I saw an Instagram post recently that said "Your body knows what it needs; you just have to listen to it," and while that sounds really shiny and pretty and easy, I don't think that's always the case. For one, this phrase assumes that your body is 100% clear in telling you what it needs, and that's not always the case, especially when recovering from disordered eating when your hunger/fullness signals can be muted. Also, listening to your body can be really hard if you're not used to it, and even if you have practice, sometimes it's still hard to do. I'd compare this to what it was like for me to teach children's cooking classes this summer. I would ask my co-worker a question across the room and even though I could mostly read her lips and even hear a few words, there were 25 kids between us talking and dropping things and laughing and singing (yes), so it was anyone's best guess as to what she was saying. Sometimes I understood it and sometimes I didn't, and sometimes I just had to make up the answer for myself.
I think this is a lot like how listening to your body can feel sometimes. In a perfect world, you would be able to just say "Are you hungry?" or "What would you like to eat today?" and a magic voice would speak and say "Yes, and I'd like 2 pieces of French toast and a handful of berries and a few bites of scrambled eggs and a latte to sip on," and wouldn't that just be so much easier? But unfortunately... that's not how it works. Straightforward questions don't always have answers when it comes to your body, and there is almost always a ton of noise happening, both inside and outside your body, that makes it hard to listen. Here are some ways to make self-checks more workable for your everyday life:
TURN THE NOISE DOWN
Goodness, we live in a loud, loud world. And while I'm typically okay with all the noise around me, it makes it hard to tune into my body. Noise doesn't necessarily mean literal audio noise (although that can certainly be included); but it can mean anything from rushing thoughts, a busy schedule, or even getting distracted looking at Instagram photos of food that keep you from choosing what you really want to eat. Do me a favor: the next time you feel yourself unsure of how your body feels (hungry? tired? thirsty?), pull out a blank piece of paper or your phone notes and jot down all the things that are happening, both inside and outside your body - then see if there's any you can eliminate or minimize. Can you carve out more time for lunch tomorrow so you're less distracted? Should you skip the pre-meal social media browse? Anything to help you hear your body more clearly so you can figure out what it needs.
ASK NEW QUESTIONS
Before eating, I used to ask myself questions like, "Should I eat this?" or "Do I deserve this?" and I really thought it was me that came up with those questions - but now I realize that it's diet culture talking. Nowadays, my favorite, favorite question to ask myself when I'm deciding what to eat is, "Would I feel deprived without this?" and if the answer is yes, I eat. Sometimes, reframing is everything and all it takes is a few different words.
Other questions to ask yourself:
- Will this be satisfying?
- What would this add to my day/week/life?
- Do I want this?
TREAT IT LIKE A FIRST DATE
Finally, remember that we are all on a lifelong first date with our bodies and getting to know them, since they change constantly - and change is both natural and necessary. Also, this helps avoid making assumptions that you always always know what your body needs and it allows you to continually ask questions and learn.
What do you do to tune in with your body better? Any tips you have to share?