Five Tips for a Healthy, Happy Fast

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We’re a few days into the Baha’i Fast and as always for me, the first days are kind of hard! These early days are when your body is adjusting to its new routine and regime, and here in the southern hemisphere it’s also when the daylight hours are the longest.

While the Fast is ultimately spiritual, and this is a time of prayer and reflection, I find it helps to put some thought into the material aspects of Fasting. Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different ideas for what to eat and drink, and how to go about the days. I have come to the conclusion that the best thing to do is to be moderate, consistent and embrace the Fast.

Here are my personal tips for a healthier, happier fast. What are your tips? What works for you? Add them in the comments!

1. Eat a Slow-to-Digest Breakfast

Not all breakfasts are equal! When it comes to tasty breakfasts I love waffles and maple syrup, but although you’ll get a big sugar spike, the reality is a breakfast like that won’t sustain you very long. Nowadays I look for slower to digest foods with complex carbohydrates and protein rather than white carbohydrates and sugary breakfasts. My current favourite is a scrambled egg, wholegrain toast, some basil and tomato!

There’s no breakfast that is so slow to digest that it will keep you full the whole day – trust me I’ve tried them all – but better choices will at least last a little longer and avoid a post-sugar dip.

2. Drink Water Steadily Through the Night

It’s really important to be hydrated and that means water ingested regularly post-sunset. By nature I tend to wake up a couple of times a night and will keep water nearby to drink. I figure that in normal life I would drink during the day and not when I sleep, so flipping this over means my body will remain properly hydrated.

Dehydration on the other hand leads to headaches, dizziness and lots of unpleasantness. Aside from anything else, it’s very hard to feel spiritually connected when you have a migraine!

3. Don’t overeat in the evenings

When you haven’t eaten all day, it’s awfully tempting to stuff your face the moment the sun sets. Moreover it’s tempting to keep eating through the evening. While I still end up doing both of these reasonably often, I’ve found it’s much better to eat a moderate meal at sunset, and then a light and nutritious snack a couple of hours later, but avoid getting overfull at any point.

You definitely want to avoid too much salt since it will dehydrate you. Getting overfull is just generally an unpleasant feeling. And eating too much right before bed means you have far more chance of indigestion, heartburn, a poor night’s rest, and most importantly a lessened appetite in the morning.

Overeating in the evening is also the main reason you hear of people gaining weight during the Fast. Personally, I always think if I’m going to be hungry all month, I’d like to shed some pounds from it!

4. Get a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s all too easy to go to bed late when fasting, after all the evening is the time you have lots of energy and food! But if you want to wake up in time for breakfast, that means you’re likely to not get a lot of sleep. Do that over and over again for nineteen days and you can really wear yourself down. During the fast there are no Saturday morning sleep-ins, at least not if you want to have a meal to start the day!

Waking up to have breakfast is not only good health advice, it’s also a part of Fasting. You aren’t just giving up food and water, but also sleep, so you can rise, eat, drink and pray. There was one year where I skipped breakfast pretty much every day and just slept in, but at the end of the Fast I felt like I’d missed the point completely!

Of course when you haven’t had enough sleep, there’s a great temptation to go back to sleep after a nice big breakfast. I’m not sure about everyone else, but I feel awful if I do this. Eating and then immediately going back to sleep not only increases the likelihood of indigestion and heartburn, but it’s convinces your body to store all those calories as fat instead of burning them doing stuff. A nap in the afternoon is a much sounder alternative – if you can get away with it!

5. Live in Helsinki!

OK this one is said in jest, but did you know that the daylight hours in Finland are approximately 10.75 hours? Down here in Melbourne, Australia we clock in at just under 13 hours at the beginning of the Fast – though it gets shorter and shorter as the days progress, which is kind of nice! My sister says this means we get extra spiritual nourishment. At 7pm though, I’m inclined to want a little more regular old nourishment!


What are your tips?

What are your tips for a healthy fast? If you’re interested in more information on this topic, check out Baha’i life coach Susan Gammage’s pair of articles: How to Eat During the Fast and 10 Tips for Healthy Eating during the Baha’i Fast. There’s also some interesting articles about the Muslim Ramadan which are very applicable, stop in at Islam 101 and see their Fasting Tips.

Happy Fasting Everyone!

About the Author

Collis is a designer, entrepreneur, writer and Baha’i. He is the CEO of Australian tech company Envato, and cofounder of Baha’i Blog / Half Light Media.

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Discussion 19 Comments

  1. Excellent tips! I’ll definitely be keeping all of them in mind. My tip to all Baha’is is: know truly why you are fasting. Are u just not eating food & not drinking water? No put simply. It’s all about going through tests & overcoming them. It’s all about putting away material things in exchange for spiritual things. Also, I always remember what the Blessed Beauty says in the Tablet of Ahmad: “Remember my Days during thy days & my distress & banishment in this remote prison. And be so steadfast in my love that thy heart shall not waiver….” We should remember that no matter how much we think we are suffering by being hungry & thirsty, The Blessed Beauty suffered a great deal more, indeed for 40 years. Suffering & putting our physical bodies in discomfort is so we become closer to the Blessed Beauty & to God, and become more spiritual, less physical. To me that’s the greatest tip & most important thing of all to remember: why we are truly fasting & the spiritual significant behind the physical Fast. God bless you all. I wish all of you a very blessed, joyful & spiritual Fast!!! 🙂

  2. I learned a few years ago, when I was trying the Atkins diet, that it was successful during the fast. When the body has feelings of ‘hunger’ it is looking for carbohydrates. If you reduce your carbohydrate intake to 50 or less a day, you don’t get hunger pangs during the day. You still wind up a little light headed towards the mid to latter afternoon, but no hunger pangs. It almost feels like cheating. Baha’i love, Paul

  3. Great post! I’ve found my best breakfast for energy without the “full” feeling is a sweet potto (wrapped in a damp paper towel, nuked for 3-4 mins and income out soft, warm and delish) + hard boiled egg + something blended…usually a kale + almond milk + strawberries + orange drink. Prep the night before and it takes 30 seconds to blend, with ice. I’m not hungry til the late afternoon – although thirsty, that’s another story. Oh and great tip on drinking throughout the night. Thanks. 🙂

  4. Hello everybody

    Funny to see how different the experiences can be.
    Here is what I would suggest

    1) For breakfast, eat what you always eat. Your body is used to that. (But make sure to have breakfast)
    2) To your breakfast and diner add a liter of water. DON’T drink late in the evening or during the night because….(see point 4)
    3) Eat for diner the same things and the same quantity that you usually have for lunch. If possible, enjoy your meal in the company of people
    you love and take your time….
    4) then, you will need to get up several times during the night and so you will not have a good sleep 🙂 But of cause, drink a lot early in the evening.
    5) DON’t move to Helsinki. It’s certainly a lovely place to be, but far to cold this time of the year. (-7°C at the moment, I would go to Melbourne, +17°C)

    But most of all:
    Focus on the spiritual part of the fast. Pray, meditate! Then, open your eyes and look around you! What can you do to make this place a better place for your loved-ones, your friends……..? Be happy that you are able to do this for the love of God.

    A little quote from Abdu’l-Baha:
    Believers must show their belief in their daily lives, so that the world might see the light shining in their faces. A bright and happy face cheers people on their way. (Abdu’l-Baha in London)

    Dear friends, I wish you all a joyful and happy month of fast.
    Janet

  5. Well done Collis! I totally agree with you. I like legumes eg. baked beans, dates, eggs, fruit , nuts eg. almonds, wholegrain bread for breakfst and of course a cup of tea and for dinner a light vegetable soup with wholegrain bread and some fruit. I also like sharon’s ideas. kale especially the black type is my new found vegetable. Very nutritious. i used to have headahes during the first days of the fast in the past but not this year. i think the weather has been kind to us in Sydney and it is not as hot as previous years. I also replaced red meat and chicken with plant foods which I believe are removing headache causing toxins from my body.

    Great note shamim! we had a deepening on fasting in our community a few days before the fast which was great to prepare us for this spiritual obligation. During this period, I remember not just the Blessed Beauty and His suffering but also our Baha’i brother and sisters who are fasting in prisons in Iran. They do not have much if anything to eat during this period. This is a story about a few Baha’i prisonors who woke up early morning to fast and were asked by one of their prison mates (who had committed a heavy crime) why they were fasting when there was not much food to eat to start with. The Baha’i prisonors said that they were going to say prayers .The prison mate suddenly goes and brings them her/his biscuits to start the fast with.

  6. I learned years ago that part of preparing for Fast during Ayyam-i-Ha for me was to give up daytime caffeine. This is easier to do when still eating lunch. Then when Fast starts, I avoid caffeine-withdrawal headaches on top of the hunger.

    1. So true Lyn about giving up caffeine during Ayyam-i-Ha, makes things easier when the Fast starts.
      You totally bye-pass spinning-out with headaches and moderates mood swings also.
      خدا نگهدار

  7. Thanks for the tips. Am trying to remind myself about the true nature of the Fast especially now when I have to be awake through the night for work and catch on sleep during the day. When I shared this with a colleague, his immediate response was “Hey. you are lucky then” as you don’t really need to endure the hunger pangs during the day. So this really makes me even more aware that although I may have to sleep in the day, that does not mean I can’t be conscious of the Fast during the night. To make conscious efforts to be in tune with spiritual needs and spend more time reflecting on the words of God. It is a personal experience for everyone in different ways and as long as we are able to feel the significance of it no matter the circumstance, that would be awesome!

  8. Try this….Maybe you’ll like it!
    After suffering through decades during the Fast about 15 years ago I discovered a great way to make it through the day. So this is it….
    I have always been one who thinks that during the Fast we should attempt to keep to our normal daily routine as much as possible, ie. work, exercise, additional paryer and meditation (reflection may be a better word). I don’t think Baha’u’llah instituted the Fast so that we would act sickly, complain (maybe just to ourselves), and feel a little under the weather and we should try to avoid transmitting these types of things to our “friends”.
    Anyway, I’ll just tell everyone my Fast “routine” today:
    1. I got up at 3:00 A.M. and started getting breakfast ready drinking a glass of water every so often while heating up what I was about to eat. The first course was a stuffed bell pepper, some lentils, some slices of cucumber in a vinagar dressing, and half a sweet plantain fried. Then I ate two and a half sandwiches with manaise, salami, tomato and onion with some fruit juice. Had a total of three cups of coffee and about two liters of water before sunrise.
    2. After breakfast (I have it pretty early so there is time for the food to start the digestion process) I do my normal prayer routine which takes about 40 minutes.
    3. Around sunrise I meet my friends and hike up a mountain. Today for example it was 8.5 km up and down. Then I went to the pool and did 52 lengths 25 yards each. This is my normal routine and the idea is to do your normal things.
    4. I was home around noon and puttered around between the kitchen putting away dishes, etc. and getting the news and doing e-mails on the Internet.
    5. Arount 2:00 P.M. I took a nap and slept until around 4:30 P.M.
    6. Went to the grocery store and bought a few things and made some mainase and oatmeal cookies waiting for the sun to set.
    7. After sunset I have a hot cup of coffee and say some special prayers this being a special time of the Fast.
    8. Finally I have a light dinner (I am in complete agreement that you should NOT overeat in the evening) consisting of two eggs with onions and tomato accompanied by some coffee cake (two large pieces) with more coffee. Coffee has never affected a good nights sleep in my case. I drink the amount of water that I want starting after sunset.
    9. I retire to bed around 9:00 or 10:00 P.M. but try to not go beyond the latter so that I have 5 hours of rest before I do the daily routine all over again.
    I know many of you who read this may think it would be out of the question for you personally since you work and have a completely different lifestyle. My reply would be TRY IT with your specific routine and I’m sure you will discover it works!
    The only problem with this method is not hungar or thirst but psycological waiting the last hour or two for the sun to set.
    It works GREAt for me….maybe it will for you, too.

  9. When I’m hungry, thirsty and cold, I bring to mind what Baha’u’llah says in the Tablet of Ahmad: “Remember My days during thy days, and My distress and banishment in this remote prison.” Baha’u’llah and His family and followers suffered hunger and thirst for years to the points that many of the friends died and many got sick. The Fast is just an opportunity for me to experience a little of what Baha’u’llah experienced in abundance; In the Kitab-i-Iqan Baha’u’llah says: “And as the sun and moon constitute the brightest and most prominent luminaries in the heavens, similarly in the heaven of the religion of God two shining orbs have been ordained — fasting and prayer.” Hence, I believe by fasting and prayer, I enlighten the soul of mankind. And that moves me to go on joyfully!

  10. Hi,

    Good tips and very helpfull! Thank you
    Just wanted to point out one thing.
    the second tip . Drink Water Steadily Through the Night Would not be such a great idear!
    First of all it makes you wake up. breaking sleep is bad.
    Second it makes your stomach start a digestion proces.

    Abdulbaha mentions in a tablet of health that you should NOT drink right before you go to sleep.
    Besides this he ads that you should only drink before eating not after you have eaten.

    So i would recommand to get up even earlier and drink 2 glasses of water 5 minutes before you start eating.

  11. Lovely article. Nice comments!

    To add to the list of facts: caffeine is a diuretic. Drinking more than 4 cups a day would start depleting our body’s water supply and could contribute to dehydration. I would keep tea or coffee to a minimum during the Fast.

    I prefer getting up earlier, at least 90 minutes before sunrise so that I can drink lots of water *before* eating, and I enjoy drinking slowly, not downing 3 glasses in 5 minutes. Then, after eating, I barely drink any water because, from experience, I found that the water just sits on top of my food and my stomach feels like a fish swimming in an ocean. Drinking water before eating is so much nicer and it feels gentler on my digestive track.

    I also live in Melbourne now and mourn the good ol’ days of breaking the Fast at 6 pm in North America. Now I have no choice but to eat late because the sun sets at 8 pm. Which means I get acid reflux because I’m eating within the last three hours before going to bed. Because I need to go to bed early, there is no way around getting acid reflux in this time zone. Sigh….

  12. “Take first the liquid food before the partaking of solid food…” — Abdu’l-Baha

    I used to eat breakfast and then spend the remaining time before sunrise drinking a few glasses of water. This would usually leave me a little nauseous, needing the bathroom every few minutes for two hours, and then super thirsty the rest of the day. Of course, the point of the Fast is not to find ways to ‘not feel’ it but I realized I wasn’t being helpful to my body or my health.

    I read the quotation above and thought I would try reversing my routine. I woke a bit earlier and started sipping water and/or herbal teas, eating only after I’d finished that. Remarkably, though I was drinking about the same amount of water (if not more), most of it seemed to actually be held and used by my body instead of passing right through. Plus, no nausea and no intense dehydration during the day. I just felt much more even-keeled.

    Another helpful thing was prioritizing protein, fruits and vegetables over processed carbs wherever possible. This stopped what had become an annual event — catching a cold towards the end of every Fast that would then prevent me from participating in the physical part of it.

    Wishing everyone a blessed Fast, however it is practiced!

  13. What has worked for me is to eat most of my proteins and fats during breakfast and my carbs at night. This keeps me satiated during the day and leaves my energy levels fairly constant. The heavy carb dinner increases my leptins at night and helps me sleep better while replenishing my glycogen. Since I’ve adopted this, fasting has become so easy I sometimes wish I’d suffer more to realize more spiritual benefits 🙂

  14. My husband & I find that taking 300-600 mg of time-released alpha liopic acid with high protein & fat breakfast makes breakfast last alot longer (keeps sugar levels constant)

  15. I have learned a lot from the post and comments. Thank u all. Yet i have a question:
    During the fast when u wakeup for breakfast, do u eat before praying, or the other way round?
    I remembere Abdu’l-Baha adviced someone to always feed the soul before the flesh.
    Thanks again.

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