Learning to listen to your body is an important part of having a healthy mindset when it comes to exercise, nutrition and life.
Listening to your body helps you to know when to push harder, when to rest, and when you might need to make changes to your nutrition.
What does listening to your body mean?
Listening to your body means taking the time to assess how your body responds to things like exercise and the food you eat.
It can be so easy to get caught up in our busy day-to-day lives that we often forget to pause and reflect on how we are actually feeling.
Have you ever felt like giving up on your fitness routine after having a tough day or week? Listening to your body carefully when starting a new health fitness routine can help prevent you from getting to that point!
Tips to listen to your body
Here are some tips for listening to your body:
1. Keep a journal
Keeping a journal can help you to become aware of how your body is feeling and identify what you can do to feel your best.
Some things you can keep track of include the quality and amount of sleep you get, how you feel after eating certain foods, and how you feel after completing certain types of exercise.
Write down what you want to do to take care of yourself today. It can be something small, like taking five minutes to meditate, planning to drink plenty of water, or getting enough sleep each night!
2. Eat mindfully
If you’re like me, family traditions and events often revolve around food — and lots of it! For many of us, regular catch-ups with friends or family also involve eating or drinking, so we can often find ourselves eating more, rather than eating when we are actually feeling hungry.
This can also happen for us at mealtimes if we have more on our plate than we really need.
Eating mindfully means paying more attention to whether you are hungry or full, but this doesn’t mean that you need to miss out on eating foods that you enjoy! Be aware of the amount of food you put on your plate and allow time to digest after each mouthful. Consider whether you are enjoying your food, or if you are eating just because it’s there.
Take a moment to think about how the food you eat makes your body feel! Educating yourself on the nutritional value of carbohydrates, fats and proteins can help you to understand why certain types of foods, like processed food, can leave you feeling flat.
Making healthy food choices doesn’t mean giving up treats! In fact, sometimes allowing yourself treats can actually help you to stay on track and avoid overeating. Eating mindfully can help you to balance how you feel with what you eat, so that you are always feeling like the best version of yourself!
3. Make time for yourself
A self-care practice can help you to tune into your body. If you know me and have tried my programs you know that rest and rehabilitation are just as important as training hard! When you allow yourself a few minutes to check-in with how you are feeling, you can make more intuitive decisions.
It doesn’t need to be for hours at a time — just for five or 10 minutes each day! You could use this time to do a foam rolling session or spend a few minutes outdoors. My BBG programs in the SWEAT app contain dedicated stretching sessions, where I guide you through each movement and help you to bring your heart rate back down to a resting rate after a tough workout.
Meditation and yoga are two practices that many people find calming and can help with self-care, too!
It can be as simple as taking some deep, steady breaths and becoming aware of your body.
Meditation can also help to reduce stress levels and clear your mind.
5. Be aware of stress and anxiety
When you understand what triggers your stress or anxiety, it can be easier to take action to minimise the effects this can have on your life and avoid burnout.
If you are stressed, it might be that your breathing becomes shallower, the muscles in your neck and shoulders get tight, or you just generally feel tense. Taking action to reduce the symptoms of anxiety can minimise the negative impact it might have.
6. Notice how your body responds to exercise
Focussing on your breath with each movement and learning when to inhale and exhale, can help you connect with your body in the moment.
Listen to your body by checking how it responds to a particular exercise — do you have more energy, greater flexibility or more strength? When you notice how you feel better after exercise, it can motivate you to continue working out!
7. Think about what you need
Consider what your body really needs rather than what you want or desire in the moment. This can help you to break bad habits and make healthier choices.
For example, you might be craving a greasy breakfast. Take a moment to stop and think about how you feel and WHY you might be having these cravings — would an orange juice and eggs on toast be a more nutritious option and still satisfy your hunger?
The same principle applies to exercise. Sometimes, pushing yourself harder will get you to where you want to be, other times your body might simply need time to recover with a lower intensity alternative, like a walk outside.
8. Moderation is key
It’s important to know your limits — whether it’s with food or exercise.
Listening to your body will help you become aware of when you should stop and when you need more!
When you use the principle of moderation, you can enjoy treats, Netflix and chill days, and exercise in a healthy, sustainable way. Most importantly, you won’t miss out on any of the things you love!