Friday, June 12, 2015

Ramadan is Next Week

While I was out for a walk the other day I saw a temporary building being constructed near a mosque.

I believe it's an Iftar tent, one of the many such structures set up around the city to provide meals to people during Ramadan. Looks like Ramadan is approaching! I believe Ramadan is going to start on June 18 (± a day) so I need to start preparing for the month of fasting. I’m not Muslim but I have made it a habit to observe the fast during Ramadan, something I've done now for the last four years. It helps keep one in sync with the rest of the country, is an interesting cultural experience (and hopefully I’ll lose a bit of weight).

Step one -- kick the caffeine. During Ramadan you fast from the moment the first light (typically around 3:30 in the morning this time of year) until the sun sets at around 6:20pm. So that's about 15 hours where you do not eat or drink anything, even water. It can really play havoc with you if you're accustomed to drinking coffee, caffeine withdrawal is not fun that is something I would like to avoid as much as possible. So I've been slowly cutting back on the coffee and other caffeinated drinks. I'm now down to two small cups of coffee a day and I expect by midweek I will maybe have one tea in the morning, by which point it will be easy to not have any caffeinated drinks at all so I won't suffer through a splitting caffeine-withdrawal headache.

I'm not sure how smokers deal with this (yes, you can't smoke while fasting either). If you're a moderate to heavy smoker 15 hours is a long time to go without smoking.

Step two -- shopping for essentials. I haven't done this yet but I'll need to get big grocery shop done before Ramadan starts so that I have everything available for my iftar and sohour meals. Eating at home is definitely preferable to eating out all the time, that way you can have moderate-sized nutritious meals ready. The first time I fasted during Ramadan I was eating out in the evenings all the time with friends, going to various iftar buffets. The problem is when you have been fasting for so long the moment you start eating it's difficult to stop if there is food around, so when you go to buffets you wind up absolutely stuffing your face. Every year during Ramadan the hospitals see hundreds of people with stomach distress caused by overeating. I think that first Ramadan I wound up gaining weight because of all the food I was eating. My Qatari friends have told me that it is an issue, plenty of people actually gain weight during the month despite the fact that they’re fasting all day. Since then I have cut back on restaurant meals during Ramadan and instead prepare food at home. That means stocking up on vegetables, soup, olives, nuts, dates, whole-grain cereals and breads, laban, and some cheese. Dates are a must, they are the traditional food for breaking the fast.

Step three -- adjust the sleep schedule. Because you are out much later in the evenings (most shops have hours of 7pm to midnight or 1am), wake up around 3am to have your sohour meal, and you’re tired during the day from fasting, you sleep different hours during Ramadan. Typically I was sleeping from 1am to 6am (waking up briefly in between to have my sohour meal), then having a long nap from about 3pm until 5:00 or 5:30. I’m going to try to shift a bit to that this week by going to bed later in the evening and having a short nap after work.

Okay, I think that’s it for Ramadan prep, we’ll see how it goes starting next week.

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