I have been thinking a lot about what and who I listen to lately. I started thinking about what I’m consuming on social media. I’m being more careful with what news, facts and versions of events and opinions I listen to.
I’m trying to be more aware of how they affect me as I form my own thoughts about the world.
As the New Year approached, I thought about what and who I listen to when planning my own growth and goals. I thought about what experts, strategies, programs and priorities drew and commanded my time and attention.
I recognized something that concerned me: my focus was on things outside of me to help me determine what was important inside of me.
Do you value outside sources more than your inner wisdom?
I think it’s useful and important to be informed. I think it can be wise to consult experts or to discover new things. These things aren’t the problem.
The problem arises when we value outside sources over our own inner wisdom. This happens when we ignore our wants and desires and disconnect from ourselves in service of becoming something or someone else.
It’s a trap I have fallen into many times — believing that someone else knows what I should do or that something outside of me knows what’s best for me, better than I do.
I assume I should ignore whatever complaints or whisperings I hear from inside of me in order to meet their expectation or an expectation I have set for myself based on what they told me I should do or be.
How to consult your inner wisdom
I want you to think about ways that this is showing up for you in your life and in weight loss in particular. Where do you notice that you are consulting outside sources for inside information?
How often do you listen to something someone told you to try without checking in with what you want, what’s important to you, what feels good, or even what works?
I remember trying anything anyone told me would help me lose weight. I tried all cucumber diets, cutting out bananas, eating bananas, eating protein every two hours, not eating protein, more water, less water.
It was 30 years of seeking answers outside of myself instead of listening to my body.
I want you to think about one thing that you recently have read or have been told that you should do on your weight loss journey. Ask yourself:
- Does this apply to you, your situation, or your body?
- Does it line up with your values?
- Does it match your objectives?
- It is included in your vision for your future you?
- Is it something you want to do?
- Is it something you think might be challenging but you’re willing to try?
How to listen to your body
Learning to listen starts with trusting that you have inner wisdom and that you are the expert on you.
Other people can advise you, but they don’t know what it’s like to be you. Only you know that. When you trust that, you can take outside information and weigh it against your inside wisdom and make the decision that is right for you.
You don’t have to feel amazing, excited and capable in order to make the decision to do or try something, but you want to feel like the decision is in alignment with you.
For example, for some people, cutting out all sugar is a decision that aligns with their goals. Even though limiting or cutting out sugar feels difficult, when they listen inside it feels right to them. For others cutting out sugar doesn’t feel necessary or aligned with what is best for them.
3 important signals your body wants to give you
Learning to listen to your body’s inner wisdom takes practice and consciousness but it’s some of the most important listening you can learn how to do.
Most people who are living comfortably at their natural weight, without food drama, simply listen to their bodies. They eat when they’re hungry, they eat food that nourishes them, and they stop eating when they’re full.
Now, I know there are many layers to this issue of being able to listen. Our desire to escape uncomfortable emotion gets in the way at times, our habits get in the way, all our thoughts about food and hunger and waste get in the way.
But when we break it all down to its simplest form, the thing we want to learn how to do is listen to our bodies and the signals it is giving us.
Here are three important signals that we can better listen to improve our health and practice trusting our inner wisdom.
Learn to listen to what hunger feels like in your body. Many of us eat so often for fear of feeling hunger that we don’t actually know what it feels like.
Here are a couple of exercises you can try to help you learn how to listen to and get to know your body’s hunger signals.
- Set an alarm to go off every couple of hours throughout the day and check in with your hunger. Rank it from zero to 10 and keep track of the numbers. Start to notice your body’s hunger patterns.
- Every time you think about food or eating throughout the day, check in with your hunger. How often are you thinking about food when you’re actually hungry and how often are you thinking about food when you’re not?
- Notice what hunger feels like in your body. When you notice you are hungry, scan your body for any sensation that’s calling your attention. Notice what signals your body gives when you are slightly hungry or on your way to full-blown hunger. What changes? What shifts? What happens?
2. Food impact
We also want to learn to listen to what particular foods feel like in our bodies. We are often so focused on taste, we ignore the impact in our bodies.
One of my favorite questions is, “What foods do I love that don’t love me?” Are there foods that don’t agree with your body even though your taste buds love them?
I used to love sour gummy candy, but it causes me to have painful stomach bloating and the sour powder hurts my teeth and makes them sensitive for a couple days.This is the perfect example of a food I love the taste of that doesn’t love me.
What, if any, are those foods for you? And if you don’t know, start paying attention to how your body feels AFTER you eat things, not just while you are eating things.
The last part of learning to listen to our bodies is to listen for satiety or fullness. This can seem especially elusive and difficult since the sensation of being full often takes a minute to register in our brains.
Also, many of us have been taught and cultured to ignore satiety in order to clean our plates and not waste food. Or, because we’re enjoying the taste experience, we ignore our feelings of fullness because we don’t want it to end.
Satiety does have nuances, quiet little whisperings, that signal fullness that we can learn to hear. Here’s a couple of things you can try.
- Plan specifically to have a mindful meal. The idea is that you create space to really connect to how your body is feeling as you eat.
- Pause every couple of minutes as you’re eating and ask yourself, “Am I still enjoying this food?”
- Put half as much on your plate as you think you are hungry for. If you usually eat three slices of pizza, put one on your plate. If you normally have a whole chicken breast, cut it in half. Eat that much and then check in with your body. Are you still hungry? Are you satisfied? Are you full but just want to eat more just because? Notice what emotion you’re feeling. Notice what comes up for you when you only eat half.
- Experiment with what it feels like in your body to be overfull compared to what it feels like to be hungry or slightly full. What is the experience of stopping before you are satisfied compared to stopping after you are satisfied? Write it down.
Learning to listen is a skill
A new skill takes time and practice and patience to build. If you don’t currently possess the skill of listening to your body in one or all of these areas, don’t expect that you will be an expert right away.
Give yourself time. Experiment, play, wonder, be curious, and be compassionate.
Listening feels like kindness. We are not trying to find fault and spot missteps. We are listening for understanding and for our ultimate growth. It’s a process. Give yourself grace as you go through it.
As you do this, you will learn how to advocate for you and for future you with love. That is how we make changes stick — with love.
If you are ready to start your permanent weight loss journey, watch my free video on how to lose the first five pounds — and keep going.