There’s a lot of talk about what, when & how we should eat, which quite frankly can be conflicting.
I guess it depends ultimately on what your aim is. Weight loss? Muscle gain? Health? Sleep?
The age old ‘You are what you eat’ could well be very true, but what about ‘You are when you eat?'
Within Chinese Medicine (TCM) the focus is very much on the holistic element – in terms of looking at the Mind, Body & Soul for the answers to our problems. A major part of this is diet & lifestyle. If we think about it, our body & mind can only function as well as we nourish them.
Poor food choices can lead to that poor function on both the physical & mental level.
I’ve been guilty of this for a vast percentage of the last decade and I can really feel it now.
Migraines, Diabetes, Insomnia, Stress, Hormonal Issues, Inappropriate Exhaustion to name but a few. I thought that I knew what I was doing wrong, I just wasn’t doing anything about it.
So when I started my TCM studies, I really had my eyes opened.
It isn’t just about following what we believe to be ‘healthy’ food (Let’s leave that for another time), it’s also about when we eat and how we give our body a break, to allow it to perform these functions & repairs without disruption.
We’re told not to eat late for weight loss purposes, but is there some truth in this for different reasons?
Do you find you go through phases of waking up at the same time through the night/early morning? This could be your body trying to tell you something.
The Chinese Clock is an ancient observation that the body’s internal organs have peak activity during two-hour intervals. It follows that we can use this tool to organise when to carry out certain activities to maximise the body's performance and to live as stress free & healthy as possible.
It’s said that night-time and early morning (before 5am) are when our digestive organs need to rest. If we do not give our body this break from food & processing when it’s needed, we can find ourselves beginning to suffer health-wise, as it impacts on the rest of our body being able to perform at it's optimum level.
If we are too busy digesting food, then we can’t be busy repairing and regenerating
If you’ve indulged in a bit much sherry or have eaten late in the evening the night before for example, you could find yourself waking between 1am & 3am. This is because that’s the peak interval for the Liver to perform various metabolic functions – but this process becomes interrupted by the early digestive processes that have begun.
An easy way to begin with timing food intake to use the method we're already familiar with – 3 meal scheduling.
'3' Meal Scheduling?
The idea is that the first meal is eaten during the stomach interval of the clock – which is between 7am & 9am. This should be a simple, warm meal.
The second meal should be between 12 noon – 1pm – this is during the heart & mind phase of the clock, with the 3rd meal being the smallest and timed before 7pm. This allows for the digestive organs to be able to rest at the right time.
Following these timings will result in the harmonic ebb & flow of the body.
There are various other methods and rotations of this system – even down to some people following a one meal a day schedule. It goes without saying that should only contemplated by someone knowledgeable on the topic and capable of adjusting accordingly to their body’s needs.
5:2 method of eating
I guess modern day equivalent diets you may be familiar with that are designed to give your body a rest could involve the 5:2 way of eating.
The focus is on allowing your body enough time each week to stop digesting and simply function. It allows for a more flexible way of eating but obviously, if you overload your digestive system during the 5 day part, then you inhibit the chance of achieving the purpose!
As opposed to looking at it from a weight loss perspective, the interest here is in the benefits reported for the 'fasting' element - the reduction of strain on the digestive system to allow the body to repair & regenerate, reducing the likelihood of disease - our ultimate aim.
You can find out more about the 5:2 method here.
How do you feel about meal scheduling? Is it something you perhaps already follow to a degree – meal prepping for example? Any tips or stories to share? Then join in and let us know!