Conventional wisdom touts the importance of listening to our bodies. I swear, in every single workout video I watch and fitness blog post I read, we’re told to “listen to your body.”
But what about when we have no effing clue what that means?
For years, as I worked through my eating disorder, doctors told me to listen to my body. After being put on bed rest for three days because my heart rate was grounds for hospitalization, I remember my doctor telling me I could do light yoga or go for a walk, if I “listened to my body.” I shifted my weight on that exam room table, hearing the crinkly paper under butt, trying to figure out a way to respond. I realized I had no idea what the fuck it actually meant to listen to my body.
I had gotten so good at tuning out my body’s signals–hunger signals, exhaustion signals–that I couldn’t even hear them anymore.
Whether we’re eating disorder survivors, hardcore fitness enthusiasts, or perpetual dieters, we get good at ignoring our bodies. And sometimes ignoring our body’s signals can even help us at times.
Pushing through the discomfort in a tough workout
Ignoring that 3pm sugar craving when we’re trying to lose weight
But what do we do when we’re told to listen to our bodies after years of ignoring them?
We start incorporating little actions that (1) help our bodies recover from our intense exercise and attempts at perfect nutrition and (2) help us get just a little more in tune with ourselves. Below are my top three strategies.
3 ways to listen to your body (when you have no idea how)
Get more sleep
The average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep per night (source – Gallup poll) compared to the expert recommendation of 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
And here’s the thing: sleep is soooooo important (love this PN article on sleep) to how we feel every day, our ability to recover from our workouts, and even our body composition.
So, if we don’t know how to listen to our bodies, getting more sleep is a safe bet. Because, honestly, everybody could use more sleep. I prioritized sleep when I had no idea how the F to listen to my body. It was the first change I made. I’ve felt worlds better since getting at least 7 hours of sleep on weeknights and 9 hours on weekends (#grandmastatus).
Eat more protein
Most of the women who come to me for nutrition guidance aren’t eating enough protein to sustain their active lifestyles. So, if we’re having a hard time listening to our bodies, adding more protein is a good place to start.
Increasing protein intake is an awesome step towards listening to our bodies, because:
- It keeps us feeling satisfied.
- It helps stabilize our blood sugar over long periods of time.
- It’s also much harder for our bodies to turn into body fat.
- It’s the building block to rebuild muscle tissue broken down by exercise.
If we try to eat some protein every time we feel hungry, we can naturally decrease our cravings, help our bodies build, and stop getting hungry 10 minutes after we finish a meal.
Recovery is super important and super un-sexy, I get it. For those of us who love working out, taking a rest or recovery day sounds awful.
The more intensely you are training, the more recovery your body needs! So, really, the less we want to take a day off, the more we need it.
So, if you’re struggling to listen to your body and you’re working out consistently, it’s time to prioritize recovery. Below are my favorite ways to facilitate recovery in my weekly routine.
- Foam roll tight muscles.
- Take an epsom salt bath.
- Practice yoga or meditation.
- Watch a funny movie (no really).
- Take a long walk instead of hitting the gym.
- Rest 1-2 days per week at a minimum.
(I wrote a whole post about recovery a while back. If you want more info on how many rest days to take per week, see here)
Using these three simple tips helped me start to get a little more in touch with what my body needed. Implement them all or try one at a time to listen to your body.
This week, I’m getting super real with my tribe about how I stopped exercising seven days a week and attempting perfect, restrictive eating. So if you want to get up close and personal with me and get my best stuff, join my tribe asap. Let’s talk 🙂