Learning How to Listen to your Body
As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I believe that listening to our bodies is one of the best things we can do to protect our health. But in today’s fast paced, consumption heavy society it’s mostly a lost art.
Think about all that our bodies can do without our thinking about it. It moves, breathes, digests, detoxifies, fights off sickness and disease, creates human life; all without any assistance from us. Our bodies are incredible machines that only break down when they aren’t getting what they need from us.
Modern society isn’t doing us any favours either! We’ve got a constant stream of information being thrown at us; from billboards, smart screens, podcasts, our email inboxes…the list goes on. At the same time, we’re being bombarded with toxins from all angles – Inflammatory foods, medications, environmental toxins, our self and home care products, even stress. The constant flow of input can leave our bodies feeling taxed and overwhelmed. As a result, many of us resort to plowing through life on autopilot, missing important messages from our bodies.
Learning to slow down and find opportunities to tune in allows us to make more conscious choices in the way we live. More conscious choices result in healthier living overall, whether that be diet, lifestyle, relationships, career, home environment choices, or other. So how do we learn to listen to our bodies? With a little practice, it’s actually quite easy! Here are a few of the tips that I share with my clients:
Pay attention to how you feel after you eat
This is a big one. Food can be medicine that heals us when used correctly, or poison that breaks us down when not. Further to that, a food that makes one person thrive can have negative effects on the next person. What works for one, really doesn’t work for all when it comes to food.
Food sensitivities are extremely common, and a great example. They fly under the radar for many, wreaking havoc on our bodies by the time they are finally uncovered. The most common foods people are sensitive to are: gluten, dairy, eggs, corn, soy, yeast and refined sugar; while nightshades, nuts and seeds, caffeine, alcohol and shellfish are the next most common.
A food sensitivity is a low grade digestive response to a food that our body cannot properly break down. When we eat that food in large quantities it can contribute to a leaky gut.
Leaky gut is a phenomenon where the gut lining becomes too permeable; allowing food particles, waste and other toxins to leak into the bloodstream. From there, the immune system fires a response (normal, as that’s it’s job!) But if the leaking persists and the immune system continues to fire, it can get thrown into overdrive and lead to inflammation in the gut. This can be problematic, as there’s now a pretty obvious connection between inflammation in the gut and the onset of chronic, preventative disease.
Identifying whether you have a leaky gut can be tricky though. The symptoms are usually low-grade, though often chronic. They vary widely from gas, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, brain fog, poor memory, fatigue, unrestful sleep, insomnia, skin rashes such as eczema or psoriasis, acne, intense cravings, mood swings, anxiety, depression and/or joint pain. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms regularly, you should consider speaking with a medical professional to see if you have unidentified food sensitivities. I ignored my own chronic symptoms for years and didn’t realize my own food sensitivities until I lost 90% of my hair to an Autoimmune disease, Alopecia Areata.
It’s not worth ignoring the symptoms and hoping they’ll go away, though I completely understand why one would. It’s scary to make major diet changes! I’ve been gluten and dairy-free for years and I can promise you there are neverending delicious and nutritious ways to enjoy all of your favourite foods with a few simple substitutes and zero sacrifice!
Take time for self care when you feel your cup is empty
We can’t give from an empty cup! Learning to recognize when your tank is empty and taking conscious steps to recharge is a powerful way to honour your body and stay healthy. Setting boundaries with work, shutting off on weekends, taking time away from screens and getting out in nature are all simple ways to recharge, which we should be doing regularly.
Take it a step further and carve out time each week for self care. If you need to add it to your calendar, do it! The important part is that you honour that time and use it to do something that you truly enjoy. Remember: consistently skipping or pushing off self care time tells yourself that you’re not worth it. We are worth it so don’t fall into that bad habit.
There are many ways to practice self care but it’s all about finding what works for you. Some of my personal favorites are yoga, meditation, going for a walk with my favourite podcast, a spa day or doing a nice face mask before bed with a cup of Chamomile. Self care doesn’t need to be extravagant and there are lots of ways for it to be completely free. You just need to get a little creative and explore to figure out what fills your cup.
Lean into movement that makes you happy
The human body is made to move. We release stress and increase production of mood elevating endorphins when we are active so it’s good for both mind and body. Many make the mistake of assuming movement needs to mean two hours at the gym crushing weights or training for a marathon. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! And I find that this hardcore mindset often leads to people abandoning movement all together.
My advice is to find a few ways that you enjoy moving your body and do them regularly. People are much more inclined to stick to something when it doesn’t feel like a chore and makes them feel good. Honour what your body is craving by asking yourself how you want to move today. Maybe today it’s a leisurely walk and tomorrow a more intense cardio session. As long as there’s variety and you’re getting a light sweat on for at least 30 minutes per day, you’re golden!
Listening to your body takes practice so have patience! Slowing down and moving about your day with more intention is the first step. From there, you should begin to notice how your daily choices affect the way you feel. If you don’t feel well, it might be time to think about making some positive changes to diet and/or lifestyle, or speaking with a healthcare practitioner to help you uncover the root cause.
When we learn to listen to our bodies, it’s easier to prioritize healthier diet and lifestyle because it feels good, and as humans we want to feel good! Treat your body well and it will not only thank you by functioning well; it will thrive, heal and better protect you from disease as well. Pretty amazing if you ask me!
Lisa’s health journey began five years ago, when she discovered a bald spot on her scalp the size of a loonie. After about a month, she’d lost most of her hair to a massive Autoimmune induced, Alopecia Areata flare.
Fast forward to today and Lisa’s living her best life – with hair! Something told her to reject the traditional “treatment” of steroid injections in the scalp and to see an ND instead. From there, Lisa healed her gut and made healthy changes to both her diet and lifestyle.
The total health transformation that followed was incredible to Lisa. Chronic symptoms she’d been dealing with for years disappeared and she had regrowth across her entire scalp!
Lisa’s amazing health transformation inspired her to attend the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach so she can empower others to harness the power of food and lifestyle, in order to truly thrive.
Lisa believes (and is living proof) that a healthy gut along with healthy diet and lifestyle habits are the foundation for good health. When used correctly, they have the power to heal the body and completely transform our health.
Click below to get started with the Integrative Nutrition Coaching Program.
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