Imagine a perfectly scheduled day, a day in which you know how you are going to take care of your body as soon as you open your eyes. You are going to exercise without needing extra motivation and without overdoing it. You are going to eat well without a struggle, knowing that you will feel light and energized all day without being hungry. You know when you are going to meditate, to center yourself, so that you can deal with any kind of stress. You know already that you are going to be able to face challenges at work, and at the end of the day, you are going to feel pleasantly tired so that when you shut off the bedside lamp you are ready to lie quietly until sleep comes.

All of this is possible once you align your body’s systems with its natural circadian rhythm. This is the real goal, the ability to eat, sleep, and exercise at the right time each day so that the habits don’t require a lot of extra effort. Wellness and self-care become an effortless, intuitive way of living. For many of the people I’ve worked with, having a good body schedule in place actually opens up extra time in the day to spend with family, to engage in hobbies, and to find new relationships.

If you are wondering how to get to this mystical place, the answer is that you do it in stages. You are going to build these habits bit by bit, knowing that the first steps may require you to expend some effort, but you will very quickly feel lighter and more alive. Many of the patients whose stories I’ve shared in this book are people who needed a lot of concentrated help to get their lives back on schedule. But once they started, they found each successive step easier. By the time they’d spent a month trying to change their bedtimes and eating schedules, they found so many benefits. More free time, more creativity to focus on their personal goals. They looked radiant and felt more energetic than they had in years. Intuitive, effortless wellness is within your reach, too.

The question is how to get to that place. Now that you know what your body needs, you can work toward building a new schedule in stages. At first, you will be setting up a schedule that supports the body’s natural circadian rhythm. This is the phase that will require the most preparation and creativity on your part to live a little differently, but it will all pay off in phase two, when the schedule becomes easier to stick to. In phase two, people start to notice weight loss, an increase in mental clarity, and dramatically improved health. In phase three, we are putting together all of the concepts in this book so that you are easily nourishing your body, your mind, and your spiritual health.

Preparing for Change

In every meeting with a new patient, there is a moment when I lay out their new schedule and ask directly, Can you do this? If they hesitate, I then ask, What is your biggest resistance? It’s important to acknowledge which part of this schedule seems most problematic for you. It’s different for everyone. Some people say that they don’t think they can stay away from work emails at night. Others say that they don’t want to eat a lighter meal at the end of the day because it’s their one chance to relax with a lot of food and wine after feeling stressed at work. A few object to exercise in the morning because their mornings are already so hectic. But once you know what your resistance is, you can look for a creative way to solve it. Be mindful of the potential challenges ahead, and get organized before you start. Figure out which parts of this schedule will be most challenging for you, and plan to use some of these tips and tricks to ease your transformation:

If morning exercise is the problem . . . Put oatmeal into a Crock-Pot overnight to make time for breakfast. Set your alarm five minutes earlier each day. In just four days, you will have enough time for that morning walk. Lay out your workout clothes and your workday clothes the night before.

If a consistent lunch sounds intimidating . . . Pack a substantial noon meal to take to work, and remember that a bigger lunch will mean less elaborate cooking at dinner. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to eat lunch on time.

If you worry about how to eat less at dinner . . . Look for some easy but healthy dinner options you can rely on during the first phase so you can finish your evening meal earlier. You can even make them ahead, if you know the week will be hectic at work. Create a standard grocery list for yourself that contains lots of vegetables and healthy grains.

If the thought of giving up electronics in the evening makes you anxious . . . Plan evening activities now that don’t include the TV or computer. Think about whether you really get texts or emails after nine p.m. that truly must be answered.

By applying a little creativity and planning to your new schedule before you start, you can avoid falling into your old habits after the first few days. By the end of the first week, you will have noticed enough physical and emotional improvements to keep you going. 

From the book CHANGE YOUR SCHEDULE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE: How to Harness the Power of Clock Genes to Lose Weight, Optimize Your Workout, and Finally Get a Good Night’s Sleep by Suhas Kshirsagar, B.A.M.S., M.D. (Ayurveda). Copyright © 2018 by Suhas Kshirsagar, B.A.M.S., M.D. (Ayurveda). Published on January 30, 2018 by Harper Wave, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted by permission.