Dubai: In preparation for Ramadan, there are many physical, mental and physiological adaptations that you need to factor in to ease into the new routine.
To make the transition as smooth as possible, a week before Ramadan, take the opportunity to declutter emotionally, go for a digital detox, scale back on social engagements and get an early night’s sleep. Cut out junk food and be more mindful of each moment. Small steps like these will help you build your reserves and make the month of Ramadan a truly meaningful and deeply spiritually rewarding month.
Experts from various disciplines give advice on how you can make the changes:
Nadin Aoun, clinical dietician, Medcare Hospital, advises a combination of healthy meals and intermittent fasting that will help you prepare well.
To prepare your body for the fasting days ahead, introduce intermittent fasting into your daily routine. Gradually, increase the fasting hours as you approach Ramadan.
During the eating period, the best way is to have two good-sized, healthy and balanced meals and a snack in-between.
■ Start by reducing meal portions to get the body used to less food and calories when you fast. Avoid fatty food, salt and sugar that trigger unwanted reactions in the body.
■ Stop snacking. Try to get used to having 3 main meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner as in Ramadan you will tend to have 2 main meals. Suhoor and Iftar.
■ Cut down on caffeine
■ Reduce smoking
■ Have an early breakfast: this helps your body get used to the earlier hours since as we know Suhoor is a pre-dawn meal and is really important during Ramadan.
■ Have a pre-fasting diet plan a week before Ramadan focusing on increasing the consumption of fruits and vegetables as they are rich in vitamins, minerals, fibre.
Stock up on foods that heal the body in preparation for the fast
Dates: Energy boosters, high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose that keep blood sugar levels in check.
Quinoa: a must have. It is high in protein, fibre, gluten-freeand rich in magnesium, B vitamins, iron, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E and various antioxidants.
Avocados: Good source of fiber, folate, as well as fats. Eat in moderation.
Olive oil: A healthy dietary fat, it helps in lowering risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, cashews, raw and unsalted are good sources of fat , rich in omega-3, protein, and dietary fiber.
Raw honey: Anti-inflammatory, immune boosting, can be added to oats with milk, for example.
Focus on having these in your main meals:
Complex carbohydrates: wholewheat bread/toast, grains, oats, quinoa, muesli, whole grain cereals, wheat, sweet potato. These are slowly digested so maintain even blood sugar levels.
Healthy fats in moderation: olive oil, avocados, nuts.
Lean meats: Fish, chicken, eggs. These prevent loss of muscle mass.
Vegetables: Broccoli, cauliflower, cucumber, leafy greens, tomatoes spinach, carrots (rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber).
Fruit: They are low in calories, rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Example: dates, berries, oranges, kiwi…
Dark chocolate: Rich source of antioxidants.
Popcorn is a healthy option as well.
Intermittent fasting: How to work it into your routine
Aoun advised: “The intermittent fast portions depend on the person’s weight, height, age, physical activity, and health.
The ratio of intermittent fasting fasting should be 16 hours of fasting and a 8-hour window of eating.
This cycle can be repeated as frequently as you like – so as you can start doing it once every four days then increase it 2 for the next fou days to every day as you approach Ramadan.
Option 1: intermittent fasting timings could be between noon and 8pm. This means you’ll only need to fast overnight and skip breakfast but can still eat a balanced lunch and dinner, along with a few healthy snacks through the day.
Option 2: Could be to eat between 9am and 5pm.
It is recommended that you eat several small meals and snacks spaced evenly throughout the day to help stabilise blood sugar levels and keep hunger under control.
Since one has to remain without water for long hours during fasting, it will help practicing good hydration habits a week before Ramadan.
■ Have three litres of water every day.
■ Cut out sugary drinks and soda.
■ Introduce vegetable smoothies.
■ Have fresh lime water with pink Himalayan salt and chia seeds throughout the intermittent fasting window to keep well hydrated prior to the Holy Month.
Dr Teresa Arora, Assistant Professor (Psychology) at the Zayed University, Abu Dhabi, advises people to adjust their body clock and sleep in early and get up earlier, closer to dawn, a week before Ramadan. “The human body finds it difficult to adapt to abrupt changes which interfere with our physiology - eventually we adapt but not without consequence. Shifting sleep and feeding patterns gradually allows the body to test out the change and adapt to it slowly. Sleep and metabolism are very closely connected.”
Here’s how to do it
■ Gradually, shift the timings by around 30 minutes each night. So, if you are working towards sleeping during the day and being awake at night, gradually shift sleep timings towards this routine in the weeks prior to Ramadan so that adaptation is easier.
■ It is important to get light exposure to help with sustaining wakefulness. Light boxes are a great way to get exposure during night hours to maintain wakefulness but you do not want to expose yourself to too much light during the day.
■ Avoid eating a large amount of food before going to sleep and be well, but not overhydrated, for sound sleep.
Reduce emotional baggage
Lisa Laws, Transpersonal therapist from Abu Dhabi:
■ Cut out the busyness of life. Try to focus less on the buying and commercial aspects of Ramadan and go deeper into the spiritual aspect.
■ Cut out socialising and external stimuli and ‘check in’ with your deeper self.
■ Be more mindful. Have conversations with friends on the true meaning of Ramadan. Go for long walks, breathe deeply and nourish your spirit.
Get attuned spiritually
Life Coach Ruqya Khan suggests decelerating the pace of life at least a week before Ramadan to get into a spiritual mode.
■ Read the Quran and listen to translations with your family and friends.
■ Use the call of prayer as your signal to turn inwards. Pause and take this moment to just be mindful and silent. This practise can be most helpful plus you get this beautiful reminder five times a day.
Ghazi Karim, general manager of Symmtery Gym suggests light physical fitness tips for all.
■ Start an exercise routine well before Ramadan. If you can develop this routine now, it will be easier to maintain it during the month of fasting even if the intensity needs to be lowered. Train 45-60 minutes daily.
■ Add in walking during erly morning hours so you burn extra calories and get the benefits of sunlight. Sunlight can reduce cravings.