I thought I'd talk a bit about Ramadan. I'm sure there are a lot of misconceptions, so I thought I'd share how I understand Ramadan as an American Muslim. I will preface this by saying that going for a long period of time during the day without eating isn't a problem for me. My eating habits have always been weird anyway. Not in an eating disorder sort of way but in that I don't really hold to the 3 meals a day theory. I found my best weight control occurred when I was munching all day but on healthy things like veggies, fruit, dried fruit, nuts, etc.
But, Ramadan isn't really about refraining from eating, even though it is. Allah has even provided for those with physical ailments that prevent fasting, those women who are pregnant, and people who are traveling during the month of ramadan. In some cases they make up the days the days of fasting in others they can exercise an alternative means of observing the fasts. The one thing that fasting does for me is remind me of the poor. It gives me an idea of what those who are starving go through daily (not just one month a year) because they do not have the means to eat regularly. I find that the other things that Ramadan is about pose a greater challenge, e.g., reining in my temper, watching my tongue, making time daily for quran reading, and consistency in practice as well as refraining from most forms of entertainment (halal) I habitually engage in. I know some of these efforts depend on my level of spirituality, my belief and "fear" of Allah, and my general sense of well being at the time. Each of those previous states of mind should show increased improvement over time and I should be concerned when there's a marked decline.
I know there are a large number of traditions associated with Ramadan, some the result of culture and others actually put into practice by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I know as an american (and a non-traditional one at that) I practice differently at Ramadan, in that having no family it's not important for me to break my fast in the company of others every evening. Since I work, I don't have the luxury of "taking it easy" during the day so I don't feel the occassional pang of hunger, or tiredness, or irritability. I am judicious as to what I eat. I don't glut on sweets, desserts and starchy foods, but rather start and end my day with wise food selections. I make every effort to spend more time at the mosque as well. I find the tranquil atmosphere to be soothing. For me, the change in routine is the biggest challenge. I'm a creature of habit and more so as I grow older. I have to change my rise time, my eating habits, my personal pursuits (e.g., tv watching, movies, reading selections, etc.) and other things at Ramadan and I fight constantly with complaining and resentment for having to do so.
Here are some references I find handy for the details of the practice of Ramadan and other related topics. I concur with most of the information:
10 Things to Know About Ramadan
10 Suggestions for A Successful Ramadan (Youtube)
I try to encourage those individuals from western cultures who are sincerly curious about Islam to learn to separate the politics and culture of those regions in the world that are predominantly Muslim from the practice of Islam. This will encourage a true understanding of the religion it self, those true believers that practice devoutly and with understanding, and even if you do not convert to Islam, it becomes possible to see how a Muslims are not inherantly enemies of those who are not Muslim.