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Tips for an Easier Fast

Tips for an Easier Fast


Although the Jewish year is filled with an abundance of wonderful holidays, several times a year—six, to be precise—we fast. Four of the fast days commemorate events that led to the downfall and destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. There are two major fast days which all people are commanded to uphold, Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, while the other four are of lesser importance.1

The Fast of Gedaliah, on the 3rd of Tishrei, marks the tragic assassination of Gedaliah ben Achikam, governor of the first Jewish commonwealth in the Holy Land. After his death, Jewish autonomy came to an end.

Yom Kippur, the 10th of Tishrei, is the holiest day of the year, on which the Jewish people reflect and ask forgiveness for the sins of the previous year.

The 10th of Tevet marks the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem, which ultimately ended in the destruction of the Temple.

The Fast of Esther, the 13th of Adar, is the day before Purim, and commemorates the three days that Esther fasted before approaching King Achashverosh and begging him to spare the Jewish people from Haman’s evil decrees.

The 17th of Tammuz is the date when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, another major event leading to the destruction of the First Temple.

The fast of Tisha B’Av, the 9th of Av, is a day of mourning for the First and Second Temples, both which were destroyed on this day (the first by the Babylonians in 423 BCE, the second by the Romans in 70 CE). It is also appropriate to consider on this day the many other tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout the ages.

Although some people find fasting quite arduous, there are some pointers that can help ease the fast-related hunger pangs.

A week before . . .

  • Taper off on coffee or other caffeinated beverages about a week before the fast. Sudden deprivation on the day of Yom Kippur may produce caffine withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches. Cutting back on coffee, or drinking decaf, may ease potential withdrawal. It is also advisable to cut back on cigarettes, refined sugars, or any other food you eat with compulsion.

  • In the preceding days, try to vary your meal schedule. If you normally eat at the same time every day, your body clock will automatically prepare to digest as lunch time approaches . . . By varying your meal schedule, you may find that it eases the hunger you might normally experience at mealtimes.

The day before . . .

  • Hydrate! Most of the unpleasantness associated with a fast does not come from lack of food, but rather from lack of fluid. The solution is to drink as much water as possible before the fast. Although you may feel you’re about to float off, it will be worth it by the time the fast is well underway. Beware of beer or other alcoholic beverages; they will only dehydrate you. Water or diluted orange juices are the safest options.

  • Don’t over-stuff yourself before the fast. Many people seem to think that eating a lot the day before will compensate for not eating on the fast day. This will actually make you hungrier. Have you ever noticed how much hungrier you are the morning after a large meal . . . ?2 Eat a proper meal that emphasizes carbohydrates, some protein, and foods high in oils and fats, since they delay the emptying of the stomach, thus prolonging the effects of your pre-fast meal. Consuming carbohydrates (e.g., potatoes, pasta) will be very effective, as they bond with water that your body will make use of during the fast.

  • Avoid salty or spicy foods. Salt causes a person to feel thirsty despite having a “normal” amount of water, because extra water is required to absorb the extra salt. For this reason, you should refrain from processed foods containing lots of salt, such as pickles or cold cuts. Most tomato sauces, canned fish and smoked fish should also be avoided.

  • Salads and other high-fiber foods that are so important in one’s normal diet should be de-emphasized for the pre-fast meal, since they travel quickly through the digestive system. Fruit, despite its high fiber content, is worthwhile, since it carries a lot of water in a “time-release” form.

The day of . . .

  • Avoid wearing clothing that will make you perspire, as this will cause your body to lose water.

  • Try [and it is difficult!] not to talk or think about the food you’ll eat after the fast, as this will cause your body to begin preparing itself for a meal.

  • Take an afternoon nap between prayer services. This will pass some time, and some people also experience a feeling of fullness after a short nap.

  • Some people find that sniffing spices helps ease the hunger.

Post-fast . . .

Now comes the easy part, which most of us will have little trouble with! However, there are a few pointers to keep in mind so as not to shock your body back into eating mode.

  • Be sure not to eat food too quickly at the post-fast meal. Begin the break-fast meal with a drink of milk or juice; this puts sugar into the bloodstream and occupies space in the stomach, discouraging you from eating too rapidly.

  • Begin with eating a simple food, such as a piece of honey cake or crackers. It is advisable to wait some time before sitting down for a full meal, in order to give your body a chance to begin digesting foods again. I imagine most people are willing to run the risk of a stomachache by eating without delay, but it is still a good idea to keep in mind, even if you postpone your meal by only a few minutes.

  • Drink lots of water, and avoid salty foods, since you will still be a little dehydrated and need to replace your fluids.

  • Many people vote for a dairy meal (e.g., cream cheese and bagels), as it is lighter on the system.

  • Avoid gorging yourself. The body protects itself from starvation when you are fasting by slowing down the rate at which it burns food. Therefore, the calories you consume right after a fast will stay with you a lot longer than those acquired on a normal basis.

Wishing you an easy fast!


Pregnant and nursing women are not required to fast on the minor fast days. Anyone who is ill should consult a rabbinical authority about whether or not to fast.


However, on the day preceding Yom Kippur, there is a mitzvah to eat double.

Chana Lewis is a student and freelance photographer.
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Sara Melbourne August 1, 2017

Isn't the point of a fast to experience pain a suffering? Why try make it easier? Reply

Yale Gordon December 1, 2016

Staying full Fiber is key it delays absorption and will keep you full much longer! Eat vegetables with high nutrient and water content this will keep you feeling satisfied for much longer. Reply

Anna Abbotsford Bc July 18, 2015

Fasting pregnancy sick stomach If a woman is suffering morning sickness I have a suggestion of something she can do prior to the fast. This would also work for someone with stomach problems. I found out this gem from a older native woman.

small raw potato
fine grating grater
fine strainer

grate potato
squeeze out the liquid... with your hand if you wish
sip... 1 tsp to 2T

One mother-to-be, who was throwing up all day, took two tablespoons worth.
She attended a wedding the next day and felt great... aaall day! Reply

Nicole TX December 7, 2014

YAY!!! Thank you so much Chana, now i know the smart and healthy way to fast without hurting my body. this is really nice, i will attempt to memorize this. Reply

Carol Fox England September 20, 2014

Diabetic Sad to say, since 2004 when I was told that I was diabetic I consulted a rabbi who told me to ask my doctor if I should fast. She said no. It's taken over 8 years to get over the guilt. If I don't eat enough I become ill. However, I do try to stick to Jewish law for Yom Kippur as much as possible except for the fasting. Reply

Nathalice August 5, 2014

easier fast? Thank you Chana for the good tips on fasting. I'd learned them while trying to detox for healthy and fitness purposes not religious ones. Therefore I couldnt agree more with Noah Isaac's comment.Unless you are diabetics or has been under health treatment,there shouldn't be any effort to lessen the so-called difficulties of this mitzvah experience. Actually, the less we try to have control over fasting(as a mitzvah),the truly better we will experience. Reply

Noah Isaac Perlman September 10, 2013

Re easy fast I agree, fasting is not supposed to be a pleasant experience. We deprive ourselves for a reason. Sure, cut down on the coffee if you don't want a splitting headache and if you have a medical reason like your medication bottle says "drink with full glass of water or milk" and it's not something you can go without during the fast, then consult a rabbi. I think we are focusing on the wrong things here. If your a diabetic do what you have to do so you don't die. But we are depriving ourselves as a mitzvah on the highest of holy days. I have overcome several serious things in my life because through the suffering of deprivation because I have had a closer connection to Hashem during this time and He recognizes the effort to please Him! He loves us! Focus on the seriousness of atonement of sin and the kind of year that is to come. It's actually a beautiful experience when your will is lined up with Hashem's. If your doing it just to get through it and make it easy and sit through temple why Reply

yaffab Brooklyn September 10, 2013

things that help Yes it does help if less is eaten a week prior. Me and my Always ate a banana before fast and always helped Reply

LP July 16, 2013

Diabetes and Fasting You must consult your local Orthodox rabbi. Fasting for a diabetic can be life-endangering. There are ways to eat (using specific amounts and time between bites) that constitute "not eating.". Please speak to a rabbi! Reply

F. Topp Brooklyn July 15, 2013

HONEY!!!! we eat a spoonful of honey the last thing before the fast and it really does help. Reply

Efi n.y. July 9, 2013

my tip I drink some honey just before the fast ...yup just pour some down my throat,but the guy who suggested it to me takes 5 table spoons.
If nothing else it's yummy ..but I've heard honey doesn't break down easily Reply

Bill Montreal, Canada September 25, 2012

Concerning medicines In reading over the comments I noticed that Rabbi Freeman suggests taking medication without water, on an empty stomach. Depending on the type of medicine, it is probably best to get a doctors opinion as to whether this is a safe thing to do. Even if there is no "mortal danger", it may result in long-term heatlh problems. Reply

Bill Montreal, Canada September 25, 2012

Coffee Many people get headaches if they suddenly withdraw from caffeine. Since I'm pretty sure medication is allowed during fast days, and caffeine is technically a drug, should it be exempt from the list of forbidden foods? Reply

Anonymous Beitar, Israel September 25, 2012

Meal after Yom Kippur I learnt in a halacha class that it is a mitzva to eat a festive meal after Yom Kippur. Of course, it doesn't have to be immediately after the fast ends, but I don't think that cream cheese and baigels would suffice. Reply

MJ Barstow, CA. / USA September 24, 2012

Yom Kippur Fasting When Diabetic SHALOM ~

I have Diabetes and wanted to ask about Fastimg.
How do I Fast, and at the same time risk low blood sugar?
I need advice please.

Thank You ~

Mordche Weissler manchester, United Kingdom via September 24, 2012

tips for fasting my expirience is, keep off caffiene, e.g. coffee,Coca Cola, and some types of 7up. Reply

Arieh B. Montreal, Canada September 23, 2012

Easy fast In fact, I wonder why we should have an easy fast. I mean, we are suposed to fast because it's a very important mitzvah and usually we try to make the mitzvah more "nice" . Having an easy fast it's like not doing to much effort to do a mitzvah. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, New York July 27, 2012

break the fast with good to break the fast with a raw juice. It gives raw healthy enzymes to the stomach. I wonder what Rambam says about breaking the fast. Reply

frank craven NYC, NY via October 6, 2011

fasting so be it thank G*d we are not in Iraq or Afghanistan and just be grateful we are alive. Reply

Susan Fayetteville October 6, 2011

Our Experience After years of trying different things, we found that the best pre-fast day eating is to have a protein meal as the pre-pre-fast meal (meat is beside the point for the Nine Days, but there's always fish), and then have a relatively light and carbohydrate-based meal just before the fast.

Also, while cutting back on coffee may not do much for one's mood the days before, we've found that it does pay off on the actual fast day. Reply

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