Listening to Your Body

Have you ever gotten sick or had a headache or some other malady and had no idea why it was happening?  I know it’s happened to me many times in my life, but I’ve recently begun to work on paying better attention to cause and effect with respect to my health.  I think this is a very worthwhile endeavor because our bodies, when they get sick, are really telling us a lot.  They are saying, “Hey, I don’t like this thing that you did to me or put inside me and now I have to work really hard to fix the problem!”.  Of course, while your body is healing itself, you won’t feel so great.

Oftentimes, there are so many variables in what I’ve eaten or done (or not done) in a day, that it’s difficult to determine the causes of specific symptoms unless I’m really paying close attention.  A few weeks ago, though, I noticed a very specific cause and effect.  It was difficult to ignore.  I was visiting a good friend and we decided to go to the fair one night.  It was close to my birthday, I’d been eating well lately, and thought that I deserved a “reward”.  It was my birthday, after all.  Anyway, I ate a bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream.  A small bowl even.  It was so-so going down (a little melty), but about 15 minutes later I got the WORST stomachache and heartburn I’d had in a long time!  Stomachaches are not common for me and I hadn’t eaten anything else for a few hours previous, so it was pretty apparent that the ice cream was the cause.  I remained in pain for hours until I finally took a Tums.  My so-called reward definitely wasn’t worth the resulting punishment and I felt quite motivated to stay away from dairy ice cream after that.

Since then I’ve been thinking more about the connection between my diet and health.  What other relationships could I notice to help strengthen my resolve to eat healthfully?  I think for me the best way to practice this is just to think, every time I have a headache or stomachache or tired feeling or whatever, of what was different about that day.  Thinking about more than just food, here are some factors that I have found can really affect how my body feels:

  • Foods I eat
  • Foods I don’t eat
  • How much sleep I get
  • How much water I drink
  • Whether or not I stay on my regular sleep/wake schedule
  • Whether or not I take time to rest during the day (get off my feet)
  • Stress levels
  • Posture while sitting
  • Whether or not I get exercise
  • Sitting for long periods of time vs. stretching every once in awhile
  • Using the bathroom when I need to as opposed to “holding it”

Recently, I decided that most of my headaches occur when I don’t drink enough water.  To test that out, yesterday as soon as I felt a slight headache I rushed to drink a bunch of water and, viola!  No headache after all!  Not very scientific, I know.  I’d have to try that a few more times to make sure, but I’m pretty excited that it worked yesterday.

Once you’ve begun to notice changes in your health caused by things you do to your body, you’ll not only be more motivated to treat your body well, but your new diet will become more meaningful and more personal.  You’ll appreciate whole foods on a much deeper level.  When your diet becomes an intrinsic part of you, it is now a lifestyle and you can continue to enjoy the benefits for many years to come.

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