I know, I know. It’s Saturday, not Wednesday. I apologize for not getting a post written on Wednesday. School really handed my butt to me this week. You know it takes a week or so to get back into the swing of classes after having a break. Plus, this semester, I am taking a full 12 hours. I really wanted to share this post with you, though, so I sat down to write it this morning.
I want to talk about listening to your body. I wholeheartedly believe that our bodies talk to us. God designed us a body, soul and spirit. We are one unit, designed to function in harmony. The problem is many of us live a disconnected life. We go through the day almost on autopilot, completely unaware of so many things. Many of us are unaware of our surroundings, our physical bodies, the people we walk pass; some of us are even unaware of our feelings, motives and drives.
We must learn to be present and aware of what is going on around us and inside us. I think presence and awareness are crucial to living life to the fullest. We must engage. We must engage ourselves, our environment, the people around us. When we do not engage and are not present, we are not living.
Let’s start with body awareness. Are you truly aware of your body: where it is in space, what each part of it feels like, how it moves? Now I know that we aren’t all physiology nerds like me, therefore, you may not be aware of the physiologic processes that take place in your body, but try this exercise. Find somewhere quiet to sit (I usually do this sitting in the bath). Start to think about a specific part of your body, like your toes. Wiggle your toes. Feel what it feels like to move them, to move your feet and ankles. Think about what it takes to move those parts of your body. Begin to give thanks to God for each of the processes you are aware of that make that possible. Thank Him for giving you the health and ability to make those things work. Not everyone has the health and ability to move toes and feet. I thank him for bones that are strong enough to hold my weight, for muscles that can move those bones, for mitochondria that make ATP to power the movements, for nerves cells that carry the signals to the muscles, for a brain that can send the signals, for lungs that take in the oxygen necessary to make ATP, and a heart that is healthy enough to pump the oxygen around my body. You get the point. Don’t take it for granted. Stop and be aware and thankful for those things that are necessary, but are so easy to take for granted. Take notice of what it feels like to sit in your chair or stand on your feet. We will come back to body awareness in a minute.
Now, let’s think about the environment. Do you stop and take notice of the clouds in the sky, the way it feels when the sun hits your face? Do you notice the trees and how green they are? Do you notice the grace and the different shades green in it. Do you take note of the sounds of the birds, the locusts, the children playing down the street? Have you ever turned of the radio in your car and listened to the sound the tires make on the road? Do you thank God for giving you all these things? Do you thank Him for ears that can hear and eyes that can see? Do you realize what a gift it is to be able to live in a country that isn’t ravaged by war, where you can drive down the street to buy food, where children have the “right” and requirement to get educated? Are you aware? Do you give thanks, or do you take it for granted?
Let’s talk people. Are you aware that the person standing in front of you making your coffee is a person? Are you aware that the wait person taking your order has feelings, is someone’s son or daughter or sister or mother? Do you take a minute to really look at them, engage them, bless them? Do you go out of your way to give them dignity, respect and grace? Or, do you see them as someone who owes you service? Do you ask, sincerely, how they are and tell them sincerely to have a wonderful day? Do you look the people you pass by in the eyes and smile? Awareness. Engagement.
We are not a lone entity. We are a force which it interacting with other forces all the time. We cross, bump, affect one another whether we realized it or not. In a very real sense we are one. There is energy in life. We are interacting with that energy everyday even if we don’t realize it. We interact with one another’s energy, with the energy of this planet, with the energy of God. Energy exudes from everything. To be aware of the energy, people, life that we are interacting with is to be present, grounded, to be living fully rather than just surviving and robotically moving through our time on this earth. More on that another time.
I want to get back to the body. I believe that body awareness is vital. Our bodies are designed to tell us when something is wrong. Pain is a signal that something is wrong. Tiredness is a signal that we need rest. Inflammation is a signal that the body is being overwhelmed with something that is not good. A bacterial infection causes inflammation (or rather triggers the body to make inflammation). Allergic reactions trigger inflammation; ingesting something that body is sensitive to causes inflammation. There are many signals our bodies give us that something is not right.
I am challenging you to start taking note of and being aware of what your body is saying. It is not something you decide to do and then the very next day you are good at it. It is a process, a rather long process. If you start practicing, you will get better and better at hearing your body. I have been listening intently and looking for patterns for about 10 years now. As I have listened, I have also eliminated foods that cause me problems. That process is hit or miss. I have eliminated foods only later to find out it wasn’t that food, but another that I ate with it. I remove and then reintroduce foods several times looking for reaction. It is a long process, but I promise it is worth it. I feel better than I have my whole life. I don’t have pain in my joints most of the time. I don’t feel like I am in a fog or need to sleep all day long anymore.
Get a journal. Start keeping track of what you eat. Track how you feel. Make note of problematic symptoms and look for patterns. As you are present, aware and begin to document, you will see patterns emerge. As you see patterns and eliminate problematic foods, you will begin to see symptoms disappear and feel better. As I eliminated certain foods, I would see new problem foods. It can be frustrating to give up foods you love or are used to eating and to find other foods to eat, but the relief in the body, increase in energy, and decrease in pain is worth it. I promise. It will take time, but if you don’t start today, when will you start? Will you wait 10 years until you have worse symptoms?
I am not anti-medicine like I once was, but I do think that before a person starts dumping chemicals into the body, attempts to find a natural solution should be made. Try to look at the diet, and lifestyle to see if changes could help.
I am not going to say what diet you should follow or what you should eliminate. I think we all have different sensitivities, different systems, different needs. We have to begin to listen and figure out what gives us optimum health. What works for me may not work for you and visa versa.
I want to close with these two examples for how my body works. I eat a very strict diet. It is almost totally “paleo”. It is not necessarily that I set out to eat paleo or advocate that eating plan. It just falls into that category. I advocate what makes your body healthy, strong, and full of energy. I have had to eliminate all grains, corn, milk, and soy. I don’t like beef, but I eat lots of chicken and fish. Peanut butter is my favorite food in the world. When it eat this way, my body does not hurt; I do not feel sluggish, and I only need an occasional nap. I can work out heavily and generally feel great. I also almost never get sick.
Last weekend I went to a conference at church and got into the pastries. Then I went to a new youth meeting at church and again pastries. I felt like I was in a fog literally all weekend. I felt lethargic, tired and napped. It was miserable. I totally regretted the pastries. The taste on my tongue was not worth the misery I felt for days afterward. My body was telling me that it did not like this food. I have been doing this long enough to know. The sad thing is, I knew before I ate it what it would do to me. So, I don’t always eat perfect. I eat things that I know are going to give me trouble and I pay the consequence for it. The main thing is I am aware. I don’t just feel bad and wonder why. I don’t feel bad most of the time because I know what certain foods will do and I try not to make a habit of eating them.
The second example and the reason for this post comes from last night. We had a date night. We went to Chuy’s (one of my favorite restaurants). I had queso (which I love!!!!) and a mini bean burrito. We followed us with Marble Slab. Can you say milk overload? I mean seriously. It was delicious, but boy could I feel it this morning. While I was doing my Insanity workout I could feel the heaviness in my body. It was much more difficult than it usually is. I could feel my heart struggling to keep up. My body was telling me that it was overloaded from last night’s rich fair. I knew, though, because I have spent years listening to my body that the food was the problem. I made it though, but it was a little harder than it usually is. I did not have to wonder why my workout was hard this morning because I have made the habit of listening and the correlation was obvious.
Try it and see.