Listen to Your Body – It Can Tell You Where You’re Going Wrong

If you were to embark on a diet, detox or new exercise program, what would be your motivator? The end result? The challenge of willpower?

What about doing it because you can feel the difference in your body?

Forget about seeing the difference. Ensuring you’re happy with your next beach photo on facebook is motivating, but knowing that your body is benefiting from your new regime is more important. By feeling what your body is going through, you’re learning a skill: listening to your body. It may seem simple, but is a great asset when dieting or generally being conscious of your health.

How Do I Know This?

I found this skill when I completed a six week sugar detox. I started off by thinking it’d be a test of my willpower: could I really resist chocolate for six whole weeks? And would this carry on after the detox? I also wondered if I’d drop a few pounds during the process. But what surprised me was what I learnt about how my body reacts to sugar. In short, it makes me tired and irritable. I didn’t expect this outcome from a detox, nor was it my goal. I ended up working out why I always felt fatigued, especially post-lunch. It was a surprising and pleasing result.

By using this skill of listening to my body, I then started a series of elimination diets to find out the cause of my IBS bloating (as advised by my doctor). I’d learnt how to monitor my body’s reactions and got into the habit of recording a food diary. I felt in tune with my body. So instead of retrospectively looking at what I’d eaten the day before a bloating incident, I carefully monitored my diet and was mindful of my body’s reactions.

So far, I haven’t worked out the cause, but I’m carrying on with different food groups. In a similar way to the sugar detox, I discovered an unexpected result of the elimination diets. While I was monitoring my degrees of bloatedness when eliminating caffeine, I found I had bundles more energy. It was easier to get out of bed and I didn’t crave my morning coffee once I’d gotten to work. I’ve therefore carried this forward into my everyday life.

So how did I listen to my body? It really is as simple as being mindful of what you’re putting into your body and monitoring the reactions afterwards. The reaction may be immediate, such as bloating after eating wheat; or it may be longer term, such as finding yourself springing out of bed the day after a time period of no sugar.

Take Your Own Challenge and Keep a Diary

If it’s a detox, are you noticing any changes to your body, like better skin or increased energy? What are you detoxing from? If you feel a positive change, this may be the evil ingredient that’s holding you back from being your healthiest. For me, it was sugar.

If you suffer from IBS symptoms and you eat a certain food, what happens to your body immediately after or later in the day? If you eliminate it completely, do the symptoms disappear? If you eat the food you always thought caused IBS because you once had a reaction, but you now don’t get any symptoms, eat away my friend! For me – I think – this is wheat. (Always remember to check with your doctor for anything medically-related, however.)

On a very basic level, check that when you feel hungry, your body is actually hungry. Listen to your body. Audibly, it may rumble, but you should be able to tell if what your body needs is hydration or if it’s just your mind playing tricks. For me, I ‘feel’ hungry when I’m bored.

While you’re listening to your body for specific complaints, take note of anything else that may be occurring. Going back to my examples, I found increased energy by eliminating sugar and caffeine – without expecting that result. You may find dairy affects your skin, for instance. Or perhaps you get headaches from chocolate.

My new motto is: “Try it and see”. Pick a food group you’re curious about and see how it affects you. There really is no harm in trying, even for a short period of time, and see if you notice any difference to your body. You know your body better than anyone, so listen to it.

If You Keep Doing This You’re Headed For Disaster

Boy, everyone is on the mark!

My seat right now at the local Starbucks is a prime location to watch, follow, and track one consistent (and usually unconscious) habit that many people do once they’ve paid for their order. As a matter of fact, 12 out of the last 19 people have done this exact same thing.

Want to take a stab at what they’re doing?

Let me give you a hint: it’s not smart. It’s downright dumb.

As a matter of fact it can be a real pain in the neck (literally). It’s called Tech Neck and it involves this simple formula:

While standing, whip out your iPhone and crank your head and neck down so much that you completely wipe out the front of your neck, almost resting your chin on your sternum.

Some even call it Text Neck. Either way, you’re headed for disaster.

I know you can’t envisage missing a text, e-mail, status update or lolcat during those 45 seconds it took to order your grande, sugar-free, no foam, soy, iced mocha latte whatever.

I mean just standing there actually waiting; well, that might be really too simple. And it’d be far too quiet to just be with yourself.

What Tech Neck is Doing to Your Body

So, I’ll leave the psychology of it alone and go after the ergonomics for now.

Our human design doesn’t play nice when we insert our head where it’s not supposed to be. Literally. We’re not made to accommodate a position with our head craned out, forward and down of our shoulders. That’s called forward head posture and it will do a doosey on you over time.

The average human head weighs about 12 lbs (5.5 kg). So take your human head, distend it forward and down towards the device you’re on at about mid-chest height and it now becomes a 42 lb (19 kg) head. Why? Because for every inch of forward head posture, it can increase the weight of the head on the spine by an additional 10 pounds. (AI Kapandji, Physiology of the Joints, Vol. 3, 2008)

That whole trauma unit is now tugging on your spinal column and now you’re shifting the firing patterns of the neurons in your whole entire column and information highway. The disaster primer.

You’re being a pain in the neck and you’re doing it all to yourself.

How?

Because of that thing called gravity. At any given moment gravity is pulling you down. Jut your head into that funky position and out of sequence with the rest of your spine and what happens?

Ouch.

Keep your head there, knocking your center of gravity out of alignment and you’ve just created a domino effect of problems not only down your column but in your shoulders, back, head, and chest. This pulls on that, that screams signals to help, but meanwhile those back muscles are just trying to compensate. Nothing good ever comes out of compensation.

I didn’t even mention the health problems yet, just some of the structural complications that happen over time.

That’s pretty much the exact formula. The 3 key words are “happens over time.” Once you get that forward head posture habit going you’ve set the groove for the pain and discomfort happening easier and quicker.

Any of this sound familiar?

Heck, you could be feeling it all right now while reading this. You don’t have to be on a smart phone. That’s just the device that is the most commonly used. A laptop, e-reader or tablet will do.

According to Experian, the average American aged 25-34 sends and receives over a thousand texts a month. And that’s just text messages. That doesn’t consider unconscious scrolling through e-mail or surfing the web, both of which could cost you a longer down time with your 42 pound head heavy head. The Brits are even screaming Turkey Neck lines!

So What Do To?

First thing, become aware of when you’re doing this and how often. Stop doing it all the time. Once you become aware, there’s no going back. Ignorance is bliss. And painful.

In the meantime, here are three simple actionable things you can do right now.

  1. Be old-fashioned. Simply wait for your latte once in a while.
  2. Bring your smart phone up to at least chin height. Keep your head straight and use your eyes to navigate. (This alone will feel fab.)
  3. Do a big, easy stretch. Go to a doorway and stand back a little, not quite directly under the frame. Place each hand at shoulder height along the frame on both sides. Get a nice chest stretch by taking one foot and gently stepping through the doorway while not moving your hands. Make sure you eyes/head are up at about 20 degrees to ensure a nice chest lift and opener. At the same time squeeze your shoulder blades to remind them of their role in supporting you.

A little awareness can go a long way, especially when you’re making corrections in the angle in which you allow gravity to do its thing. You can create a brand new habit that will bring a whole new slant on how you’re staying connected. You’ll feel so much better doing it too!

You don’t need to head for disaster (pun shamelessly intended).

Try some of those micro movements and see how much of a small, big difference it could make for you.