The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Archive for the day “July 1, 2014”

Having my cake and eating it.

Settled down to understand more about the physiology related to fasting and fell asleep. Even with the Simpsons on Channel 4. I have felt rather fatigued today – I think that’s my body readjusting to what I am doing to it. It really is a mind of matter situation and at the moment it’s neck and neck. Matter kind of won today but I know I have to get the mind back into it. I think when I am working, out there and doing stuff things really do go a lot easier during the fasting day. Today I stayed in my room, read, slept and prayed. I feel more lethargic and the thought of heading out for the night prayer seems like a mammoth effort. Bigger than it did on the other days.

Drinking my cup of tea is rather wonderful though. It makes me appreciate that particular luxury amongst others. In fact as I was pouring out something to eat today, I felt an urge to keep the portion size small. I was just not able to consider eating or even looking at vast amounts of food. In that moment I wondered that if more people were to undertake abstinence from food, through fasting, would that mean less food waste? There was a program on BBC Radio 4 last night as I was driving home about the horrifying amounts of food that are thrown away around the world. Fasting certainly does without a shadow of a doubt make you appreciate the privilege of easy and ready access to food and water. It’s one that not everyone has.

I’m settling down to the BBC’s Newsnight and another cup of tea. Just had a delicious slice of home made fruit cake, complete with icing and marzipan. Now I feel a bit sick.


Day 3 – In Fasting Hibernation

I have not left my room today. I live in a flat with three others and my en suite room is my domain. I just wanted to stay put, do nothing but be still and quiet. It’s not something I am going to have much opportunity for later in Ramadan, starting tomorrow – so I thought I’d make the most of my downtime. I got home late last night after the excitement of the Algerian football match and the successful cooking session. By the time I had settled, had sehur (breakfast) and prayed Fajr it was around 3.30am. I slept in this morning and ever since have gorged myself on the unthinkable other than food – a diet of day time tv. Now I feel a little unclean!

As I write this an ice-cream van drives by. Funny how I never noticed this before. How long have we been getting ice-cream vans down here? Weird how you notice these things on a fast.

I had for the first time this Ramadan pangs of hunger, that made me feel a bit nauseous and so I tried to focus on the physiology going on in my body and what was causing it. I found myself looking up the hunger hormone, ghrelin. It is secreted when the stomach is empty and when the stomach is stretched as it receives content it’s secretion stops. I think I am a ghrelin secretion hater as I always feel more comfortable in a stretched stomach state. The fuzzy head right now isn’t that bad but I am fully aware that I am fasting and that reinforces my negative state that I find myself in. I know for example that my own health and well being allows for me to fast and that within my own body I have enough food reserves to keep me alive and functioning for more than just a day. I also know that cutting my calorie intake is good for me and that subjecting my body to this kind of stress is actually a form of repair. I also know that I can survive without water until 9.20pm this evening. I also know that right now my body is going into fat burning mode to gain it’s source of energy and that I have plenty of fat stores to draw from. So what is it that is making me feel so much slower today? And hungry? It was not like this yesterday. But then again I was rushing around, shopping, feeling the Ramadhan spirit and today I am alone in my room with the television. Maybe that’s it.

For a more informed answer I am turning to science to understand. I am actually going to go away for a bit and read Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer’s book ‘The Fast Diet’ and in particular the chapter about the science of fasting.

However I have gained some solace from the following, that Michael gives us from his and Mimi’s book:

‘…Once you have been really hungry you no longer fear it.

I thought fasting would make me distractible, unable to concentrate. What I’ve discovered is that it sharpens my senses and my  brain.

I feared it would be incredibly hard to do. It isn’t.’


Farewell to the Desert Foxes and their Fantastic Fans

Farewell to the Desert Foxes and their Fantastic Fans

The farewell from Algerian national football coach to the fans and the tearful hugs for his team. Vahid Halilhodzic did an amazing job and let’s hope he stays. Bravo team, bravo.

Iftar and the Algeria Germany match

Iftar and the Algeria Germany match

Iftar Day Two

This one was spent mostly with my hands over my eyes. I was watching the Algeria v Germany match at an Algerian friend’s house. I had the full DZ experience which included going to a local Algerian butchers to buy meat and then onto a fantastic Algerian cake shop to buy some delicate little pretty cakes, Algerian style. The shop was just a gallery of naughty sweet stuff made to look like little works of art. 

Algerian flags were out everywhere and in the Finsbury Park part of London, where Algerians are a small but concentrated community, the anticipation for the coming match hung in the air. Excited chatter over the counter as Iftar preps were being made.

It was then home to cook and I made shorba and some lamb with chickpeas. We cheated and bought the lamb borek – filo pastry with a filling of mince. 

For once it all turned out as it should in terms of the food and with time to spare but sadly the football didn’t. Algeria played well, the goal keeper was superb but the outcome of a 2:1 win to Germany in extra time has meant the end of Algeria’s 2014 World Cup journey. Interesting though that their presence here brought to the pundit discussions the topic of religion – Adrian Chiles from ITV referred to the fans’ hand gestures to the ‘face and the sky’ and the commentator mentioned the debate about whether the Algerian footballers should or should not be fasting. There was an update of what Ramadan actually means for those that might have missed that. 

I’m writing this sipping water as I am too full to eat but aware I need to hydrate, as I watch the news. BBC News’ Olly Foster in Brazil  describes the Algeria Germany match with evident respect. He says it was the most fantastic 0-0 match ever in the World Cup, where the Algerian’s took the Germans by storm in 90 mins. It really was quite something and they fought so well. The tears at the end from the coach, Valid Halilhodzic and the players were shared by many. I think the Algerians – both the players and the fans – have really won the hearts of many. They have earnt respect.

And now as the American team prepares for it’s match against Belgium – the US coach, Jurgen Klinsmann has expressed concern about the Algerian referee, Djamel Haimouidi assigned to their match. He says it’s because Haimoudi will be better able to communicate with Belgium and that the US knocked out Algeria in 2010. The Algerian world cup discourse continues.Image

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