In the first of a five-week se­ries on how to re­ju­ve­nate the body and mind dur­ing and af­ter Ra­madan, health and fit­ness per­son­al­ity Wael Al Sayegh shines a light on tab­ula rasa – or how to start with a clean slate


Ra­madan Ka­reem ev­ery­one! We made it! Hooray! For­give my early Ra­madan en­thu­si­asm as many of you may be pre­par­ing to face your morn­ing cof­fee with­drawal symp­toms when you be­gin your month-long fast, but I can­not help but get ex­cited about my favourite time of year. Yes, you read it cor­rectly, Ra­madan is my favourite time of year, and not be­cause I was born dur­ing it many moons ago, but be­cause I be­lieve it’s filled to the brim with bless­ings and gifts that are open to all of us, re­gard­less of whether you fast for the month or not. It’s a mag­i­cal time where the stars are aligned to help us serve our selves.

I am what I am. This is not your reg­u­lar ‘Stay/get fit in Ra­madan’ ar­ti­cle. I am not go­ing to tell you what to eat or when, or how to ex­er­cise or how not to, or when to ex­er­cise or not to. I am here to share with you how you can use this month to re­align your­self with your health and fit­ness flow, if you want to.

The aim is not to make you get fit in Ra­madan or stay fit in Ra­madan, but to en­cour­age you to make a start to­wards the process of re­claim­ing your own health and fit­ness flow in what­ever it is you do. We just hap­pen to be us­ing Ra­madan as the per­fect time to plant the seeds of this. Re­gard­less of whether you are an elite pro­fes­sional ath­lete or a re­cently re­tired couch potato, I hope to be able to sup­port you.

Ra­madan is a be­gin­ning, dear reader. At this time of year the Prophet Mo­ham­mad (PBUH) started to re­ceive divine rev­e­la­tions from Al­lah.

For us to be­gin our jour­ney back to our fit­ness flow we must first fo­cus our at­ten­tion on tab­ula rasa. Tab­ula rasa is Latin for “a clean slate”. The Ra­madan fast is a phys­i­cal, spir­i­tual and meta­phys­i­cal tab­ula rasa.

Ac­cord­ing to weight loss spe­cial­ist Nathan Hewitt, fast­ing can be a safe way to lose

In meta­phys­i­cal terms, FAST­ING makes our bod­ies in­hos­pitable to what Carl Jung called our Shadow Selves. These are RE­DUN­DANT EN­ER­GIES in­side that are fed at the ex­pense of our per­sonal growth

weight. It al­lows the body to burn fat cells more ef­fec­tively than nor­mal, by en­cour­ag­ing it to use stored fat as its main source of en­ergy. Fast­ing gives the di­ges­tive sys­tem a well-de­served rest, with the ef­fect of en­er­gis­ing the me­tab­o­lism to burn calo­ries more ef­fi­ciently. The fast can reg­u­late di­ges­tion and pro­mote healthy bowel func­tion, which im­proves meta­bolic func­tion. Fast­ing im­proves how you ex­pe­ri­ence hunger. Why is this im­por­tant? Obese peo­ple don’t re­ceive the cor­rect sig­nals to tell them they are full, so they keep on eat­ing. The fast can fa­cil­i­tate this sig­nal. Other ben­e­fits in­clude im­prove­ments in eat­ing pat­terns, brain func­tion and the im­mune sys­tem. Fast­ing can help clear the skin and prevent acne, pro­motes longevity and con­trib­utes to self-en­light­en­ment. Talk about get­ting more bang for your buck!

In meta­phys­i­cal terms, the fast makes our bod­ies in­hos­pitable to what psy­cho­an­a­lyst Carl Jung called our Shadow Selves. These are re­dun­dant en­er­gies in­side that are fed at the ex­pense of our per­sonal growth. (This month is the per­fect time to curl up with a book – on this topic, try Ge­off Thomp­son’s

Hunt­ing the Shadow.) These shad­ows thrive on neg­a­tive think­ing, at­ti­tude and be­hav­iour. When we re­ject neg­a­tive thoughts dur­ing

Ra­madan we starve the shad­ows of their daily feed, and these squat­ters and en­ergy zap­pers get up and leave. The fast helps make our bod­ies hos­tile to them. Pow­er­ful shad­ows, those which have been with us since child­hood or those with a long his­tory, may not leave that eas­ily. For tena­cious shad­ows we may need more.

Ra­madan is about re­con­nect­ing in­wards, turn­ing away from tem­po­rary ma­te­rial things and turn­ing in­side our­selves to­wards the eter­nal. It’s when peo­ple of the Is­lamic faith re­con­fig­ure their per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with their Cre­ator and the teach­ings of the life of the Prophet Mo­ham­mad (PBUH), by read­ing the Qu­ran, con­tem­pla­tion, and special night prayers.

We re­mem­ber what hunger feels like, and those who have to en­dure it ev­ery day around the world. We give char­ity, and re­con­nect with fam­ily and friends we may have grown apart from in the busi­ness of “get­ting things done”. It’s a time to re­align with our higher selves.


The jour­ney to re­claim­ing our nat­u­ral health and fit­ness flow starts with the most im­por­tant ele­ment of all. This is where it all starts and ends. This is (in my hum­ble opin­ion) your true Ji­had when it comes to health and fit­ness. When­ever I’m asked about what I rec­om­mend for peo­ple to eat I al­ways re­fer them to Scott Son­non’s 28 Days Pri­mal Eat Clean Nu­tri­tional Chal­lenge (pri­maleat­ing­gift.com) which is avail­able for free to down­load and print. In it, Son­non out­lines what healthy eat­ing is. Here are some ex­tracts to keep in mind:

■ Healthy eat­ing isn’t per­fec­tion, but do­ing your best with what you have.

■ Healthy eat­ing isn’t calo­rie ex­per­tise. It’s pay­ing at­ten­tion to your body’s nat­u­ral hunger cues.

■ Healthy eat­ing isn’t a new iden­tity. It’s liv­ing au­then­ti­cally as a happy, healthy per­son.

■ Healthy eat­ing isn’t re­stric­tion. It’s about in­te­grat­ing val­ues into your life so that you can make smart, healthy choices with­out feel­ing de­prived.

The pro­gramme goes into de­tail of how to pro­gres­sively, over the course of 28 days (per­fect for Ra­madan), get back a healthy eat­ing habit in four key stages. Only when each stage is com­plete do you move on to the next.

In week one you in­crease veg­eta­bles and protein. In week two, you in­crease fats and re­move grains from your in­take. In week three you re­duce starches, dairy and fruits. And in week four you re­move dairy, fruits and starches al­to­gether. Around 85 per cent of Scott’s fit­ness re­sults (he is a World Mar­tial Arts Games five-times gold medal­list, voted among the six most in­flu­en­tial mar­tial artists of the 21st cen­tury by Black Belt Mag­a­zine, and named as one of the top 25 fit­ness train­ers in the world by Men’s Fit­ness

Mag­a­zine, among many other ac­co­lades) didn’t come merely from equipment, ex­er­cise or ex­er­tion. They came from eat­ing meat, veg­eta­bles, nuts, seeds, a lit­tle fruit, no sugar or gluten, and no dairy. That is re­ally say­ing some­thing, dear reader.


We live in a time where for most of the year we are ob­sessed with growth (of money and ma­te­rial items), ex­pan­sion (of busi­nesses or in­flu­ences), re­sults, scal­ing up and dead­lines. We con­vince our­selves that to be happy, we need these things. The truth is many of us end up just chas­ing the ap­pear­ance of hap­pi­ness. Like a mi­rage in a desert it may ap­pear real, but that is the re­sult of our in­ter­nal un­bal­anced delu­sions and state of health.

Sadly, the fit­ness in­dus­try has fol­lowed the main­stream path of this age-old con­di­tion. Ev­ery­thing is very much out­wardly fo­cused. We care about gain, records and medals. Oth­ers aim for in­creases in power, speed, strength. I have noth­ing against all these things, but not when they come at the ex­pense of health.

I want to leave the mat, gym, dojo and be able to play with my kids, not come home and col­lapse in pain. My fit­ness is sup­posed to help me be­come bet­ter at what I do, not worse. What’s the point of medals and records when you can­not en­joy full body mo­bil­ity be­cause your shoul­ders or bi­ceps are too tight or overde­vel­oped?

I have a great ad­mi­ra­tion for Brazil­ian Ju-Jitsu ath­letes. But when I see the pain some of these ath­letes are in, it makes me think twice. If this at­ti­tude doesn’t change, then our bod­ies will con­stantly be try­ing to save them­selves from our­selves.

The loss of range of move­ment this leads to in­creas­ingly lim­its us, and we be­come more brit­tle. Even­tu­ally the in­evitable hap­pens – an in­jury ei­ther re­duces our abil­ity to prac­tise the sport or ac­tiv­ity we love, or worse still, the in­jury we sus­tain takes us away from it al­to­gether.

To rec­tify this con­di­tion, we must turn in­wards. Just as Ra­madan en­cour­ages us to turn in­wards to re­con­nect with our hu­man­ity, we can turn in­ward with our health and fit­ness and re­con­nect and re­new our al­le­giance to the king of the fit­ness realm: our mo­bil­ity. Un­til next Fri­day.

☞ Wael Al Sayegh is a cer­ti­fied Tac­fit and Clubbell Athletics in­struc­tor and CEO and owner of Fam­ily Mar­tial Arts Lead­er­ship Academy in Dubai.

STEP 3 With right foot flat, ex­tend left leg, drop­ping the hip with grav­ity. Ex­hale deeply. Re­verse di­rec­tion. Re­peat five times. It’s im­por­tant to warm up be­fore any work­out and do a cool down ex­er­cise af­ter.


STEP 1 Be­gin in quad press po­si­tion, spine par­al­lel to the ground. Keep press­ing into the earth with your hands.

STEP 2 Sit back­wards with left arm push­ing into the earth with palm heel. Keep right arm shoul­der blade down and pull el­bow tight into ribs.

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