By Humairah Irfan
If you only fasted in Ramadan, to stop fasting for the year of the year, you are losing out on tremendous health benefits that fasting offers! Did you know that sunnah fasting is more effective than intermittent fasting? For women especially, Sunnah fasting is amazing because we can naturally follow our cycles and continue fasting as per the Prophetic pattern.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) fasted:
- Every Monday and Thursday
- On the 13th, 14th and 15th of each Islamic month
- 9,10 or 10,11 in Muharram
- Two weeks in Sha’ban
- The entire month of Ramadan
- 6 days in Shawwal
- The first 9 days in Dhul Hijjah
Although fasting can be challenging and sometimes uncomfortable, the tremendous mental and physical benefits can:
- Boost cognitive performance by providing a steady fuel to the brain.
- Protect from obesity and associated chronic diseases & metabolic diseases
- Improve overall fitness. When our bodies are not busy digesting, they can actually help you improve your fitness by preserving muscle mass.
- Support weight loss by reducing your eating window and it’s harder to overeat in a shorter amount of time.
- Benefit cancer patients
- Reduce Insulin Resistance, Lowering Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Reduce Oxidative Stress and Inflammation in The Body, which is one of the steps towards aging and many chronic diseases.
Who would not want these benefits?
I don’t know about you, but if I can get all the above benefits without expensive alternate therapies and medications, then I’m totally in! Sunnah fasting is a lifestyle that allows you to stay young, disciplined and focussed on things more important and valuable than food. As time progresses, we have more allergies, more pain, more medications and more extra weight on us than we’d like. I want to ask you- is that actually normal?
You see, all of our events, celebrations and milestones revolve around food. Cakes, cupcakes, sweets especially the syrupy and ethnic sweets that are so delicious! Now with summer coming up, even our outdoor gatherings will be themed around BBQs, snacks and pop!
But what if there’s a better way? What if we made our occasions and celebrations about aspects other than food? At this point, you’ll probably stop reading this article, haha. I know. Don’t worry, I’m not going to ask you to give up what you love, but I will show you how you can add on a fasting lifestyle to gain the benefits of fasting, without having to give up the foods you love!
The last time I caught the flu was in Egypt in the fall of 2019. I also do not count calories or restrict any foods, and I’ve maintained my weight for 2 years. Here’s how I’ve maintained a sunnah fasting lifestyle for 2 years now Alhamdulillah:
1. Start with fasting one day/week.
If you find Mondays hard, then switch to Tuesdays or a weekend day. The first step is to just get started. Plan your week in advance so that you set yourself up for success. Let your family know that you will be fasting consistently once/week. Announce it so that you are not tempted to go back on your word.
2. When ready, add a second day in the week.
In the summers the days get longer so a lot of people think it will be harder to fast. But the opposite is true- The more often you fast, the faster you develop the habit of fasting. So try to add a second day of fasting in the week within your first month. Declare to yourself (and to your family) that this is how you will continue for the rest of the year/life. My family already knows that I’m in this for life! And it gets easier each day.
3. Instead of having a “I’m deprived” mindset, have a “choice” mindset.
Fasting is a choice you are choosing to make. For millions of people around the world, they do not have this choice. You choosing to not eat is a testament of your willpower, discipline and your commitment to your health. Fasting makes you a better person inside and out. How can it not? It’s a sunnah habit!
4. Plan special events around your fast or change your fast to another day
If I have a lunch invitation or something special is happening on a day I usually fast on (from the sunnah schedule above), then I simply fast on a different day. I do not “skip it”. If I get my period, I simply fast an extra day or two a week early or the next week. Or if the event can be moved, then I’ll discuss with my family about it. Communication is key, especially with children. They always want you to eat with them and taste the same things. Now my kids have learnt to save the bits and pieces for me, haha!
5. Always remind yourself why you are fasting.
Fasting year round has taught me gratitude for every morsel of food that nothing else in my life has. You see, I’m a minimalist. I buy things second hand. I avoid disposables like the plague. Over the years, I have simplified every aspect of my life, even as a mother of 3 and a wife. But food was the hardest. I loved my chai with all the biscuits. I loved all the desserts from the dessert table. Now, when I choose to fast, I know I’m putting a gap between myself and the food “addiction”. Allah (swt) rewards all efforts.
6. Add in exercise in a fasted state.
I personally exercise while fasting and I have taught all my clients how to do that as well. These clients are busy working women, mothers, business owners. So saving time is the most important condition. Fasting has given them freedom from the shackles of figuring out what to eat and when to eat. Or what to make, etc. Once they tackle that, the next step is to add in exercise at a convenient time and you will find that even if it is just a walk, you’ll see phenomenal results exercising in a fasted state.
7. Electrolytes are key to your success.
It is not so much that we need water as much as we need electrolytes. So if you experience lethargy, tiredness, headaches, make sure that your electrolyte intake is high. You can simply use pink salt and make a lemonade out of it. Take magnesium and low-sodium salt as well either in your lemonade or added to your foods.
8. Be safe
This goes without saying. We never want to be extreme. Sometimes I’ve just been so exhausted because life got busy that I skipped a week of fasting. However, I’d get right back into it! If you have medical issues, talk to your doctor. Do your research.
And you will notice as you begin to fast, you will inspire others around you too! What an amazing sunnah to revive!
I hope you embrace a fasting lifestyle for life so that you can be happier, healthier and fitter inshallah.
About the Author
Humairah Irfan is a fitness & nutrition expert & educator. She is the Owner of HI Energy Fitness and coaches her clients online across the world through her Flagship program, Triple your Energy in 90 Days that helps busy Muslim women reduce pain, boost their energy and lose weight without limiting themselves. She teaches Muslim women that strong is beautiful and sexy.