It’s time to break your fast. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling? Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace and blessing be upon him) says, “The fasting person experiences two joys: one when he breaks his fast, and one when he meets His Lord” (Muslim). That first joy is something we can all attest to. Especially with the long, 16 hour fast, it feels great to finally quench your thirst and get some satisfying food in your tummy. Ok, well, some might not be the right word. For many of us, when sunset rolls around, we eat like there’s no tomorrow. Or, should I say, to stock up for tomorrow? Whatever the reason – being tempted by delicious food, compensating for feeling deprived during the day, storing energy for the next day’s fast, or just plain old social eating – we struggle repeatedly with over-eating at iftar time.
Subhan’Allah (Glory to God), the Prophet ﷺ said: “The worst container to be filled to its utmost capacity is the stomach. It is enough for people to eat what will suffice to keep them standing, but if that is not attainable, then one third for food, one third for drink, and one third empty for air” (Tirmidhi). Most of us know the Prophet’s Sunnah (practice), but how many of us continue to eat until we’re 5/3rds full, to the point where we can’t breathe and feel uncomfortably stuffed, lethargic, sleepy, and not as energized for prayer and worship as before we broke our fast? It’s amazing how we can practice complete self-restraint with food while we’re fasting, but we struggle to apply it even partially when we have the green light to eat.
We are now in the second half of Ramadan, and before we know it, the month will be over. Let’s make it one of our goals (and insha’Allah [God-willingly] commit to it for good) to minimize over-eating so we can maximize the benefits of this blessed month. Here are seven tips to help develop a more mindful approach to eating:
1. Think of the Purpose. One of the benefits of fasting is that it makes you appreciate the blessing of food. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He) says, “So eat of the sustenance which Allah has provided for you, lawful and good; and be grateful for the favor of Allah, if it is [indeed] Him that you worship” (Qur’an, 16:114). Your ultimate purpose in life is to worship Allah (swt), so food provides you the energy and strength you need to worship Him with more devotion, concentration, and reverence. As you have iftar every day, ask yourself: are my eating habits hindering me, or helping me increase the ihsan (excellence) in my worship?
2. Remember the Source. If friends or relatives shower you with gifts, it is common courtesy to thank them and show appreciation. Allah (swt) provides you with sustenance on a daily basis, so remembering Him when you eat is a thoughtful way to express gratitude. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Allah is pleased with His slave when he eats something and praises Him for it, or drinks something and praises Him for it” (Muslim). When you take the time to remember Allah, mindfully and with contemplation – before, during and after you eat – it is more likely that you will be satisfied with less food.
3. Start Small. Break your fast with something light (i.e. dates and water), then pray Maghrib (evening prayer) before having the rest of your meal. That should take the edge off your hunger, which makes you less susceptible to binging and ravenous eating. Also, when you serve the food, serve it in a small plate, then go for seconds if you feel the need. Keep the main dishes away from sight and not where you’re sitting. The more food you see in front of you, the more you will eat without thinking about it first. If you’re having trouble holding back, think of Allah’s rewards, “And eat and drink but do not be wasteful, certainly He does not like those who are wasteful” (Qur’an, 7:31). Remember that waste is not just what goes in the trash, but also what we consume in excess.
4. Hydrate. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water when you break your fast. You’ll be less likely to eat too much afterward because that hunger sensation (which is often mistaken for thirst) can partly subside with hydration. Also, sip the water slowly and smile with thanks as you feel it tingling down your body. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Do not drink in one gulp like a camel, but in two or three (gulps). Mention the Name of Allah (say Bismillah) when you start drinking and praise Him (say Al-hamdu lillah) after you have finish (drinking)” (At-Tirmidhi).
5. Share with People. Ramadan is a beautiful time because it brings family and friends together, and strengthens the bonds of kinship and brother/sisterhood. Part of that bond is built when you share food together. Sharing not only increases the blessing in your food, but also makes you realize how little you can be satisfied with. Some of the Companions came to the Prophet ﷺ once and said, “We eat but are not satisfied.” He ﷺ said, “Perhaps you eat separately.” The Companions affirmed that. He then said, “Eat together and mention the Name of Allah over your food. It will be blessed for you” (Abu Dawud). If you’re at home, make sure you don’t eat alone, and invite people to eat with you. If you’re eating out in a group, partner up with someone and order a dish together. You will be surprised how filling it will be. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Food for one person suffices for two, and food for two people suffices for four, and food of four people suffices for eight” (Muslim).
6. Go Super Slow. Eating too much can sometimes be a result of eating too fast. It takes a mindful, conscious effort to actually slow down your body’s motions while you’re eating. Try to be aware of every piece of food you eat; raise it to your mouth slowly, chew it slowly, and swallow it slowly. That will give you time to enjoy the food, savor every bite, and be thankful for it. It will also give your body time to process the food you ingest, and give you time to listen to your body when it tells you it’s satisfied.
7. Plan Ahead and Get Cracking! One way to avoid over-eating is by shortening the meal time, and not making the evening revolve around food. Besides planning and making simple meals, every day before iftar, have a plan set that specifies how you will spend the rest of the night. Every moment is precious in Ramadan, so bring that to mind often, and plan accordingly. As soon as you feel satisfied with what you eat, consciously stop eating. Don’t eat more just because there’s food on your plate! It’s better to save leftovers than stuffing yourself so food doesn’t get thrown away. Then, after you finish eating, get moving; help clean the kitchen, go for a walk, read Qur’an. If you can, leave the area where food is visible so eating more isn’t an option. And whatever you do, don’t linger around the sweets and desserts for too long because that’s just asking for trouble!
What tips do you have on how to eat less at iftar time? Share with us!
We ask Allah (swt) to grant us the ability to always be grateful for His blessings, and to utilize His blessings in a way that is most pleasing to Him.