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12 hours of no-stress fasting after Ramadan: Moving from dry to intermittent

Two days after this year’s Ramadan, my headaches returned. They’re mild but can grind for hours. But I wasn’t surprised. In the euphoria of Eid…

Two days after this year’s Ramadan, my headaches returned. They’re mild but can grind for hours. But I wasn’t surprised. In the euphoria of Eid celebrations, I ate beyond the time limit I allowed myself. This means my problem isn’t a result of the content of my dish but the timing of my meals. In other words, I knew how to solve the problem and did so in less than 24 hours. 

How did I do this? Please read on. I’ll also share with you two additional benefits of intermittent fasting. And you can implement this routine into your daily schedule without starving yourself or subjecting yourself to any form of hardship. 

For example, how do you get rid of false hunger and the constant need to stuff your face? The third question I’m going to answer in this piece is which is the best option: eating small portions more frequently or large portions less frequently? These questions have only one answer. How to implement that answer in your life is what you’re about to learn. 

But before we move forward, let’s define our terms. We have two types of fasting namely, dry fasting and intermittent fasting. Dry fasting is what Muslims do compulsorily in the month of Ramadan and for extra reward outside Ramadan such as on Mondays and Thursdays and the three days of every month (13, 14 and 15 of the Islamic calendar).

The rules for dry fasting are straightforward. You don’t eat or drink from dawn to dusk. You’re also not allowed intimate relations with a spouse. The nighttime also doesn’t count among the hours of fasting. 

Intermittent fasting, on the other hand, counts hours of the night as fasting hours. That’s why it’s so easy to do. Intermittent fasting also allows drinking water or any beverage – such as black tea – that doesn’t taste like food. 

Experts will tell you that many of our illnesses result from what we consume. While what we eat (content) is important, the frequency of eating can be important too. 

For example, when I realized that my headaches had returned, I just switched from dry fasting to intermittent fasting. In other words, I returned to my pre-Ramadan diet. Which is to stop eating at 6 pm and resume eating the next day at 10 or 11 am. This way, I fast for a minimum of 16 hours every day. 

In this particular example, Eid was celebrated on Wednesday. Before going for Eid prayers  I was ready to eat the breakfast my mom prepared when my wife reminded me of the Sunnah of eating only dates before Eid and then eating a meal after Eid. So I ate the dates. 

I returned home between 10 and 11 am and ate breakfast. But I didn’t stop eating until around 11 pm. Then I resumed eating early in the morning on Thursday. By afternoon, I had headaches. So I decided to stop eating late afternoon on Thursday. When I woke up at 3 am on Friday, I still had a hint of the headache but within moments of waking up, the headache was gone. Still, I didn’t eat again until around 9 am on Friday. Which means I fasted for about 17 hours. The headache didn’t come back. 

So I proved to myself once again that intermittent fasting helps with my chronic headaches. 

But this leads to the second question. If one stops eating at 6 pm, wouldn’t he be starving the next morning? Counterintuitively, no. 

Indeed, the earlier you stop eating today, the longer you can go tomorrow without eating. In fact, for me at least, if I want to eradicate the early morning hunger pangs, I stop eating the previous day at 5 pm or a little later. 

In essence, if I eat late into the night (say 9 pm) I wake up hungry. But if I stop eating in the beginning part of the evening (say 6 pm) I wake up full of energy and can ride on that energy until noon if I choose to. 

This brings me to the final question: is eating small portions more frequently healthier than eating large amounts less frequently? No. This is not even a matter of opinion. It’s science. 

In my book, “Why You Should Eat Twice A Day,” I wrote: 

‘Researchers at the Institute for Clinical and Experimental Medicine in Prague, Czech Republic, aimed to find out. They provided 1,700 calories to two groups of type 2 diabetes patients to eat within a day. One group was given two meals, while the other was given six. Although the amount of food was the same, the two-meal-a-day group lost an average of three pounds and 1.5 inches of their waistline compared to the group that ate six times.

‘While the amount of food we consume matters, Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer argued in their book, ”The Fast Diet,” that the frequency matters more. Jason Fung also argued convincingly in ”The Obesity Code” that snacking between meals is the thief of weight loss gains. Even swishing a sugary drink in your mouth can make your body behave as if you’re eating and increase insulin levels, according to Gin Stephens in ”Feast, Fast, Repeat.”’

So one tool, intermittent fasting, answered all the questions we started with. It helps relieve my headaches, eradicates early morning false hunger and aligns with the advice of experts that we should eat less frequently. 

Of course, you can choose to do Muslim dry fasting (such as fasting on Mondays and Thursdays) instead. The secular benefits of this are well documented in the scientific literature. 

However, for those who want to try intermittent fasting, you don’t have to fast from 6 pm to 10 am like I do. Here’s how anyone can fast for 12 hours every day: stop eating at 8 pm and eat breakfast at 8 am. That’s 12 hours of fasting without stress. 


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