How to Listen to Your Body
How many times have you been told to “listen to your body”?! I know that I'm guilty of preaching those words to my clients, to myself, and to you. But it’s not an easy thing to do – for any of us – when we have been disconnected from our own internal messages for so long.
Growing up, the adults in my life told me to “clean my plate” (even when I was already full!) or that I shouldn’t be hungry because I just ate (even when I was still hungry!) I overheard my mom and her friends talking about how they would never eat this, but always ate that.
At a very young age, we’re taught that how we look is more important than how we feel – and we internalize that philosophy almost at once.
With all of this mixed messaging, it’s no surprise that somewhere along the way, we stop listening to our bodies and our intuitions and start listening to, well, everything (and everyone) else.
We learn that approval from others is more important than self-acceptance. We learn to tune out our needs in order to please others. We learn to compile a list of “shoulds” and “don’ts” – and then, those commands take us outside of our bodies and teach us to trust our families, our peers, even "Influencers" on social media (who we have never met) instead of trusting our own bodies – and ourselves.
But there’s good news: no matter how long you’ve ignored your body or silenced your intuition, it’s still there.
If you’re willing to listen, your body will tell you everything you need to know. And nothing is more important to your health (and your food story!) than giving your body what it needs.
So, how do you learn to tune (back) into your body? It’s an ongoing process, and definitely a practice.
Here are a few of my favorite tried-and-true ways to start hearing that voice inside again:
Put Yourself on the Schedule Set a reminder on your calendar, an alarm on your phone…anything to nudge you, in the midst of your busy day, to step back and check in with yourself. Like all things important, when you make checking in with your body a priority (and keep that appointment with yourself), you’ll find it’s a lot easier to hear your body’s needs.
Be Gentle with Yourself It sounds extreme, but if you’re not sure how to start that conversation with yourself, try talking to your body the way you would a toddler. Yes, really! When you’re making time to check in with yourself, go ahead and actually ask yourself about your most basic needs: “Are you too cold?” “Are you hungry?” or “Are you tired?” When we get back to basics, it suddenly becomes utterly clear what our bodies need – and how to give it to them.
Trust Your Gut This one’s a no-brainer – or make that a second-brainer! Your body’s “second brain” is actually located in your gut, and when it’s nourished, you’ll feel more vital than ever before. There’s a reason people tell you to “go with your gut” when making a tough decision: it’s because when you listen to that deep down feeling, it can help guide you to food (and life!) choices that will serve you best.
Get Moving Nothing will help you feel connected to your body the way movement does! Schedule an early morning HIIT class, head out for an afternoon walk, or unwind with your favorite yoga sequence before bed. Whatever you do, do it in the present. Leave your phone behind or on airplane mode, if you can. This will bring you out of your head and into your body without distractions!
Sit Down to Eat Sitting down at the table makes it so much easier to know when you’re full – or when you still need another serving. Unlike the (well-meaning, but sometimes misguided) adults who taught us as kids to finish our meal because of the starving children in the world (even if we were already full!) or “don’t ask for seconds” (even if we were still hungry!), you can slow down your mealtimes and really tune into how your body is feeling… and when it’s satisfied, too.
Listen as Much as You Talk Hearing your body means not drowning it out with all the food noise – both from external sources and also from inside your own head. How often have you considered a tempting treat only to berate yourself as “weak” or “bad” for craving it? How many unsatisfying meals have you forced down because they were made up of all the “right” foods?
When you release the labels and check in with your body more often, and you’ll find yourself eating (and doing!) more things that will leave you feeling happy and nourished, instead of stressed, unsatisfied, and confused!