The Ten Steps of Body Clock Diet
The ten steps of the Body Clock Prescription that follow don’t take much time or many resources but they go a long way toward helping you stay healthy if you are well or feel better if you are ill.
- Follow the Body Clock Diet. Put protein in your morning meal, snacks and lunch, either by drinking the Rhythmic Shake or by emphasizing high protein foods. Move most of your carbohydrates from breakfast, lunch and morning snacks to the evening.
- If you scored high on the insulin resistance test, adhere as rigorously as you can to the Body Clock Diet. Because insulin resistance is at the root of so many conditions, you want to capitalize on your ability to bring down your serum insulin level. Eat the maximum tolerable amount of your protein during the day and save as many of your carbohydrates as possible for one meal in the evening. Craving carbohydrates is your enemy in this regard; you will probably need to make a gradual transition to the level of strictness that I’m recommending. That way, your insulin levels will come down step by step; they will not be screaming for carbohydrates while I’m screaming at you not to eat them.
- Excess alcohol and caffeine interfere with circadian rhythm. The definition of excess depends on the person and on the time of day. In the early evening, the effects of alcohol are minimized by most people’s capacity to easily metabolize two to four ounces of liquor over a two- to four-hour period. But efficient alcohol metabolism declines dramatically after 10:00 p.m., making late night drinking particularly disruptive. Avoid caffeine except at around 4:00 p.m., the one time of day when its circadian effects are neutral.
- Stay away from diet drinks because they send a false signal to your body. They promise the potential arrival of sugar and then, after engaging your body’s mechanism for raising insulin, let you down when the sugar doesn’t arrive.
- Get plenty of full spectrum sunlight in your eyes and on some part of your skin every day. When you expose your eyes to sunlight — and I hope it’s obvious that I don’t mean staring at the sun — do it without wearing spectacles. These days spectacles of all kinds block both the healthy and the injurious types of ultraviolet rays. So get out in the sun, take off your glasses and soak up a moderate amount of sunlight — at least one-half hour near dawn or dusk — every day. This does not require sunbathing, simply being out in the sun. If you live in a northern latitude where the winter days are short and there are lots of rainy, snowy or cloudy days, then consider getting a light box like those prescribed for people with seasonal affective disorder. Expose yourself to the light box for at least a couple of hours every day.
- Establish a regular time for going to bed at night and getting up in the morning and get sufficient sleep every night, preferably during the natural period of darkness between sundown and sunrise. While you’re asleep, expose yourself to light as little as possible. If you wake up in the middle of the night to pee, don’t turn on the light. Instead, use a dim flashlight or nightlight to light your way to the bathroom. Even a tiny amount of light at night will squash your melatonin peak. Remember that melatonin is an antioxidant and informational substance whose narrowly timed peak inever worry about what happens to your car when you drop it off at the dealership? Worry no more. Leave your cell phone in the car, with the camera on, or put in a Go Pro, or dash cam
the middle of the night, following a healthy exposure to light during the day, may be suppressed by ill-timed light. Failure to have a peak release of melatonin at night is like missing a bus that comes only once a day.
- Encourage rhythmic harmony by learning to breathe with your diaphragm. When you relinquish control to your diaphragm, your breathing will take on the normal rhythm directed by the unconscious part of your brain rather than the potentially asynchronous rhythm generated by your chest muscles. This works especially well when you engage in stressful activities that make you unconsciously hold your breath. For example, when I am on top of a ladder trying to hammer in a nail that is slightly out of reach and I dislodge the nail, bang my thumb or bend the nail, I stop and say to myself, ‘Baker, stop holding your breath and take a deep one with your diaphragm.’ Then the nail goes right in. The same is true for threading a needle, looking for lost keys, worrying about finding a restroom when you’re downtown with a filling bladder, waiting in line at the bank or driving on the freeway.
- Engage in some form of rhythmic exercise at the same time every day, preferably in the afternoon when muscle strength is at its peak and most people perform best. If you can walk, walk. If you can swim, do that, especially if you can find nonchlorinated water to swim in and are strong enough to swim with a good steady rhythm. If you prefer, ride a bike. But whatever you do, remember to breathe in a relaxed way, using your diaphragm, so that the effort of your exercise reinforces rhythmic harmony in your body instead of allowing unnatural chest breathing to interfere with it.
- Working out to music takes exercise one step farther by permitting you to synchronize your activity with the beat of the music. Of course, the ultimate refinement of exercising to music is dance. If you are ill and unable to move about, then simply listen to music, but really listen so that the music penetrates your being rather than simply acting as a background to whatever you are doing. Some types of music are more healing than others. I asked Millie Grenough, a music therapist and author of Sing It! Learn English Through Song, what would be the best choice of music for a person with inflammatory illness.3 She said, ‘It can be anything from Mozart and Vivaldi to favorite Broadway tunes, from long-remembered lullabies or Tibetan chants to your favorite song when you were sixteen. The main thing is that it be music the person loves.’
- Meditate daily to reinforce and integrate your body’s rhythms. And if you’re ill, use meditation as the platform from which you launch the powerful tool of visualization. When you dance, you put your whole body’s movement into the embrace of something bigger than yourself — the music. When you are fully the captive of the music, you are free to receive its blessing. And every step of the dance is a choice you make to stay with the music.