In 2015, my body burst into riotous acne. It was a breakout that appeared like an infestation. It was the same year that I experienced the most intense stress at work that I’ve ever known. I was craving cheese, potato chips, and chocolate daily and I was satisfying these cravings in copious amounts. Except that cheese, for my biology, is toxic. Stress produced cravings, one of the cravings was toxic, and my body responded to the stress and toxin by using my skin to try to eliminate both. Was my body talking? Absolutely.
At times, I risk sounding maniacal because in our highly intellectualized, modern society where our food is analyzed and processed and our animals are farmed and manufactured with little care for their feelings or wellbeing (or for ours), we have forgotten that eating should feel good to us at the same time that it should nourish us. Food is fuel and it is pleasure.
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
The body can tell if it is being called to make a choice between fuel and pleasure, a protein shake or a piece of chocolate. It doesn’t want to choose, it needs both criterion to be met to be satisfied. In fact, the stomach signals the brain that you are full only once you’ve experienced pleasure from the meal regardless of who much you’ve eaten. If there is no pleasure with our meal, we will feel incomplete, craving sweetness or something decadent and savory, until we are pleasure-satisfied. The body knows when we are eating only to satisfy hunger pains, when we are rushed, when we are emotional.
Consider for a moment that every craving has a meaning. Overeating and over-scheduling are the same and have the same effect on the body: stress. Eating disorders are a result of emotional malnourishment - something in a person’s life needs nourishment and that need is projected onto food. Addictions are often cravings developed to numb emotional pain; the craving is a physical projection of an emotional need usually caused by shame, guilt, or grief. (In our Shame Trigger podcast episodes, we discuss Brené Brown’s research that shows that addiction, and other destructive behaviors, are alarmingly common among those who feel shame or guilt.) Cravings are a way of expressing the body’s needs. Behaviors, especially habitual ones, are ways of expressing the body’s needs. Admittedly, sometimes the source of our need is misdirected or misinterpreted. But the signs are always there.
On this week’s podcast, I am found repeatedly saying: “listen to your body” as we discuss the Ketogenic diet. I am, indeed, rather unimpressed and unashamedly hostile to any diet that forces us to count anything: carbs, protein, fat, calories. Each human body is a genetic marvel. We are highly individualistic and no ONE diet can be prescriptive for every body on the planet because who we are is an amalgam of our biology, our environment, our emotional makeup, and our spiritual outlook. Any prescriptive diet calls upon us to acknowledge our “sameness” and ignore our beautiful individuality.
In addition, counting your nutrients can be stressful. Even if “there’s an app for that”. Do we need more time staring at a screen to give us metrics on what we already know?
Do we need yet another reason to measure, analyze, and compare ourselves so we can know if we are measuring up to the standard?
Here’s my invitation: if you are overweight, tired, anxious, hurried, stressed, or addicted, these are messages from your body for which the explanation may lie much deeper. You deserve to know what’s happening with you! Learn to listen to your body in a few simple steps:
Slow down. This applies to tasks and food: do less and eat slowly.
Remove all animal food sources from your diet. Yes, all animal food sources. This is the natural way to uncover any food allergies or intolerances. This is a common reason for inflammation and conflict in the body.
Pay attention before, during, and after you eat something. Before your meal, are you stressed or rushed? During your meal, are you calm? After your meal, do you feel good? (Check this 30 mins after, 1 hour later, 4 hours later.)
Get Movement. Notice that I didn’t say exercise. Get movement. Your body is mostly made of water. What happens when water doesn’t move? Movement is medicine and helps to clear the clutter and noise that might block you from hearing your body’s message. Want some movement ideas?
If you’d like help listening to your body, request a health coaching session. Your body is smart, strong, and capable of informing you of what you need and what you don’t. It is the ultimate authority on your diet. Listen to it.
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