During Shahr Ramadan, one of the most common, but lesser talked about things is how the relationship with food changes for us, and with that, our approach to it after we Break Fast. And I will try to steer clear of the religious aspects of it because it’s not my place, but generally, our eating practices, post Iftar, range from liberal to indiscriminate. Sure, food is an important part of Shahr Ramadan, and many cultures have a “Shahr Ramadan Special” menu, and I hold utmost respect to people’s traditions and beliefs, not to mention I follow them myself. Having said that, we need to check within ourselves what those traditions are meant for us to achieve, which is contentment along with gratitude with what we were given by God.
What we should be mindful of, is that when we fast for anywhere between 12 and 22 hours (in some Scandinavian countries), our bodies are less than well prepared to handle a large amount of any variety of foods, and the intake needs to be strategically distributed over a couple of meals for the body to not react by way of indigestion, constipation, bloating, acute fat gains and lethargy during other prayers in the night and the following day.
A Fast is, physiologically speaking, a downtime for the various systems of the body whose function is continual breakdown of food. And not only that, there are micro level maintenance and repair activities happening in our body during this time, because since the usual supply of energy is not available, it’s switching into an entirely different gear, and with that, a fuel source (namely fat) for the smooth functioning of the overall organism. Now, after you Break Fast (preferably with something which isn’t empty calories) you ought to take note of what your body has gone through, and make your food choices accordingly.
Start with easily digesting natural carbs to replenish your glycogen stores (reason why dates work so well, and fruits do too) and after your digestive system has effectively “woken up”, hit it with some quality protein (in the form of meats or pulses, mindfully cooked) and good fats in a restrained serving, generally those found in dairy and plant sources (a small serving of cheese would suffice, so would a couple teaspoons of avocado). Just like you’d prefer to warm up nicely before attempting a heavy lift, it’s a smart thing to give some time to let your gut “warm up” with foods it can begin processing without any dramas, and then treat yourself with sumptuous dishes till the point it’s reasonable to do so.
It’s easy to forget that the ethos of Shahr Ramadan, and fasting itself, is gratitude, and that doesn’t co-exist with excessive indulgences of the bounties discussed above. And by keeping this at the forefront of our dietary practices, we can obtain more than just spiritual guidance; we can also take the gifts of improved physical and mental health and wellbeing, and nobody stopped anybody from doing so.