Good day to you all! As always, I hope this post finds you well. Today I'm going to write about how my mouth gets me into a lot of trouble. In most cases it's in the sense of the needless calories used to build my heavy frame. This instance is from the lesser used troublemaker- talking smack. A very good friend of mine is Muslim and last year we were talking about the challenges of fasting for Ramadan. Upon hearing the general guidelines of Ramadan and hearing his troubles starting out, I scoffed and told him that I could do that no problem. Words exchanged back and forth for a bit and then we can to an agreement. Ramadan 2013 I would follow the fasting and sacrifices that he does for the full thirty days.
The general idea of Ramadan is a follows (Courtesy of Wikipedia):
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, improvement and increased devotion and worship. Muslims are expected to put more effort into following the teachings of Islam. The fast (sawm) begins at dawn and ends at sunset. In addition to abstaining from eating and drinking, Muslims also increase restraint, such as abstaining from sexual relations and generally sinful speech and behavior. The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the soul by freeing it from harmful impurities. Ramadan also teaches Muslims how to better practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and compulsory charity.
I am not a religious person. I respect everybody for their beliefs and decisions. I am spiritual though. I'm not going to get on a stump and preach so we'll just leave it as that. Having reviewed the paragraph above, I understand the reasoning behind Ramadan. I see it as a way to remind everyone of sacrifice and taking a step towards purity. It's like lent, but not as long and with more obligations. So while this challenge has no bearings on me from a religious standpoint, I am taking strides during this time to really take in things that I take for granted.
Rewind to about two weeks ago and Alex pops in to remind me of our friendly challenge. After a series of text banter I decided to brush up on the requirements. I forgot how stringent they were. The basics for the fast are as follows.
- No food or water from dusk till dawn. To clarify, I am going the full route that Alex does, so my fast starts at 4:30 am and goes until roughly 9:03 pm. Each day ends differently because of when the sun sets and everything is completed. So he sends me a message letting me know when the fast was broken that day. (Eastern time is 3 hours ahead so I always know in advance when to celebrate Iftar- the meal that breaks the fast.)
- No alcohol.
- No sex.
- No pork.
- No swearing.
The goal of this month long process is purity. I like that idea. It humbles you having to go throughout your normal day without the luxuries that many other people around the world do not have. To live life without sacrifice is to go through your time on Earth without ever having made any changes to it. Whether it's time, money, resources, listening to another person's problems, or just living without necessary items, makes you a better person. And having gone without makes you more receptive to other people's plights, which hopefully will open you up to sacrificing to help another person out. The end result is the feeling of gratitude for all the little things that you do have.
Today is day five of Ramadan and I am proud to say that I am doing great! The first day was a complete shock to me, not because of the no food rule, but life without water is really tough. I work talking on the phones all day. Three hours into my shift I am completely parched. Since then I've learned to take small breaks and let my mouth and throat moisturize again before diving back in to the hectic life of a salesman. I set an alarm every morning for 4:15 so that I can mindlessly crawl to the sink and drink about one metric ton of water. I set everything up so that I use only the most minimal amount of senses and brain power to complete this task so that I can stumble back to bed and go back to sleep as fast as possible.
Exercise has been interesting for me during this time. As many of you know, I am currently doing the Frank to 5k training sessions. I'm also in two dodgeball leagues. So roughly five days a week I'm engaging in physical activities. Today will be my second day running in the week four phase of Ft5k and while the after effects of running while on the fast suck, it's nothing that alters my life dramatically. Dry mouth and sweat dominate me so as long as I take a shower to cool down after running then I'm fine. I also brush my teeth a lot. Two reasons why:
1. My breath stinks after several hours on the fast. After roughly 6-8 hours of not having food, the body turns to fat stores for energy. The result of the fat being burned is a chemical released that smells kinda funky. So my dental hygiene over the next month will be spectacular!
2. Incidental water ingestion is okay while brushing your teeth or in the shower. To clarify, I don't go in and guzzle water or try to catch water in my throat. The added moisture in my mouth is refreshing though and I do my best to spit as much of it out as I can.
Dodgeball isn't much of an issue because games are either at eight or nine. If they're at eight, then I have water and a small food item waiting for me after the game. If it's at nine then I can take a swig of water and have an energy item (Cliff bar or banana) before hand to boost me up for the game.
As for the other items: No pork, no problems. I've never been much of a pork eater myself. Cutting bacon is easy when you're not eating it to begin with.
No sex...... No problem...... It's easy to abstain from an act that you had pretty much been abstaining from anyhow... :-( (SELF DEPRECATING HUMOR! I LOVE IT!)
Swearing was a rule that I initially didn't try to avoid, but I'm curving that as well. I don't have a foul mouth on the regular, but I take liberties sometimes when I'm in the moment.
Alcohol won't be a problem for me. I went without during my juice cleanse, and I gave it up a few times before. I take this time away as an experience to learn more about myself and how to open up more without it.
There is a secondary reason why I was willing to take this challenge. I've read a lot of articles about intermittent fasting and the positive health effects is has on the body. Rather than eating 3-6 meals a day, there is a period of 16-20 hours of fasting followed by 4-8 hours of eating. Some people do this every other day or a few times a week, others do it daily. As stated above, in cases of fasting, after the first 6-8 hours the body uses up the food in the stomach then goes to work on fat reserves for energy. In normal IF there are no restraints on water. In the many reports I've read about the effects of this on the body, most having been positive. The problem is that there have been many small studies on this subject, but science hasn't taken the step to put it to bed. Every article quotes science, but none of them cite scientific sources behind it. The benefits range from weight loss to reduction of diabetes/cancer/heart disease risks, memory loss/etc.
The important factor to success when fasting this way is the return to eating. Just because you didn't eat for 16 hours doesn't give you the right to gorge your face when you do. Eating an entire pizza will not offset the positive effects of the day's work. This is where I'm running into trouble. Because there's a very small window of opportunity (I don't eat breakfast in the morning) you have to make sure that you get all of your nutrients in during the 2-3 hour period before bed. This is still a very big area of improvement for me. On the nights I'm out and about, I get fast food. I keep it within reason, but I don't get the servings of veggies and fruits that I should. When I'm at home, it's easier but I still lack in the area of fruits and vegetables. I'm going to start meal planning so that I break the fast with an medley of breakfast through dinner. Nutrition is key throughout this entire process.
While there is no money on the line over whether or not I complete this task, I take comfort in knowing that this all ties into my end goal of being a better person- health-wise and spiritually. I also smile as I imagine Alex's face when I complete this challenge with ease AS I SAID I COULD AND WOULD ONE YEAR AGO. I really enjoy challenges like this because I can have a short attention span, so things going long term I can easily lose interest in. The juice fast, the Frank to 5k's, and this Ramadan experiment all share something in common. They all challenge me in areas that I need to improve in while testing me in different ways. It slowly incorporates different aspects of healthy living into my life so that when I finally do achieve my perfect body, I'll have many resources to available to me to keep the weight off.
My starting weight in all of this was 308 on Wednesday. Yesterday I had shown a loss of 3 pounds. The majority of that is water weight, but it still feels good to get on the scale and see a drastic decrease in pounds in a short period of time. Take motivation whenever the opportunity presents itself! With that I'm off to complete day 2 of week four of the running program! Take it easy!
Until the next episode!