Luke Coutinho’s new e-book, A New Way of Living—Circadian Rhythm, offers evidence-based strategies for our well-being. In an interview, Coutinho emphasises the importance of aligning our lives with the laws of nature. He also offers tips for sustainable weight loss and ways to deal with sleep deprivation. Excerpts:
Your book advocates a life aligned with the circadian rhythm.
We deal with patients suffering from cancers, rare syndromes, metabolic diseases, diabetes, kidney and organ disease, cardiovascular and endocrine issues, hormonal disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cognitive diseases, obesity, skin and hair problems. The one thing that has worked for all our patients over and above their medication and treatment is our ability to coach them into aligning their lifestyles with the laws of nature—the circadian rhythm.
When we put the patient into the circadian rhythm cycle, the body’s intelligence begins to kick in, it is harnessed to work, identify and fix. So, imagine the possibilities of prevention, healing, and recovery when that intelligent power is made to work with everything else—medicine, food and so on.
People following the circadian rhythm way of living have had positive experiences and unbelievable improvements in their health. From the reduction of arthritic pain, swellings, better sleep, fat loss, hormonal balance to improvements in migraine, gut issues, hair and skin health, immune systems, improvement in allergies and so on.
How can night owls retrain their body to align with the body clock?
In general, one must avoid this kind of lifestyle. If you have no option but to stay awake because you want to provide for the family, then please take extra measures for your health. But for everyone else it is a choice and you can choose differently.
Having said that, for individuals who are awake late in the night either by choice or due to their job, their bodies adjust to this way of living. For them, it works the opposite. Their day becomes night and night becomes day. They, too, need to maintain uniform times for eating, sleeping, working out. When they sleep, they must make sure that the environment is conducive to rest. No social media or artificial lights. The room must be kept as dark as possible, as melatonin is a light-sensitive hormone.
Could you suggest some ways to fight sleep deprivation?
Deep breathing, as it puts us in a rest and digest mode, or parasympathetic state, especially yogic pranayama practices like left nostril breathing, alternate nostril breathing and bhramari [a breathing technique that produces a sound like that of a humming bee].
Cultivate gratitude and prayer in your bedtime routine. It helps you disconnect from the day, and end the day on a grateful and positive note. Avoid tea and coffee, as they are stimulants that churn out more cortisol, which is already high in a sleep-deprived body. Instead, one could choose relaxing beverages like chamomile, lavender, nutmeg or saffron infusion as they help promote sleep.
Reduce artificial light exposure, especially after sunset.There is no such thing as sleep debt. One cannot skip sleep during the weekdays thinking they would catch up on it over the weekend. It does not work that way. Our body needs sleep and rest every single day to be able to function the next day. To maintain a healthy circadian rhythm, one must try to wake up and sleep at the same time.
Are cheat meals good for weight loss?
First, one must not call it a cheat meal. We rather call it a “treat meal”, because cheat is a negative word and that can induce guilt, which can, in turn, trigger more stress and cortisol release.
A treat meal once a week can pretty much be a part of one’s weight loss plan. Contrary to what most believe, a treat meal helps to maintain discipline and stay on the path. A healthy lifestyle does not have to mean deprivation. It is supposed to be a balanced mix of fun and health.
Restrictive diets often lead to frustration and the person giving up soon, which can be a vicious cycle. A balanced diet, with a well-planned and mindful treat meal, is the one that is sustainable, realistic and effective.
What kind of lifestyle and dietary changes would you recommend for someone who wants to lose 5kg in one month?
Everyone’s reason for losing weight is different, so the ways to manage their weight should also be different. Generic advice never works and there are a couple of reasons why:
First, it is not just about losing weight. It is about losing weight but gaining health. One can easily lose a lot of weight with fad diets in a matter of a few weeks, but such weight loss often comes with the loss of immunity, energy, loss of muscle, poor skin and hair health and you end up looking haggard
Second, it is not about the many kilos you lose. Your weight is a combination of fat, muscle, bones, water, tissues, etc. What you want to target is the losing of fat, and retaining of the muscle.
Third, not everyone has the same metabolism and can lose weight at the same pace. Weight loss is a very personal journey. A cookie-cutter approach does not work here. If a person’s root cause of weight gain is emotional stress, then no amount of diet can help. If the person's root cause of weight gain is lack of sleep, then even the best workout plans can fail. The approach towards losing weight has to be personalised in accordance with one’s lifestyle and root cause.
Having said that, what can help with sustained fat loss is: an active lifestyle; early dinner; cutting down carbs at night; sound sleep; 15-20 minutes of bodyweight training at least 3 or 4 days a week; a balanced diet; a habit of chewing and slow eating.