6 Steps Toward Listening to Your Body for Health & Happiness
by Rachel Chemerynski
We listen to our heart when making a tricky romantic decision (and falling in love), we listen to our gut when following an instinct, and we listen to our friends when we need quick, no-BS advice. But many of us struggle when it comes to listening to our body. After all, it’s easier said than done, right? Sure we can be advised to listen to our bodies all day long, but that doesn’t do us any good if we don’t know how. Whether you’re unsure where to begin or simply need a jumpstart, here are six simple steps to get you started on your intuitive journey!
1. Create a Food Diary: During childhood years, writing in a diary was simply part of growing up; it was an everyday ritual. Remember the joy that came from spilling the dirty little details about your secret crush? Or jotting down the play-by-play of the school dance, lunch hour, and bus ride home? This kind of writing can be therapeutic, enlightening and just plain fun! More so, it helps you take a good, hard look at your life from a different perspective.
So why quit writing diary entrees as adults? Keeping a food diary or journal is the perfect way to understand the connection between food and mood. No, I’m not talking about writing down every last crumb, calorie, or indulgence. (In fact, I highly discourage that!) Rather, dedicate a week to simply jot down what you ate and how it made you feel (on the inside and out). This will help you become more clear about how certain foods interact with your body (the good, the bad, and the ugly). Which foods made you feel energized, vibrant, and alive, and which foods were draining or made you feel spacey? If you enjoyed taking part in this activity, consider making it a part of your everyday routine.
2. Pay Attention to Your Cravings: Often times, when a craving comes on, we try with all our might to resist it or punish ourselves for being “bad.” We’re telling you to do the opposite: go ahead and listen to these crazy hankerings. Embrace them! I like to think of cravings as secret little messages our bodies are trying to send to us.
For instance if you’re dying for a sugar-laden chocolate bar or can of soda from the office vending machine, it could be your body’s natural cry for energy. Perhaps simply eating a larger, veggie-packed lunch with added protein or getting some extra sleep could be the answer. Craving comfort foods like mom’s lasagna or extra-cheesy mac-and-cheese? Maybe you just need a hug, a warm plate of whole grains, or a hearty bowl of homemade soup. Pay attention to these cravings to help clue you in on what your body truly desires. Ask yourself, “What does this craving mean?” and “Where did it come from?”
3. Find Your Perfect Exercise: With so many forms of exercise out there, it can be a bit overwhelming at times. From Crossfit to Pilates, Zumba to running, there are endless ways to move your body. In order to reap the most benefits from your workout and really enjoy the process, it’s in your best interest to find an exercise that makes you shine! After all, what’s the point if you’re not having fun?
If yoga makes you feel refreshed, energized and confident then get your downward-dog on! If running makes you cringe but all your friends are doing it, that’s OK; find another cardio routine that you love. Your body will let you know which exercises are right for you.
4. Ditch The Scale: This one is a biggie! So often we obsess over numbers, from the number of calories in our lunch wrap to the number on the scale. Needless to say, this can be extremely distressing. However, it’s important to note that a number can’t define who you are, so don’t let it! Ditch the scale for a week or two, and try with all your might to go by how you feel. When our thoughts and decisions aren’t clouded by a silly number, we’re better able to check in with ourselves to discover what our body is really asking for.
5. Keep Your Eyes On Yourself: We’re constantly told to mind our own business (and keep our eyes on our own paper), so why aren’t we doing this when it comes to listening to our bodies? Often times when starting a new diet or struggling to lose the last five pounds, we look for validation from others. (Think: going on a strict diet because your coworker lost 20 pounds on it, or stocking up on the gogi berries because your celebrity crush swears by them.) Sound familiar? Well I’ve got news for you: we are all different and what works for one may not work for another.
Just because your best friend is vegan does not mean you have to be, and if juicing just isn’t your thing then so be it! Look within, and fill your plate with clean foods that make you feel good inside. The more you focus on yourself and how you’re feeling, the more in tune you’ll become with your body.
6. Make Time for Yourself: Arguably the most meaningful step, you must make it a point to set aside time for yourself to practice self-care. So often we get wrapped up in the craziness of life that we forget to love ourselves, the most important person of all. Be sure to step away from all the chaos, and simply spend some time alone in silence to really get to know and honor your body. Read a book, get a massage, meditate, breathe, go for a solo walk or simply be. As you tune out the rest of the world, you’ll be able to look within and see things with greater clarity. In fact, Founder and CEO of Woodhouse Day Spa claims that taking just a few minutes of quiet time for yourself not only restores mental and physical energy, but also boosts energy, increases productivity, reduces stress and improves your overall health. Sign us up!
Do you listen to your body? How could you become more in tune with your food choices?
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Rachel Chemerynski is a certified health coach and freelance writer living in Boston, Massachusetts. She is the founder of Healthy Chicks, a wellness community dedicated to inspiring twenty-something women to live happier, health