7 Tips for Getting Through the Yom Kippur Fast
The Torah and Jewish laws were, many times, way ahead of modern day science. We know today that the occasional fast is healthy for the body and provides the digestive system with an opportunity to rest, detox, and reboot. And throughout the Jewish calendar, there are numerous fast days. The one that most Jews seem to commemorate is Yom Kippur.
If you’re like most people, fasting comes with dread and anxiety–mostly from the potential headaches and fatigue that accompany caffeine and sugar withdrawal. Many of us also turn to food for comfort. It is unnerving to know that for a 25-hour window, this is forbidden.
So let’s reframe our upcoming Yom Kippur fast (and all others for that matter) with the lens that God is giving us an opportunity to rest our bodies. Instead of focusing on the physical demands of the body, we get to focus on the spiritual aspects of our beings.
Here are some pre-and post-fasting tips to keep you feeling as strong as possible and make the most of this 25-hour fasting experience.
- Starting three days before the fast, increase your water intake and decrease your caffeine and processed sugar intake. This will help to ease any withdrawal symptoms on the day of the fast.
- Two days before the fast, begin to eat several small meals throughout the day taking care to keep your blood sugar levels (insulin production) even and prevent the hunger sensation. Continue to increase water consumption.
- The day before, Jewish law and custom encourage five small and complete meals leading up to the time of the actual fast. I also recommend avoiding sugar and caffeine on this day while hydrating as much as possible with water.
- Contrary to what seems logical, avoid eating a large, heavy meal right before the fast. Instead opt for healthy, complex carbohydrates like lentils, beans, wild and brown rice, and lots of fiber-rich vegetables like peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and artichokes. You can also add in avocado as a healthy and filling fat source. These digest slowly, prevent insulin spikes, and delay your hunger reaction.
- After the fast, your body has just been through both a physical and spiritual journey so treat it gently and kindly. Avoid gorging when breaking the fast! This will make you feel completely sick and can perpetuate stomach upset, nausea, headaches, and more.
- Give yourself a good 20 minutes after eating before deciding if your body needs more to eat. Often, we overeat after a fast for psychological reasons (we mentally feel deprived from not eating for an entire day) rather than actual physical hunger, which is what leads us to splurge.
- Break the fast with some light fruit, followed by a fantastic soup of your choice. Soups are filling and easily digested. They will not overwhelm the body after a 25-hour fast. Here is one of my original recipes for a vegetable soup:
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
Fresh or frozen vegetables:
10 ounces mixed vegetables (found in freezer section)
16 ounces cut carrots
16 ounces small whole onions
16 ounces cut green beans
2 cut up stalks celery
1 bag chopped cabbage
2 46-ounce cans tomato juice
2 cut-up zucchini
2 veggie bouillon cubes
6 to 8 cups water
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Salt, pepper or lemon pepper
Parmesan cheese (optional)
Can freeze portions for future use. This is a low-calorie, high-nutrient soup. Adding Parmesan cheese makes the recipe dairy.
Put everything except Parmesan cheese together in stock pot.
Bring to boil.
Let simmer with lid on for 45 minutes.
Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese (optional).
Please remember the Jewish laws about who should and should not fast. These laws exist for a very good reason: if you are ill or fit into any of the other categories of people who should not fast then DO NOT fast!
Consult with your doctor and rabbi if you have any questions about this. Fasting can be very traumatic to the body for the person who should avoid it.
Gmar chatima tovah. Wishing everyone an easy fast and a blessed year. May we all be inscribed in the Book of Life for only blessings.