How do you feel about the saying “knowledge is power”?
It’s true to some degree, but often too much knowledge leaves us powerless. We can gain knowledge from a google search, newspaper articles, Facebook posts, magazines, Pinterest, or even friends. But, when we are completely overloaded by information we just get stuck.
You can find content to support eating only plants or eating only meat, running everyday or only lifting weights, hitting the gym or staying home to meditate, and the list could go on. The “knowledge” contradicts itself and we either try everything - marking each off the list as “didn’t work for me” - or do nothing because we don’t know where to start.
So this year I decided to do something different. Instead of listening to the latest author of the New York Times Best Selling health and wellness book, I decided to listen to my body.
To be honest, for a long time I didn’t trust my body. I didn’t trust that it would tell me when I was hungry or not. I didn’t believe it when it groaned at my exercise regimen and begged for a day of rest. I ignored it’s cries when I was feeding it foods that didn’t allow it to feel or work at it’s best.
So for me, listening to my body was harder than it sounds. But I made a lot of progress and here are 5 hard lessons I needed to learn from my body this year in order to optimize my health and how my body continues to show up for me everyday.
Hormones run the show
And when they are out of whack, we feel like crap. From sex hormones - estrogen, testosterone, progesterone - to cortisol, melatonin, insulin, and thyroid hormones. It is a delicate balance that drives sleep, mental health, energy, muscle strength and metabolism.
So when I am gaining weight, even though I’m eating all the right things, or not building muscle, even though I’m working out 5 days a week, wonky hormones are likely to blame. No need to eat less and exercise more to reach your goals. Work with a healthcare practitioner to get your hormones checked and optimized - then your body will respond.
Eating Healthy isn’t the same for everyone
When it comes to healthy eating there are some things that are obvious - the almonds are a better snack choice than the Oreos. But, there is an awful lot of gray area when it comes to nutrition. I spent a lot of time looking for the “right way to eat” and I found it doesn’t really exist. What makes your body feel good may not make my body feel good.
In this way there are NOT “good” and “bad” foods, there is just food. It is what it is and when we pay attention to how it affects our bodies we can be more aware of the choices we make. For me, I have found many foods that make me feel moody, tired, bloated, and even anxious at times. However, food should never make us feel guilty, gross, or regretful. If those feelings start creeping in, I have to ditch them and move on. Then, I can confidently choose foods that give me energy, strength, and a stable mood.
Hours of cardio is counterproductive
There was a day (prior to having children) that I would spend 2 hours in the gym everyday and at least an hour of that was on the treadmill or elliptical. I thought the solution to a healthy and fit body was more and more cardio. This completely back fired on me!
I just found myself more and more fatigued from my cardio sessions. I couldn’t sleep at night because I was wired and I was exhausted every morning. It turns out that the stress of these long cardio sessions was causing more harm than good to my already stressed out body. Perhaps in my carefree days as a single 20 something my body didn’t have too many other stresses to deal with, but as a busy working mom my body said enough is enough. When I listen to what my body wants I hear it say lift heavy things, go for long walks, and do a HIIT work out every now and then.
Exercise isn’t a punishment
I know a lot of people fall into this trap with me - especially around the holidays. Exercise is a punishment for the extra glasses of wine at dinner last night or the girl scout cookie binge. Nope. Exercise is not meant to make up for poor eating habits. In fact the amount you would have to exercise to “burn off” those girl scout cookies would be ridiculous.
I’ve learned that exercise is a reward for my body. A way to take care of it, make it strong, capable and balanced. With this perspective I will keep an exercise routine to celebrate my body not punish it.
Rest and recharge is not optional
I never thought I had time to rest and recharge. I couldn’t even watch a television show with my family without my laptop out to “multitask”. I never read a book for fun or sat in a bubble bath - a shower was much more time efficient. Unfortunately, life got more and more full and the only place to “find time” was to steal from rest from my body.
As you can imagine, my body wasn’t very pleased with this. That stress hormone cortisol shot up all throughout the day keeping me up at night and exhausted in the morning. And when I didn’t listen to these signals, my digestive system started speaking a little louder. You see, when my cortisol was high my body was in a “fight or flight” mode - the opposite of “rest and digest”. I had to listen and learn to recharge - stop and take some deep breaths - to get my body back on track.
This last one is the hardest for me. I so want to ignore my body when it cries for sleep because there is one more load of laundry that needs to be done. I want to silence my body as it asks for a long bath with cell phone notifications turned off. But, I’ve made a deal with my body.
I will listen. I will give it foods it needs. I will allow it recover from all types of stress. I will love it just the way it is. And in return, my body will be free to move and live and love more next year than it ever has.
If any of this struck a cord with you, I would love to hear where you are in your journey.
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are still struggling to figure out how to “feel like yourself again” - you know I’ve been there - then download my EBook “7 Ways to Live Your Most Vibrant Life”. Try a few things to care for your body and see what it has to say. Just click the link above or picture below to receive a copy instantly!