Taking care of a body can be really confusing. As more and more data and tech is developed to manage our bodies, it’s tempting to buy all the latest tools and compare and check our stats religiously- but trusting trackers, food logs, and external body ideals can actually erode trust in our own body and in the signals it gives us. When we wait to eat until a food journal gives us permission to eat, or keep exercising until a tech device tells us we can stop, we ignore the voice of our own body’s wisdom signaling hunger or tiredness.
Our body’s voice, like all voices, responds to being ignored in two ways: by growing silent or by growing very, very loud.
If ignored long enough, our internal cues of hunger, fullness, pain, tiredness, etc can fade to indiscernible cues. When we ignore this inner voice for an extended time, the voice may burst through: hunger turns to an uncontrollable urge to binge, pain ignored turns to a breakdown-injury, or our unnoticed fatigue delivers us to the doorstep of burnout or breakdown.
In the clinical treatment of eating disorders, a major part of recovery is learning to rediscover and listen to a body’s internal cues. This practice can benefit all of us, as all of us who exist in a culture where inner wisdom is at best discounted (and at worst, vilified as “the enemy” of health). I firmly believe that being able to mindfully notice our body’s signals is not only essential for whole-body health, but is also inextricably linked to the intuition that helps us navigate the world safely*. (*Humans have the ability to scan people and situations for danger. Most of us learned to ignore this intuition- and instead were acculturated to “be nice.” Modern research affirms old wisdom, however, demonstrating that trusting your intuition can save your life)
A habit of tuning out our internal cues when it comes to food and movement can make it much harder to tune into that system of inner knowing when we really need it (like in relationships, in getting medical care, or in situations where we need to assess our personal safety).
In case no one has told you lately: YOUR BODY IS WISE. Your body is not the enemy. It does not require being caged, restricted, or controlled. It deserves to be treated with the care you’d give to someone you love: Let it take up space. Don’t ignore it when it’s talking, and if it’s just whispering, pause to listen- because its voice matters.
One commenter on Instagram brought up the counterpoint that sometimes bodies have “cravings due to habits and addictions, not out of actual need.” This is a point worth addressing- as I think it’s important we tease apart how “noticing” body sensations does not mean automatically reacting. Like any language, it takes time to learn how your body speaks, and the ways in which it might be confused. Let your wise mind engage with the wisdom of your body (and, as appropriate, the wisdom of professionals) to respond with care.
Let your wise mind engage with the wisdom of your body (and, as appropriate, the wisdom of professionals) to respond with care.
I actually do believe all bodies have wisdom- even when the wires are crossed or the body seems to be asking for unhealthy things. All bodies speak wisdom, but many bodies have been almost completely “rewired” through how our culture (and often our families, and sometimes traumatic experiences in our body) taught us to relate to our bodies and our food intake.
Cultivating trust in an inner authority doesn’t automatically mean denying external authorities, or that suddenly we give ourselves over to every sensation we feel, but actually means the start of a long process (for many of us, with the help of a therapist or dietician) to learn to listen and unjumble those signals. The goal of listening is to grow the capacity to be able to mindfully feel, acknowledge, and choose how to respond to our body.