“This is in discipline you find freedom”. I heard this sentence over and over from my senseï when I used to practice aikido. In my 30’s at the time, I kept fighting with this idea, as I was connecting “discipline” with rigidity. Now just landing in my 50’s I deeply get the idea: a disciplined routine is the door to life and freedom. And chronobiology and chrononutrition (aka meal timing) has a lot to teach us in that matter.
When science fights common beliefs
The science of chronobiology started with the discovery of a master clock in the brain, responding to light and darkness. Recently, Nobel Prizes, J.C.Hall, M.Rosbash and M.W.Young demonstrated that in fact many peripheral clocks rule most of our vital functions in response to our environment.
With technology, artificial light and city life, we have forgotten what ancient wisdoms and traditions knew very well: we are rhythmic beings. Our body’s peripheral clocks respond to cues such as sleep, stress, physical activity, nutrient-content and timing of our meals. Our liver, kidneys, microbiome, and nervous system create symphony or confusion according to our lifestyle and food choices. As our brain do, our organs love daily and seasonal routines. This is the power of cycles in life on earth. Just think about how you feel after a bad night sleep or a heavy late dinner.
Our body needs discipline
Our body needs discipline and routine to give us back some freedom as energy, lightness and good mood.
With this worldwide lockdown situation, we have lost our usual routine and suddenly everything is chaotic. With no warning and no control over it, work, school and social life we took for granted have metamorphosed into home-centred duties. Meal timing, sleep patterns and stress may have gone hectic and here is what happens:
- Meal timing
If you mess up with your meal routine, you end up with food cravings, hunger just after a meal, poor energy levels and weight gain (or trouble losing weight). Because unusual food intake timing “alters satiety signals and reduces serum leptin levels”.
Several hormones are dependent on the amount of sleep you get each night. If you sleep less than 5 hours your leptin decreases. If you sleep 8 hours your leptin increases. Less sleep means more cravings and hunger. Be aware that more time at home often means less physical activity and late TV shows leading to poor sleep quality.
Without routine, worry knocks at the door of your brain and your stress hormones start to raise. With stress comes a de-synchronisation of your peripheral clocks and all its associated consequences: tiredness, sluggishness and stubborn weight.
The good news is we do control the care and attention we give to our body and mind through Food, Fast and Mindfulness. And the way to keep consistent with it is to create a routine.
The power of experience
Being more at home is a great time to observe your own habits, to discover and experience your personal natural rhythms. I encourage you to sit back, reflect and observe how many external circumstances condition your internal life, and your dietary choices. Do you use food as a safety gear in your life? These three questions will help you start.
- Do you end up with a coffee latte with 2 sugars at 10 am to dampen your hunger and kick your energy up after skipping breakfast? Would your natural rhythm requires a break-the-fast at 10 am? What is your best eating window? Try it now.
- Reflect on your last two hours before going to bed. Is there music and lavender essential oil or a war movie, with a beer and some chocolate? Remember also that you build your sleep during the day and quality sleep is non-negotiable for optimal health.
- Did you forget your agenda at work? Every time you have to make a decision, you are adding stress to your life. Setting a new routine is the best way to be back in control, so you lessen your stress levels.
The discipline of setting a routine helps us to create a structure that gives meaning and reassurance into our lives. “Although you may not be able to control much of the wider world, you can control your connection to your body and to the earth”. Think about the Fasting Lifestyle that would serve your Body, Mind and Soul the best: it all starts with routine and agenda!
In this time of world chaos, we need more routine than ever.