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.