It was the third day of Ramadan. I was home in D.C. for Memorial Day weekend with my niece and daughter. We visited a friend's house for a play date. I asked her and her mother about how Ramadan was going. My friend mentioned how clear her mind was through the annual fasting that commemorates Muhammad's revelation of the Quran. As I sat eating the dates that she offered me while our girls played together, I was inspired to do research on the meaning of Ramadan. After researching I found out so much -- I even learned that dates are used to break Muslims daily fasts after Iftar because they help your body to hydrate faster.
What moved me the most about Ramadan was Muslims sacrifice to feel and sympathize with the hungriest people in the world through fasting. I realized that even though I wasn't born into a wealthy family, I have never been hungry or without food in my entire life. I don't know what that feels like. Something within me wanted to experience that.
When we got back home to New York I sat my alarm for a 4:15 a.m., washed and cut some fruit for my morning meal before sunrise (Sahur) and just thought about how this next month would be for me. The next day I woke up to my alarm without a problem. I hopped out of bed and immediately prayed. After prayer, I cooked myself a delicious breakfast of egg whites with cheese, veggie sausage links, waffles, blueberries, strawberries, plain Greek yogurt and iced green tea. I got dresssed and ready for work with a bit of time to spare.
I went to work and didn't feel hungry for the entire first day! It wasn't until the 5th day that I found myself feeling lightheaded while I was shooting on set. I sat down for a bit and started to feel better. That night I drank a liter of water at Iftar in hopes of not feeling so hydrated throughout the day. On the 5th day I also noticed how much discipline it takes to fast and was so happy that I started.
Here are some things that I learned from joining Muslims all over the world for Ramadan 2017:
People Interpret Discipline In Different Ways
While talking to friends, family and co-workers about Ramadan, they either felt one of two ways: inspired or uncomfortable. Mostly everyone that I talked to encouraged me and felt inspired by what Ramadan meant to me and to Muslims. However, a few people did feel uncomfortable. As the world and media alike continue to portray Muslims and Islam as an extremists practicing an extreme religion, I could tell that some people were disturbed by me participating in Ramadan. On the other hand I found that others were more uncomfortable with the level of discipline it takes to practice Ramadan on a daily basis. Discipline can ignite feelings of inadequacy within people who feel like they lack the focus or character to carry out difficult tasks/habits. I just ignored that energy and kept on pushing!
You Control Your Mind, Your Mind Does Not Control You
Common feedback that I received during the month was how most people didn't think they could make it through Ramadan because of mood swings. During the month I kept thinking about the phrase, "Mind over matter," which rings so true when you are fasting. My mind was clear just like my friend said her was. I started to notice how much I use food as a source of comfort in my life and how unhealthy that can be. You begin to fast from food and end up fasting from unhealthy habits. I was very conscious of what I put in my body and I listened to my body a lot (Am I hungry or full? Do I really want to eat that or do I want it just because it's there? My body feels tired. I'm going to listen to rest). I felt amazing and even though I had a hard time one Sunday when I was so hungry that I pinned over 20 recipes on Pinterest (and literally drooled at every photo), I felt so powerful and accomplished when I made it to Iftar. I've learned that I am in control of my mind and body and I can achieve whatever I set out to do.
Waking Up Early Is Tough But Rewarding
After Ramadan, I'm going to continue to wake up early. Praying/meditation really sets your intention for the day. I also like the extra "Me" time that I had for myself -- it really makes a difference. If I have to wake up an hour early to have a smoother day, why not? Spirituality is a huge part of fasting. After praying for my family, I would always ask for strength to get through fasting everyday.
Islam Is a Beautiful Religion
I have always had Muslim friends who have taken the time to show me how beautiful of a religion Islam is. There are Muslims of all shades and backgrounds all over the world who unite and celebrate their beliefs together as one.
Ramadan Is Not About Losing Weight But You Will Anyway
I lost 7 pounds which is amazing considering that I didn't hit the gym often. I feel amazing.
I am looking forward to Ramadan next year. Eid Mubarak!