As humans, it is hard to listen. We hear things all the time…but rarely do we take the time to truly listen. This is especially true when we are talking about instinct or intuition…we hear what our bodies, minds, or spirits may be trying to communicate, but we don’t listen. Part of caring for oneself—physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally— is conversing with this inner intuitive voice…and really listening to it. In fact, this is key to integrating body-based practices and mindfulness into your life.
A recent experience shed light on the power of listening to (versus hearing) your body. A cycle class participant approached me after class with this introduction: “This was my worst class ever. It was also the best class ever and let me tell you why….”
She continued to explain that 90 minutes prior, she was sitting in line at the drive-through window of a fast-food restaurant. She was having a disappointing day and felt as though she “deserved” a treat. That is what she “heard.” However, as the car in front of her pulled forward, she experienced what the food was going to feel like in her body before she ate it. She felt heavy and lethargic without consuming one bite. Her response to that feeling, to truly listening to her body’s communication, was to pull out of line and drive her car straight over to the cycle studio, jump on a bike, and take a class.
I think we can all agree that this one choice was a huge win. But let’s take a deeper look at what actually happened during this mind-body experience.
Most people are conditioned to choose foods based on how they feel now, in the moment, as opposed to how they WANT to feel. Think about it: “I feel bad, tired etc. so I’m going to pull on some sweats and pick up a pizza and pint of ice cream.” Some may even say “Tonight, I just need comfort food.” But how comforting is that food? How comfortable will you feel after eating it? Logically, it makes no sense: you are feeling tired so you choose foods that will exacerbate this feeling.
You may have heard the mantra “eat for how you want to feel.” Beautiful food, chosen mindfully and artfully, can comfort and heal us. This food can actually reverse a negative emotion or present state. It can change our body’s vibrational frequency to a desired station—to a place where we want to be after we eat it.
For example, if you feel anxious, that vibrational frequency within your body may lead you to choose foods that match—foods that you mindlessly eat and chew too fast or vigorously without even tasting them. What would your mind-body-awareness experience be like if you thought I feel anxious…I want to feel calm and peaceful…and then took a deep breath before consulting your body to see what foods make you feel calm and peaceful.
Think about how it would feel to let go of the counterintuitive common practice of choosing foods based on the present state instead of the desired, future one. Reflect on the fact that listening to our bodies is a luxury that should not be ignored. Imagine how transformative mindful eating could be; using food to honor your body, eating for how you want to feel, and using food to transition moods. Then, try it—and let me know how it goes!