I slowly open my eyes as I’m woken by the sound of a rather noisy black bird singing outside my bedroom window, leaving the window slightly open overnight has only contributed to the volume. Within seconds I’m fully awake and decided that I may as well get out of bed and make a cuppa tea. As the kettle boils I notice the time on the cooker clock, it’s 4:10am. Throughout the day I get lots of tasks done at home and in the garden. By 9pm I feel ready for bed but not exhausted, just tired and ready for sleep; within 30 minutes I’m off to dreamland.
This new morning pattern seems to sit well with me and as time passed it’s become more solid in its structure. After waking at 4am I drink a glass of water followed by a strawberry flavoured Actimel drink. As I drink my first cup of tea I walk around the garden, barefooted taking in the peace and quiet. Obviously if it’s raining I sit by the backdoor and listen to the day begin.
After a week I realise that my mood has lifted and I’ve become more optimistic. I feel very much like I did a few years earlier when I used to wake up at 5:15am, be in the gym by 7am for an hour and then get to work by 9am. I started to think why this was, especially as I wasn’t going back to the gym this time around. A familiar pattern to both morning routines was the consumption of the probiotic yogurt-type drink, Actimel. But how could a tiny bottle of probiotics have so much of an impact, if any. I decided to do some research.
A few years ago I purchased a book by Dr Michael Mosley called The Clever Guts Diet: How to revolutionise your body from the inside out and to be honest with you, it’s still sat on the bookshelf unopened but I knew the basics of it. The gut has a direct effect on the brain and mood.
** THE INFORMATION IN THE FOLLOWING SECTION IS BASED ON MY OWN RESEARCH AND IS DISPLAYED HERE FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES NOT AS MEDICAL ADVICE. I AM NOT A DOCTOR SO PLEASE DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH AND SPEAK TO YOUR MEDICAL CONSULTANT **
Researching the science
What exactly was I drinking? I didn’t know, I just had a vague inclination it was “good for the body”. Whether it would turn out to be the placebo effect or actual fact, I knew that taking a shot of this strawberry flavoured drink every morning had positive outcomes, for me at least.
The manufacturers website lists Actimel as “a delicious fermented milk drink. Each shot is full of L. casei cultures and contains Vitamins B6 and D which support the normal function of the immune system”. But what exactly is L. casei cultures and how does it effect the body?
L. casei (Lactobacillus casei) is a micro-ogranism, one of the “friendly bacterias”. It supports liver function, decreases risk of cirrhosis which interests me because a few years ago I was diagnosed with Non-Alcholic Fatty Liver Disease (when 5% to 10% of the liver’s weight is fat, this is called fatty liver or to give it the medical terms, Steatosis). In worse cases the liver can become scarred (liver fibrosis) and if this is left to develop to severe levels this is known as cirrhosis. Other benefits of the drink include improved Cholesterol levels which is another symptom which came out of my blood tests recently, high cholesterol. L. casei also increases the good HDL-cholesterol and decreases blood pressure.
During early 2017 results were published of a clinical trial in the USA run by Caroline J. K. Wallace and Roumen Milev entitled The effects of probiotics on depressive symptoms in humans: a systematic review. In their conclusion they write: “The evidence for probiotics alleviating depressive symptoms is compelling.” I was already convinced that it was having a positive impact for myself and this confirmed it.
At midnight I loved opening the bedroom windows and just listening to life outside, whatever the weather. I would often fall asleep around 1am to 2am and rise around 8am. But due to my daily visits from the blackbirds I found that I have fallen into a new pattern of waking up at 4am and feeling ready for bed around 9:30pm.
For the first two hours of the my morning I don’t touch my laptop or phone. I stay off social media for at least this period. I found that waking up and immediately checking social media sets my mental thinking pattern for the day ahead. Seeing some negative comment on my socials then swims around in my head for the majority of the day and effects my moods. This doesn’t happen if I keep these first two hours free of digital devices and somehow I can shrug off anything I see which is negative far quicker and forget about it much faster when checking it later in the morning.
I’ve always loved food, the more sugar and sweetness the better. But now I’ve found great benefit in eating less food but at set times of the day. This is my current eating pattern…
4am Wake-Up, take an actimel drink, glass of water, tea
7am Breakfast, scrambled eggs and brown bread toast or boiled eggs and asparagu, tea
1pm Lunch (sausage, mash, onion gravy and veg or stewed-steak with celeriac mash and veg), tea
6pm Sandwich, tuna salad, tea
Between meals there will be a few glasses of water, mugs of tea and even a few rich tea biscuits (4 in the morning and 4 in the afternoon). Other than that I’ve stopped snacking between meals. I’ve found more benefit in changing my main meal of the day from the evening to just after midday. I’m not watching what calories I’m consuming and don’t think I ever will, what I’m doing just seems to be working for me.
Since I’ve slowly implemented these changes I’ve noticed that my weight scales is reporting a loss of body fat over actual body weight. At the start of this I weighted 17st 12lb with a body fat weight of 36.6%. A month later and I’m 17st 6lb but with a body fat of 29.4%; over a 7% body fat decrease and I can feel the benefits. I’m feeling far more stronger and energetic although I do have a long journey ahead to reach the desired targets set by my doctor of 12st to 13st. What is having positive effects of me is the fact that I feel better and can see and feel the differences in my body.
At the moment, other than walking and gardening, I’m not incorporating any exercise just yet. I’m still in the research stage of what to do and how to do it.
Little and Often
What I would like you to take away from this is the concept of little changes, positive slow progress. Rather than going in hell-for-leather I’m slowly making changes and recording how I feel and making any alterations if they are needed. I’m enjoying the process of rediscovering what I like and how best to achieve it, for me.