Lifestyle medicine is a new concept in Western medicine. It has emerged in response to the epidemic of ‘lifestyle diseases’, such as heart disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes, that are killing tens of millions of people every year. These deaths are the outcome of unhealthy behaviours including lack of exercise, poor diets, smoking, toxic stress and sleep debt. Lifestyle medicine is being proposed as an addition to existing treatments. It will aim to change people’s behaviours to choose exercise, nutritious diets and other activities that promote health.
Making some healthy choices is a good plan but it’s not the full solution. Lifestyle diseases arise from a multitude of intermeshed factors. These go beyond diet and exercise. The way you work, respond to social or family obligations, and whether or not you live with a strong sense of identity and purpose can also contribute to the development of lifestyle diseases. This is holistic lifestyle medicine territory and right up the alley of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The sages of ancient China prototyped a way of living aligned with the natural cycles that prevented illness and promoted health and happiness. They weren’t mainstream and the way of living never made it out of China and is now mostly forgotten, even there, but we still have the same organs, are subject to the same natural forces, and we face the same personal challenges that we did centuries ago, and the lifestyle still works. I decided it was time to revive and update the secrets of this ancient art of living.
The chi cycle lifestyle
I first discovered references to lifestyle and preventative health when I was a student of Chinese medicine and immediately realised the importance of a healing lifestyle for contemporary culture in which our lifestyles are killing us. I hunted down the old texts. I experimented, researched and repurposed what I found to factor in our new technologies, industries and lifestyle changes, and finally put it together in what I call the Chi Cycle Lifestyle. Basically, it is a simple, easy to follow day plan, a way of living in the 21st century that builds health and happiness.
It’s not a new fad. It is based on the original lifestyle medicine that was tried and tested over centuries in China. It is an intelligent daily routine that maximises the benefit of everything you do by using your time and your energy (chi) efficiently. TCM is all about learning by living it. I’ve lived the Chi Cycle lifestyle for over 20 years now, I wrote books on it, and still use it as a therapeutic tool for thousands of clients. It works. It is the antidote to lifestyle disease.
Make your health simple
It’s not an outlandish idea either. Western research is inching ever closer to what TCM mapped out centuries ago. The circadian rhythm was discovered in the late 18th century in the West. Sometimes called the bodyclock, it is now loosely defined as a 24-hour cycle all living beings possess. Its purpose is not fully understood in Western medicine but a growing body of research is revealing that adverse health effects, including cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression are associated with a disrupted circadian rhythm. At the time of writing nobel prizes were awarded for discoveries about the circadian rhythm (sometimes called the body clock), and studies in chronomedicine which investigates the role of time in health and healing, were identifying organ clocks throughout the body.
Thousands of years before this, however, Chinese sages identified the 24 hour rhythm (as one of many interlinked cycles) and its purpose. They understood it as a 24 hour cycle of ‘chi’ or energy, that flows through and connects all life from the personal to the planetary scale. They discovered our organs have ‘clocks’ and that we are internally programmed to do certain things at certain times, and that if we do this we get health and happiness. Everything unfolds as it should.
An overload of information has turned health into rocket science. If you have a lifestyle disease such as obesity, heart disease or type 2 diabetes, or are worried that you will develop one, or concerned that you may develop dementia, cancer, Alzheimer’s, or IBS, arthritis and other inflammatory conditions, you’ve probably found lots of publications, blogs and websites offering fatalistic or contradictory information. This creates fear and confusion.
Health has become so complicated nobody knows where to start. There’s a new diet every week, and new cures, new diseases, new drugs and new names for symptoms. In TCM conditions such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease are the outcome of living disconnected from the natural rhythm of the day, eating nutrient poor foods, not handling stress, no internal balance. This impacts on organ function and triggers a progression of symptoms.
Western medicine sees unhealthy lifestyle choices as the cause of lifestyle disease, but I see them as uninformed choices. If you understand the internal havoc you create with our standard stressed-out sleep-deprived, random days, you can make informed choices. Lining up your key daily activities with the natural rhythm is a great place to start reimposing internal order and health. After a while unhealthy habits fall away. Your behaviour will naturally change. You’ll automatically start making healthy choices. It is not something you have to think about, it becomes internally driven.
Your organs build your health and happiness
Your organs hold the secrets. They can reverse the progression of lifestyle diseases and kick off a new health and happiness progression for you. Each two hours one of your organs ‘clocks-on’ and runs a specific set of tasks. If you get your day synched with this just by doing normal daily things, like eating, working and sleeping, at the best and most effective times your organs are better placed to fight disease and build health.
‘TCM organs’ are not purely functional. They can deliver you the goods physically, emotionally and metaphysically. You can wake each morning in optimum health feeling refreshed and energised, full of vitality and ready for the challenges of the day. You can look and feel youthful, hold your ground but hold no grudges. You can follow your destiny, make the world a better place and inspire everyone around you to do the same. Find out how in my new book Chi Health Cycle published by Welbeck UK.