In my blog posts and in my coaching you’ll hear me suggest that you listen to your body. That you become aware of your body’s signs and signals. I feel that it’s important to learn to pay attention to your body. It tells you when you’re eating the wrong things. It tells you when you’re too stressed out. It tells you when you’re exercising too hard or when you can step it up a notch.
I’ve known people who are so good at listening to their body, they can simply tune in and know the answer to just about any question they have. One woman I met would actually pause to ask her body before she’d take action. She’d put her right hand on her left forearm and wait for the answer. It used to make me giggle a bit. But she was onto something.
But how do you do that? How do you listen to your body?
The truth is that it can be difficult for many people to hear what their body is telling them. There are many reasons for this.
- We don’t spend much time paying attention to our body. If you rarely check in to see how you’re doing, then it can be difficult to know when or how to do that.
- It’s uncomfortable. If you have aches, pains, or other physical issues, it’s often easier to disconnect from your body than to pay attention to the discomfort.
- We medicate. We also medicate at the first sign of discomfort and this hides our aches and pains, so we don’t have to pay attention to them.
- We’re impatient. We also don’t wait to listen to what our body is trying to tell us. For example, how many times do you get up from the table feeling fine, only to feel grossly overstuffed twenty minutes later? You didn’t slow down to eat your meal so that your body could tell you when it was full.
- We do things that mask our body’s signals. There are foods and activities that release hormones which can act as a blanket over the signals that we should be stopping. For example, an intense CrossFit workout releases cortisol and adrenaline which can mask pain. There have been times when I’ve gone to a workout with a mild injury. I perform the workout and my pain is gone or feels “fine” only to find that I’ve really damaged or injured myself worse because I didn’t feel the pain during the workout. Boy did I feel it later.
So those are all the reasons why listening to your body is hard, let’s get back to the goal, which is to learn to listen to your body.
Just start tuning into your body on a regular basis. Sit in the morning and do a scan of your body from head to toe. Notice what you feel and where you feel it. You might perform this scan a few times. Sit at stoplights and ask yourself how you feel. Before you eat anything, ask yourself fi you’re hungry. If the answer is no, don’t eat.
Start setting intentions for yourself. For example, before each workout you might commit to putting forth 70% effort. This forces you to pay attention to your intensity so that you can determine whether you’re under or over your desired effort level. Set an intention during meals to eat until you’re 80% full.
Start asking your body questions. Then actually get quiet and listen to the answers. You don’t have to be as public about it as my friend was. You don’t have to pause, put your hand on your arm and announce that you’re “asking your body.”
Here’s an example…
I took a bite of a Christmas cookie that I made with my daughters today. They’re amazing. If you’ve never made anything from Julie Bauer’s collection of recipes, check out her website, Paleomg.com. At any rate, the cookies are rich and sweet. They’re also small enough to eat in one bite but I bit it in half. I ate the half and then thought about whether I wanted to eat the other half.
This is huge because we’re conditioned to eat the whole thing. Whatever is in our hand, we’re conditioned to finish it. And let’s not forget that when it comes to fat and sugar, your mouth is telling you to eat it. Your body, if you have low blood sugar especially, is telling you to eat it. So, you must get quiet and listen. I felt like I didn’t want to eat the rest of the cookie, so I put it on a plate and saved it for later. No worries, that cookie didn’t go to waste. It was eaten, it was just eaten throughout the day because that’s what my body suggested that I do.
Ask your body:
- If you’re tired.
- If you’re thirsty
- If you’re hungry
- If you should do yoga or go for a run
- If you should stand up and get off the couch or away from your desk for a few minutes
- If you should eat protein, carbs, or fat.
- Ask your body if you should eat that candy bar
Just start asking and then quiet and listen. Learn to tell the difference between your urges and cravings and your body. The best way to do this is to just start trying.