In a world full of diet and food trends, it can be hard to know exactly what’s “good” or “bad” for us. But my health philosophy has always been to quiet out that noise and listen to our bodies instead, and in today’s post I’m covering 6 ways to listen to your body so you can let go of rigidity and make the best health choices for YOU.
My health philosophy has always been simple: listen to your body. It sounds straightforward enough, but what does it really mean?
Our bodies are constantly sending us messages, or sometimes displaying signs, in an attempt to find an equilibrium. “Listening to your body” is all about understanding what those signs might mean and above all else, respecting its unique needs instead of falling into the rigidity of diet labels or food trends.
But hey, I’ve been there. I think we all have to some degree. And I don’t think that following certain dietary guidelines is a bad thing. In some cases, there are times when avoiding certain foods or favouring others can be helpful. But what I truly believe is the best thing for our health is to learn how to listen to our bodies so that we can make the best decisions for ourselves.
With all that said, let’s chat about 6 ways you can do so. Watch my video below or continue reading.
1. Intuitive eating
Intuitive eating is all about avoiding calorie counting, dieting and labels, and instead, respecting our hunger and satiety signals. This means eating when we’re hungry and stopping when we’re full. It means being aware of our body’s needs for nourishment, but also allowing wiggle room to just enjoy food without feeling guilty about it.
Here are some tips for eating intuitively:
- Eat slowly by putting your fork down or taking a breath between bites. This will help you notice those hunger and fullness cues.
- When you’re hungry, eat. Many of us develop a belief that hunger needs to be suppressed, often to reach or maintain a certain weight, but hunger is one of the most primal signs that we require energy. Respect this sensation and eat when you’re hungry.
- Stop calorie counting. Instead focus on how foods make you feel when you eat them. This means eating for your unique body’s needs by paying attention to which foods that make you feel well and which ones don’t. A great place to start is with how your digestion feels.
2. Tune in to your digestion
One of the best ways to listen to your body is to notice how your digestion feels and what your bowel movements are telling you.
Poop says a lot about our internal health. e.g. constipation or diarrhea. These can indicate a need for more fibre, water, or a food reaction to name a few.
Note if you feel bloated or gassy after certain foods. Some foods cause this more than others and that’s perfectly normal (e.g. cruciferous vegetables), but if it’s painful or excessive bloating or other uncomfortable bowel symptoms, it might need a little extra attention.
Using a food journal is a great way to track these things and can help you get to the root of what might be a culprit for you. If you’d like to explore this and plenty of other habits and strategies for supporting gut health, learn more about my 4-week Digestive Reset Program here.
Sometimes you just want some chocolate and that’s that (I’m with you here!) But other times, it’s wise to tune into those signals and assess what our bodies might actually be communicating.
For example, cravings can indicate that you haven’t eaten enough (especially protein, fat and fibre combined), that you’re just thirsty, or that your blood sugar is a little off-balance. A high intake of refined carbohydrates can exacerbate sugar cravings because of the blood sugar imbalances they can create.
I encourage you to pause the next time you experience strong cravings and ask yourself what your body really needs.
4. Look at your skin
Fun fact: our skin is our largest organ and major detoxification pathway. Our skin does a whole lot and can also display a lot of interesting things.
Acne, redness, itchiness, dryness, hives. These are all manifestations of internal imbalances and that something may be going on in our body that needs to be addressed, such as inflammation, a food or environmental reaction, dehydration. For some of my best tips for skin health, read more here.
Take note of these little signs your body is giving you and return to your food diary to note any correlations. Hormones can also play a big role here. Speaking of which…
5. Understand your menstrual cycle
One of the most important things you can do if you’re a woman or menstruating person, is to know your cycle inside and out. Become very familiar with it.
Things like your average cycle length, how you feel when your period is approaching or when you’re in your fertile window (ovulation), symptoms you experience and when (soreness, bloating, acne, etc.).
You may notice certain symptoms have a pattern. Our hormones are fluctuating all throughout our cycle and this can and does influence how we feel.
You can get started with understanding your menstrual cycle better by simply tracking it. I personally use the app Clue.
6. Do a mental check in
Checking in with ourselves mentally, especially when we’re feeling down, anxious, or upset, is one of the greatest keys to helping us uncover what shifts we may need to make in our lives. Our mental health is just as important as our physical health.
Ask yourself what’s on your mind, what’s bothering you or weighing on you, or if you’re stressed. Stress is a huge culprit for skin, digestive and mood imbalances, as well as ramping up inflammation and messing with our hormones.
Get clear on how you’re feeling and why, and take gentle steps forward from there with changes you think you need to make.
Food journals can also come in handy for tracking mood and even energy levels. Caffeine intake and foods that promote blood sugar imbalances can have a direct impact on our mood and mental health.