One day, a 40-year-old IT worker came to me for consultation. He was of moderate height with quite a large belly and weighed about 100kg. He said he felt weak in his whole body and quite often suffered from insomnia. What was worse was that he had recently been diagnosed with diabetes.
I did not write a prescription, I just gave him some advice on his diet and sleep, and asked him to follow them. It was not until the second week that he lost weight—2 kg, in fact. Also his blood glucose had come back to normal, and he had stopped his insulin injections. During the next six weeks, he kept on losing 2 kg per week, yet this slowed down afterwards. Since then, he has a flat belly, and each day he is full of energy, sleeps well, and has had no recurrence of diabetes.
Speaking of weight loss, people tend to think of dieting, but due to improper methods the effect is counterproductive. In fact, proper diet and sleep can produce slimming miracles. We Chinese have a system of health principles that have been followed for thousands of years—the key to health lies in eating, drinking, and sleeping in the right way. It is crucial for you to keep fit by complying with the laws of nature and the human body.
Eating a full breakfast
The time you eat is very important. Chinese people are very particular about eating a full breakfast, a good lunch, and a restrained dinner. Our human body has 12 major channels connecting the 12 major human organs. Each of these channels or meridians has a particular time when it is “on duty” and each duty period changes every two hours. During each 2 hour interval the namesake organ directly connected to the meridian works at the optimum level so the best time you eat is when it is related to these duty periods. During the time between meals some fruit or snacks can be eaten.
In the morning, between 7-9 o’clock is the duty time for the Stomach channel. The stomach is the major organ in charge of digestion and absorption of food and it is at this duty time that the stomach has the strongest digestion and absorption. So, 7-9 o’clock in the morning is the best time for us to have our breakfast, a full breakfast, so that our stomach can absorb enough nutrients and transform them to the energy that supplies our body for the rest of the day. That is to say, a full breakfast’s energy will be consumed during the whole day’s activities. Therefore, food from the full breakfast will not be stored as fat in the body.
So what should we eat at breakfast? From 7-9 o’clock in the morning the sun rises, and the Yang Qi in our body begins to rise, too. Our body gradually becomes active and energetic so we should eat something to help to raise the Yang Qi. For example, ginger is a typical food for raising the Yang Qi, and is especially helpful for those people with Yang deficiency. Healthy people can eat almost whatever they like at breakfast, including some taboo foods. For example, over-weight people usually dare not to eat chocolate but now they can eat some.
Eating a good lunch
At midday, between 11-1 o’clock is the duty time for the Heart channel. You need to eat relatively good food but it is best to stop eating when you are 80-90% full or 70% if you need to lose weight. The heart does a very important job, and consumes more energy, so we should eat some high protein food combined with cereals, vegetables, and fruits to provide it with the needed nutrition and energy. But we should not eat too much because midday is not the duty time for the Stomach channel. Eating too much will increase the burden on the stomach, thus increasing the burden on the heart. The human body is a unified whole with interconnections among the organs.
At midday, with the Heart channel in prominence, you may eat food that nourishes the heart. According to the theory of the Five Elements, the heart belongs to the category of fire. Red is also fire so red foods are heart nourishing food such as red grapes, red dates, red apples, red persimmons, red tomatoes, beef, and salmon.
Eating a restrained dinner
Dinner time is between 5-7 o’clock which is the duty time for the Kidney channel. At this time, you can drink a little kidney-tonifying soup but it should be bland. You should eat until you are 50-70% full. Those people who want to lose weight quickly may skip dinner, and just drink warm water, vegetable soup and a suitable amount of fruit. But, it should be done gradually to let the stomach adapt, otherwise it becomes too hard to bear and restraining the desire to eat even more will, in the end, get worse.
It is recommended to snack on a small amount of green vegetables or vegetable soup, together with a little fruit for dinner. If you feel hungry at bedtime it will affect your sleep, so you may drink a cup of warm milk with honey to improve your complexion and sleep.
So what food nourishes the kidney? According to the theory of the Five Elements, the kidneys are of water. Black is also of water, so those people with kidney deficiency may eat some black foods such as black grapes, blackberries, black sesame, black beans, squid, and so on. What is more, drink some soup, for soup is mainly water and salt which easily brings nutrients into the kidney.
Besides, this is the time when night comes so the Qi of Yin increases more and more, and so does the Qi of Yin inside the body. People with Yin essence deficiency should make good use of this time to nourish the Qi of Yin. Avoid eating foods which deplete Yin, such as chilli, garlic, ginger, and barbecued or fried food.
Young people should try not to drink alcohol at night, especially excessive alcohol drinking, to avoid consuming Yin and Blood. The elderly may drink a little alcohol to help Qi and Blood circulation. People with Yin Qi deficiency sleep light, and also lack Qi and energy during the day, so their working efficiency is affected.
The above mentioned IT worker was very busy at work every day. He did not have breakfast in the morning and often missed his midday meal as he did not feel hungry. Around 8 o’clock in the evening, he would have a big meal while watching TV and usually went to bed in the early hours of the morning at 1 or 2 o’clock. His obesity and diseases were related to his extreme habits and after adjusting his lifestyle he recovered naturally and gradually. (To be continued)