“The body is a multilingual being. It speaks through its color and its temperature, the flush of recognition, the glow of love, the ash of pain, the heat of arousal, the coldness of nonconviction. It speaks through its constant tiny dance, sometimes swaying, sometimes a-jitter, sometimes trembling. It speaks through the leaping of the heart, the falling of the spirit, the pit at the center, and rising hope.” ~Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves
We read about all these things we “should” be doing for self-care, so we add them to our to-do list and rarely, if ever, cross them off.
Most of us have such busy schedules, we move on fast-forward without getting any closer to the end of our list. We end up running on autopilot to the point that we ignore most of what our body tries to tell us it needs in order to look and feel our best.
Just getting through our to-do list each day can take a toll on our body and mind. But what’s becoming more apparent is that not slowing down, not listening to our body, can be detrimental to our health—and our looks!
At some point, I realized that I was on autopilot so often that it felt physically impossible to fit healthy eating into my routine. I tried so hard to eat the “right” foods and would always end up binging on pizza or some other junk food when I thought no one was looking. I felt so much shame and distress from trying so hard, and yet nothing changed.
What I didn’t realize is that my body had been sending me signals all along to lead me in the right direction, but I was completely clueless. Autopilot had taken over my life, and not to mention, my body’s energy, luster, and shape. Not cool.
So how do you know if you’re running on autopilot and are disconnected from what your body needs to function and look its best? Read these signs and see if they sound familiar.
Sign #1: You don’t know if you have any food allergies or sensitivities.
Do you ever wonder if you’re one of the millions of people with a gluten sensitivity or a dairy intolerance? If it turns out that you are, your body has tried to tell you multiple times.
Common symptoms of gluten sensitivities are bloating, frequent headaches, constipation, diarrhea, skin issues, sluggishness, and so much more. Common symptoms of lactose intolerance are congestion, bloating, abdominal pain, acne, and migraines. If you’ve ever experienced any of these, your body is trying to tell you something.
I started birth control as a teenager, since it was the only thing I knew that actually worked to keep my acne under control. At times it was so bad, my mom let me skip school to avoid embarrassment.
When I became an adult, I tried many times to get off of it but each time I did, my skin broke out again. Adult acne felt even worse. It wasn’t until I limited wheat and dairy that I was able to get off birth control and my skin finally cleared up for good.
Contrary to what we tend to believe, symptoms like these aren’t normal! It’s your body’s way of telling you a serious change is needed. Seriously.
Sign #2: You frequently aren’t sure if you’re actually hungry or not.
How often do you find yourself staring blankly into your pantry wondering if you’re truly hungry or if you’re just bored?
In the past, I’d go to my fridge, open it up and give it a good hard stare, close it, and then walk away—only to find myself doing it again minutes later. Was I hungry? Was I craving something? I had no clue if my own body was hungry or not! I felt so frustrated and annoyed with myself for doing this time and time again.
It sounds counterintuitive, but many of us don’t have an appetite the majority of the day simply because we just don’t eat enough food. Our body ends up holding onto every morsel we feed it for dear life.
It’s a genuine a survival instinct. If your body doesn’t know if it’s going to get enough at its next meal, it sends mixed signals. But when your body is getting enough nutrients, you won’t have to question whether you’re hungry or not.
Sign #3: You swear to have zero willpower when it comes to processed food.
Does it seem like no matter how hard to try to eat healthy, you always end up choosing the food you know you’ll regret?
Whenever I’d go through one of my clean eating phases, I’d inevitably be the girl hiding in the corner stuffing her face with the muffin she never liked to begin with. I’d be so angry with myself for not having more self-control and then feel so ashamed. I’d repeat silently to myself over and over, “What’s wrong with you? Why do you keep doing this?”
A lack of willpower is our body’s way of telling you it needs specific nutrients (hello chocolate! magnesium needed), nostalgia (let’s recreate an old memory), or even yearnings (how alive will I feel if I eat this).
If you pay attention to what your body is feeling physically during these moments, you may notice your throat constricting or heaviness in your belly. I argue that there’s no such thing as willpower. Your body needs something and it’s not necessarily food related.
Sign #4: You have no idea why you’re so tired and craving junk food every afternoon like clockwork.
Do you feel sluggish at 2:00 to 3:00 pm on a daily basis? And then find yourself reaching for the first extra sweet or salty thing you can get your hands on?
When my afternoon slump came, all I knew is that I was so dang tired… and craving carbs and sugar like a fiend! Enter vending machine with salty chips and sweet candy bars to the rescue. I’d feel so lethargic and just awful. This vicious cycle had me exhausted and ultimately is what made realize I had to do something. I had to make a change.
Your body’s ravenous afternoon cravings are a message. They’re screaming at you, “I need nutrients! I need fuel!” Chances are, you haven’t fed it what it needs throughout the day and your body’s only way to get through to you is to intensify your cravings.
Sign #5: You feel extreme emotions without rhyme or reason.
Do you ever have days where you feel like you want to scream or cry for absolutely no reason at all?
Formerly, I sometimes experienced this during a TV show or movie. The characters would say or do something that wasn’t particularly scary or exciting, but it triggered something and I felt an urge to start bawling. It was really unnerving to realize I could cry my heart out for no apparent reason at all.
Our nature is to take the easy route—to push any heightened emotions aside and go on with our day. (We always have so much to do, right?!) But emotions need to be felt. Otherwise, they can manifest by coming out at unexpected moments or even physically in our bodies i.e. hair loss, skin rashes, weight gain/loss, etc.
Your body is a magical and wise teacher. Every ache, pain, symptom, and craving is a gift in its own way.
Think of how many chronic illnesses that are diet related. Here are some to name a few: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dental health, osteoporosis, asthma … The negative symptoms you’re experiencing today are your body’s way of doing what it can to help you prevent a disease from manifesting in your body tomorrow.
My mom found out she has breast cancer a couple years ago. Since then, she’s completely transformed her diet and lifestyle, and from what we can tell, the cancer has regressed.
She’s always struggled with extreme allergies and health issues. I can’t help but wonder, what if she had listened to her body and made these changes before the cancer progressed? How much less scared and stressed would our family be? (Now she’s feeling better than she did before her diagnosis!)
I’m not suggesting that anyone who has cancer is to blame for their diagnosis, or that dietary and lifestyle changes alone will cure it, but simply that our diet affects our health in more ways than we know.
I learned through her story and now I’m doing the best I can to take note of every little ache, pain, flush, color, craving, and emotion of my body… before I end up with the kind of life-changing hardship that’s far more than just gaining a few pounds or adult acne.
If your body is experiencing a persisting symptom, it’s telling you something. Listen.
If you’re feeling an extreme emotion, your body has something it needs to feel. Let it.
If any of these signs resonate with you, try this: Put one hand on your belly, the other on your heart and say this aloud, “Dear body, I’m sorry for not listening and not making you the priority. I really do want the best for you. I love you. I’m listening.”
Slow down and be mindful of the signs your body is sending. And instead of adding more things to your to-do list, you’ll gradually feel more confident about what your body needs to move naturally in a positive, healthier direction.