With the 9th of Av upon us, it’s a good time to go over how to prepare for and how to break a fast. When I speak with my clients about fasting, I often hear, “I get so sick when I have to fast,” or “I start out fine but I get a terrible headache,” and the very common “I am fine during the fast, but after I break the fast, I can’t function for hours and I feel awful.” I know that many years ago, prior to learning how to prepare for and break a fast, there were times I could have said all of the above. For the vast majority of people, if you prepare for and break the fast according to our tips, you will be just fine. Yes, you could get hungry and thirsty, but that is normal. Here are some simple instructions to help you along.
PREPARING FOR THE FAST
- Begin drinking on a consistent basis 36 hours beforehand. Increase your fluids by 25% or 30%.
- Eat more fruit — particularly fruit that is dense in fluid; melon and watermelon are particularly good. Fruits help retain the liquid you are consuming.
- If you are a coffee or caffeinated tea drinker, or a chocoholic, it’s imperative that you begin weaning yourself from these and other caffeinated foods or drinks 72 hours before the fast begins. Failure to do so may bring on headaches during the fast.
- At the meal before the fast, stick with complex carbohydrates with a normal amount of lean protein—DO NOT go high protein at this meal. Whole Grains, vegetables, fruits, and baked potatoes or, preferably, sweet potatoes are great.
- Keep drinking non-caffeinated beverages and remember that water and some fruit juices are best.
BREAKING THE FAST
- Begin with four or five glasses of water.
- Have a light meal, a bowl of soup, a small amount of whole grains (a slice of bread or a portion of brown rice, for example), and fresh cut salad is perfect. Keep proteins light and lean.
- Finish with a fruit or two. Stop there!
- Leave the table and go for a short walk; do your stretching.
- If you are really still hungry after that, have a small snack and some more water or tea.
- Don’t eat late at night, and the next day, you should wake up feeling hungry and healthy.
- Don’t eat an entire day’s worth of calories in one meal. Overeating after the fast can cause great gastric discomfort!
I once saw a neighbor after a fast who followed these tips. He told me that for the first time ever in his adult life, he felt well and had no headache. He was totally functional and didn’t feel over-bloated and weak. So, start preparing for and breaking the fast according to these instructions. You will feel better, and you will be all ready to enjoy the rest of your summer
Preparing for a fast and breaking it properly is just another way to “add hours to your days, days to your years, and years to your lives.”
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.