Our bodies are exceptional at telling us exactly what they need, when they need it.
Our bodies can tell us when we need to eat, when we should stop eating, when we should rest or sleep and for how long, and will give us lots of warning signs when it’s been overworked.
The problem is, we’ve forgotten how to listen.
After years and years of dieting and following meal plans I had become conditioned to go against what my natural body cues were.
>> I was eating when I wasn’t hungry.
>> I was not eating when I was hungry.
>> I exercised through injuries.
>> I pushed through used supplements to wake up and supplements to fall asleep.
I just plain didn’t listen to my body.
The outcome besides a 20 pound weight gain?
>>Feeling like I forgot how to eat normally without a meal plan
>>Never knowing if I was actually hungry or not and eating anyway because I believed hunger meant my body was going into “starvation mode”
>>Not being able to run for over a year due to IT band syndrome (an overuse injury) when running was something I really loved
>> Not being able to fall asleep on my own without melatonin and not being able to shake the groggy melatonin hangover without excessive amounts of coffee
It wasn’t pretty.
When we fight against our body, we’re going to lose.
Every single time.
I’m going to teach you how you can begin to listen to your body again in terms of hunger, exercise and sleep in case you’ve forgotten how. Even if you haven’t forgotten, it’s always good to check in and reassess where you’re at with this stuff. You might even pick up some new tricks!
The most frustrating part about jumping off the diet bandwagon and going meal plan-free for me was feeling like I forgot how to eat. I distinctly remember standing in my kitchen thinking about how ridiculous it was that I couldn’t tell if I was hungry or not and if I was hungry, I didn’t have a clue what I should eat.
When I was on a Figure competition diet, I was instructed to eat 6 small meals a day. I emailed my coach in the beginning and told her that I was never hungry for meals 5 or 6 so could I just add more to my earlier meals. Her answer was “no” because I had to keep my metabolism up so I had to eat six meals a day. She then suggested I take out all condiments and seasonings because that was probably disrupting my appetite. I laugh at this now because I know how ridiculous her “guidance” was but back then I was trusting that what she was telling me was fact, so I ate my plain, boring chicken and vegetables even when I wasn’t hungry.
Even now I’ll sometimes get home from work and immediately head to the kitchen to make lunch or dinner without even checking in with if I’m hungry or not.
Don’t eat one more thing until you get just a little bit hungry. I did this exercise with my Fueled Up Fat Loss girls this week and we found that a lot of us either panic when we’re hungry or forgot how to tell if we’re actually hungry at all. It’s different for everyone but hunger generally feels like a light gnawing or rumbling in your tummy but not get to the point of being lightheaded or hangry.
Does the exercise you’re doing actually feel good for you both during and after? A little soreness here and there is totally normal but it shouldn’t be sidelining you for days after and if you’re feeling any sharp or super uncomfortable pain during the exercise my advice it to stop immediately.
I very rarely get the urge to run anymore but after launching Fueled Up Fat Loss and sitting at a computer for about a week straight, I had a lot of pent up energy. My body seemed like it was begging for a good sweat session and I really felt like running. So I hopped on the treadmill and didn’t make it two minutes before my left knee was screaming NO! hah. I considered pushing through it for a few more minutes before I realized how silly (and risky) that was, so I got off the tread and jumped on the Arc trainer (much more joint-friendly) and got my sweat on.
So often we look at exercise something we “should” do. Our friends do CrossFit so we “should” do it, too even if it doesn’t feel good for us. Or someone wants you to go to hot Yoga when it’s just not your thing but you go anyway and feel nauseous the entire time. Or we should run to lose weight. Why do something that makes us feel bad or something we don’t even like?
Experiment with your fitness and break you usual routine. Get off the cardio machines and take a class. Try a new class. Learn to use some of the equipment in the weight room. Hire a trainer to help you learn proper form for bigger lifts. There are limitless options when it comes to exercise. Try everything you can and see how it feels for your body. This will also help you from feeling bored a few weeks into your routine because you can always spice things up if need be.
Do you know how much sleep you need per night to feel well rested? If not, don’t feel bad. Most of us don’t and it can vary from person to person. Some function great with just 5 hours and others need upwards of 10 to feel on their A game. So the hard rule of 8 hours per night doesn’t hold true, for lots of us anyway.
There are so many factors that can influence how well we sleep: what we eat or drink before bed, what we watch on TV, if we’re scrolling through social media on our phones, if we sleep with the TV on, if you share a bed with your kids most nights or with a restless partner, if we’re stressed out… all these things effect our sleep big time.
Try one of these tricks to get a better night’s sleep and see if you don’t wake up feeling more rested (side note: I don’t know what to do about kids or a restless partner. I only have cats which I can spray with a spray bottle and Dan sleeps like a log most nights. Sorry!):
>> Eliminate alcohol before bed. I know, I know. So many of us think wine helps us sleep (I use that excuse sometimes, too!) and while it may help us fall asleep quicker we don’t reach the really deep sleep (REM) needed to feel fully rested when we wake up.
>> Shut off your computer and cell phone an hour before bed. I SUCK at this but it’s a big goal of mine to get off my damn cell phone at night hah! The blue light that comes from screens actually affects the natural levels of melatonin our body releases which keeps us more awake and alert when we really should be winding down and going to sleep.
>> Stress management. If you had a stressful day or have a lot of your plate and can’t seem to shut your mind off, do a brain dump. Take out a piece of paper and just write anything that comes to your mind. It doesn’t have to make sense, it doesn’t have to look pretty, just get the thoughts out of your mind and onto the paper. You’ll find that after this exercise you’ll sleep a whole lot better.
Remember that your body is the boss.
We can’t force our body to do something it’s just not wanting to do and expect a positive result. We’ll either end up injured, sick or in my case, 20 pounds heavier hah! Start to tune into your body. It’s just begging you to listen.