One of the most valuable things I’ve learned in the course of the last year is the importance of listening to your body. This, contrary to what some of you might think, is not just something that people recovering from eating disorders have to learn. Actually, I’d go so far as to say that most people could stand to learn this lesson and make it a part of their daily lives.
Listening to your body means sleeping when you need to sleep, instead of constantly going out with your friends to party, as tempting as that might be. Listening to your body means saying no to that 4th glass of wine, because you know you’ve already had enough. Listening to your body means not forcing yourself to exercise on days you feel too fatigued to walk up the stairs.
It also means taking a sick day when you need one, saying no to an increased workload because you know you can’t handle the stress. It means eating more when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re full. It means not eating certain foods if you know they don’t sit well of you, and eating something just because it’s “good for you” from time to time. It means learning to love your body, no matter what size and shape it is and not constantly criticizing, picking it apart and wishing in your heart of hearts that you could somehow “make it better”.
Learning the art of listening to your body over what your mind tells you isn’t easy. I still struggle with it on a day to day basis. Taking time to rest when I feel sick, or saying no to social activities because I know I won’t be up for work in the morning is always exceptionally hard. The first is so mainly because I am a slight “work-a-holic”. I pride myself in being a hard worker, so unless I am knocking on deaths door and I feel it it’s hard for me to justify taking a sick day because I need one. In the long run though, I see the importance of doing just that. Otherwise you continually wear down your health, till you finally collapse from sheer exhaustion and physical abuse. And once you get to that point, it’s very hard to pick yourself up off the ground again.
Same goes with social occasions. It seems that the night life never ends and although I’m a social creature and I love partying, going out, or just chilling with my friends it’s hard to constantly be doing that and waking up early each morning. Some time I just have to say no, and although it’s hard because I’m often considered the “party pooper” I do what I have to in order to stay healthy.
Eating and not eating certain foods is the same. Too much fiber messes with my stomach – and although I love my fruits and veggies I’m learning to make moderation a key. I love yogurt and cheeses but even these I have to limit to one serving a day or there are unpleasant consequences. I need to make more of an effort to eat healthy fats and protein, because that’s what I need to have the long-lasting energy that keeps me going through the day.
I think most people naturally gravitate to the mind over body approach. They do what THEY want as long as they can, often ignoring the negative consequence it might have on their health and well being. But I’ve found through experience that this can only last so long, and although it might be “good while it lasts” the consequences are far from pleasant.
So lets be radical and treat our bodies well. Let’s not look down on ourselves for the things we can’t do but appreciate all the we can do and are. Let’s appreciate the good health we’ve been given, and the wonderful capabilities of our bodies. Let’s treat them with the respect they deserve and not feel guilty giving ourselves what we really need. After all this is the only body we’re gonna get, it’s time to start really appreciating and taking care of it, because it won’t be around forever. It’s in our best interest to make it last as long as possible and keep it in good running condition. And if other people don’t do that – well that’s their problem isn’t it?