Episode 010: How to Listen To Your Body
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Listen to your body?”
Every time I was told to do this it drove me crazy! Because if you’ve never been taught how to listen to your body, how do you know how to do it?
How do you know whether you are actually, truly “listening to your body” versus hearing what you just want to hear?
If you’ve ever been in this situation or a similar one and had to ask yourself this question - and either felt confused, overwhelmed or even hated it, then this episode is for you!
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Have you ever heard the phrase, “Listen to your body.”
Just a few years ago, back when I was training for marathons, I was always injured. And I used to feel really confused about when was the right time for me to get back to training.
It was always a struggle, an internal debate of sorts, to figure out if my body was healed enough for me to start working out again, or if it was too soon.
As athletes, we want to get back to doing what we love as soon as possible. Partly because we love, but also because we’re afraid of “losing our fitness”, which is a whole other topic that I’ll have to save for another day.
Now my inclination was always to return to training before I was fully healed, which may be why I was so injury-prone. Who knows.
Now I’m a planner. I like structure, I like timelines, I mean for heaven's sake, I’m a project manager at my 9-5. I like being on a training schedule that quantified how much time I would need to train to get ready for a race.
And when it came to injuries, I wanted that same quantification for how long I’d need to be out, so I could plan for it.
But every time I was injured, and I’d ask, “How long do you think I’ll be out? for” the response I always got was, “Well listen to your body.”
My doctors, physical therapists, chiropractor, acupuncturist, coach, blog posts, magazine articles - everyone would say this to me, and it drove me crazy!
Because if you’ve never been taught how to listen to your body, how do you know how to do it?
How do you know whether you are actually, truly “listening to your body” versus hearing what you just want to hear?
If you’ve ever been in this situation or a similar one and had to ask yourself this question - and hated it, then this episode is for you.
So I used the example of athletic training and injuries, but the “listening to your body” quagmire happens in so many instances.
In last week’s episode, we talked about elimination diets and how they can help you decipher what foods you may be sensitive to or intolerant of.
But because the response to trigger foods can be delayed and subtle, picking up on those signs can be very challenging. And the response is what you’re looking for.
And when you’ve asked for help, your practitioner's - your doctor, nutritionists, health coaches, might have said, “Listen to you body.” But how do you do that?
So today I’m going to present to you a simple and practical solution to do this that’s data driven - so there’s no more guessing and wondering if you’re actually listening vs hearing what you want to hear.
And this solution is something you’ve probably heard me mention before - it’s a method called diagnostic journaling.
Or in a simpler term - a food journal. Or in a more complete term - a food / mood / poop journal.
Did I get your attention yet with the poop reference? :)
So let’s talk about what a food journal is and what it isn’t.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you likely have heard me talk about food journaling a lot. But it may make you think about calorie counting and using apps like myFitnessPal.
However, calorie counting and food journaling are two very different things.
Calorie counting and apps like myFitnessPal help you to track how many calories you ate, how many calories you burned, and may give you a picture of your macros - how many carbs, protein and fats you ate. And in some cases, that’s great information.
But it doesn’t present the complete picture.
And when it comes to food journaling, that’s doesn’t capture everything that we’re looking, especially when you’re trying to pick up reactive signs and symptoms and connect it all together.
Rather, the purpose of a food journal is to track what you eat, when you eat and correlate it with how you feel - meaning the symptoms you experience, and even your poop! - because your poop tells you A LOT about what’s going on inside your body - but that’s another topic that we’ll save for another time.
When we look at what you what you eat, when you ate it, when you pooped (or didn’t poop), what your poop was like, using the Bristol Stool chart, your moods and emotions, how much sleep you’ve had, your energy, and everything else that makes up your well-being - this is what gives us a more complete look at just what’s going on in there.
And these data points are what helps us to connect the dots together.
And a food journal is how we capture all of this data.
A food journal can be a powerful, diagnostic tool if used in the right way. Not only will it help you build awareness around your body AND your own personal habits, it’s also a place for you to collect real-time data that can be analyzed by yourself, your doctor (if you’re under medical treatment) and other healthcare practitioners like your chiropractor, acupuncturist or even your health coach, like me.
Think about how powerful that is when you can see your doctor, practitioner or coach and say, “this is what I’m experiencing, and these are the circumstances around it.” Think about all the things that can be deciphered from it.
And think about all the circumstances that you can use it in - in medical treatment, in athletic training, in nutrition and wellness coaching - the uses are endless.
And the best part about it is that - it’s free!
I’ve been keeping food journals for a long time - for as long as I’ve been doing elimination diets and trying to figure out what’s going on in my own health. And I still keep one today.
Food journaling has help me connect so many dots and now only helped me to figure out trigger foods, but also to build my self-awareness about my bad habits - and other blind spots that I had about myself and my health.
In fact, I often refer to food journals from one, two, three years ago, and even longer, when looking for patterns in new things I’m noticing and discovering about myself.
I’ll often notice something new and then pull out an older journal to see if it was happening back then too and I missed it, or if it’s a new symptoms, I try to identify and pinpoint a triggering antecedent - or event that might have started it.
Can you see how useful and beneficial food journaling is?
Can you see how it goes beyond just calorie counting and counting macros?
Can you see how this is a way for you to capture real data about yourself and how you can use that data to “listen to your body” in a way that’s not so arbitrary?
Now you’re probably, “this sounds great Naomi, but how do I do this, where do I even start?”
Well my friend, you’re in luck. I’m going to give you a brief overview, and then I’m going to invite you to a free program that I have that will teach you how to do this - effectively.
Okay, so I love pretty notebooks and use a May Designs or a Moleskin journal for my food journals. But really, any notebook, Google Doc, Word doc or even Evernote doc will do. Any plain piece of paper works.
What I like to do is to write down the date, of course, and then the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is to write down how many hours I slept, what time I went to bed, what time I woke up and on a scale of 1-10, what was the quality of my sleep. Remember in episode 007, when I talked about the non-negotiables, and how we can function on a poor diet, we can function without regular exercise, but we can’t function without sleep?
Yes, so this is why I capture so much detail on my sleep because a lot of health complaints can be pointed to insufficient rest and sleep.
Next I capture if and when I take any supplements or prescriptions - and I do this throughout the day, as needed.
I typically have a bowel movement in the morning, so I’ll write down that information too, and use the Bristol Stool Chart, which I will link to in the show notes to help me qualify the quality of my poop. Like I said earlier, your poop is a very important diagnostic tool in your health, and it’s not just for people who suffer from GI issues like IBS or IBD. And when you see the Bristol Stool Chart, you’ll get a better idea of what I mean by this.
And then through the rest of the day I’ll write down what I eat, including every last ingredient, what my energy levels were like, what my moods were - if I was short-tempered, felt extra energized, sleepy in the afternoon - basically everything.
And then at the end of the day I write any other data points that I want to take note of.
Notice I didn’t mention anything about portions, serving sizes or calories?
Now since weight has been an issue for me, I weigh myself once a week, or more if needed, and use it also as one data point, but not the only data point.
Then at the end of the week, I will sit down with some colored pens and go through the past week’s data and do a color coding exercise. Ever hear of the term, “eat the rainbow?” This simple exercise helps to see how many foods I’m eating of each color.
Then I go through and see if I can find any correlations between how I’m feeling with any of the data I collected.
Now this is useful to do during an elimination diet, but it is critical during the reintroduction phase of an elimination diet, when you are trying to identify trigger foods and sources of your complaints.
Sometimes it’s food related, but not always. But you may not realize it until you go through an exercise like this.
Now if you’ve never tried keeping a food journal, or practicing any kind of diagnostic journaling before and would like some guidance on how to do it, then I invite you to join my “Connect the Dots Challenge” - at this this is what I’m calling it for now. I have a feeling I’ll call it something different later, but for now, let’s go with this.
It’s a free four-week exercise that walks you through step-by-step how to do this. You don’t even have to change a thing about your diet and what you’re eating.
We’re just focusing on tracking what you eat now, with how you feel and how your body functions.
The ways it works is:
You sign up for the exercise in the link that I’m including in the show notes that you can find at www.livefablife.com/010.
Then, each week you’ll receive an email that will have a downloadable PDF workbook and instructions on how to track all this wonderful data about yourself.
For the first week we’ll only focus on food, then in each of the following weeks we’ll add one new thing to track.
Then in the final week, we’ll pull it all together and do some analysis to see what your data is telling you.
Go to the show notes for this episode at www.livefablife.com/010 where I’ll have links to everything mentioned in this episode, and the link to join this challenge too!
If you think you may have one or more food sensitivities, or you’ve tried elimination diets or other programs like Whole30 or the 21-Day Sugar Detox, then I hope you found this episode helpful and given you even another tool that can enhance your experience with it.
As I’ve shared before, I know how overwhelming and frustrating it is be told to “listen to your body”, but feel confused as to decipher what messages your body is sending you, or even if you’re really listening to it or just hearing what you want to you.
There’s a lot of anxiety about whether you’re doing the right thing and fear on whether you’ll have a setback.
A food journal, or rather a food mood poop journal can give you real time data to help make listening to your body easier, and the Connect the Dots Challenge will teach you how to do this.
If you’re feeling like you could use more guidance and support with this, then as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have.
That’s all I have for you this week - I’ll catch you next week for another episode of the Live FAB Life podcast!
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Naomi Nakamura is a certified Holistic Health Coach who takes a holistic approach through functional nutrition. Through her weekly show, The Live FAB Live Podcast, coaching programs, and safer skincare solutions, she helps people with acne and other chronic skin issues clear up their skin by teaching them where food meets physiology and how food, gut health, stress, and toxins are intricately connected to the health and appearance of our skin. Naomi resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and can often be found romping around the city with her puppy girl, Coco Pop! Connect with Naomi at: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest.