your meal is also a buffer to this kind of detox reaction.
7. Do not fast if you are sick or taking medication that requires you take it with food. Some OTC meds as well as Rx meds should be taken with food. So read the label, and if you must take the meds and it requires food, then eat a little something and take the medication.
8. Do not fast if you are pregnant, nursing. This goes without saying, but do remember you are not just feeding yourself; you are feeding the fetus or your baby too. Also women in there menses are not bound by the fast.
9. During the hours after sunset when you are able to eat and drink, always keep water with you and sip or drink it constantly to prevent dehydration. Your lips will naturally be dry when you do not have enough water, and you will have a harder time getting through the sunlight hours if your throat is so dry that it feels like it could cut open a watermelon. (Guess who would like something to drink right now.)
10. Always keep a natural lip moisturizer like shea butter with you while fasting as your lips will be dry throughout the day, especially if you are semi dehydrated.
11. When speaking to others while fasting, do not get directly, all up in their faces. Your breath may smell awful as the day goes on, especially if your body is using this time to get rid of some accumulated poisons. If necessary, carry a little travel size mouthwash to keep the odor at bay. Also, if you brush your teeth after eating breakfast, you do not have to worry about getting them dirty again for the whole day. Now isn’t that exciting :)-
12. If you should awaken after sunrise and think you absolutely must consume something, then consume water or something liquid first. When fasting, remember food is secondary to drink. You can live without a lot of food, but you absolutely must have water to survive.
13. Try not to participate in any strenuous activity like exercising during the active period of the fast, i.e. while the sun is up. When you exercise you lose fluids and if you can not eat or drink there is no way to replenish what you lose. However, you may exercise near the end of the fasting day, just before you are allowed to resume drinking and eating. Since exercise should be done on an empty stomach, this is actually an ideal time to exercise.
14. Try not to respond aggressively to people who ask you why you are not eating, and you tell them that you are fasting from sunrise to sunset. Invariably, they will say something like, “Oh, that’s all. I thought it was a real 19-day fast. Anyone can fast from sunrise to sunset.” Your response should be merely to invite them to join you for the next day or two. Then wait for the excuses or the silence.
15. For those participating in a religious fast, try not to be too obsessive about the “how” of the fast. Don’t ask questions like, “So does that mean I can not brush my teeth in the middle of the day if I am Fasting?” These questions drive long time fasters crazy. If you have such questions, one of the additional requirements that you should do during the extra prayer time that you free up during the fast is to pray for some common sense.
16. A spiritual or religious Fast holds the requirement of combining it with prayers at certain periods of the day. There will be days when you want to take your physical food before you take or offer your spiritual food in the form of prayer to your Maker. Again, do not stress over this. The order is not so important, especially if you remember that God alone will determine if the Fast that you offer is acceptable in His sight. We fast for the love of God as well as to preserve ourselves from harsh test in the upcoming year.
17. It can be fun to break the fast with friends and others who are fasting just as you are, so you may want to plan meals with others who are fasting, i.e. meeting at a restaurant to break the fast at sundown, or having others over before sunrise to share a break-fast.
18. Read about the benefits of fasting during the time of your fasting to help you stay motivated. An excellent compilation on this is titled “The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting”, which you can pick up at Amazon or at the Bahá'í Distribution Service.
Remember that the right way to Fast is the way that you know how to do right now. As the years go by, you will learn more and more about how to get it right and balance everything out. These tips were written while I’m fasting because when you do not have to concern yourself with food, you have more time to do other things.
Happy Fasting to Everyone!