The two biggest pieces of advice that I give to people who want to lose weight is to learn to accept yourself and listen to your body. I have a tattoo that says, “love unconditionally and wholeheartedly.” The reason I got this tattoo is that it is a reminder to myself everyday to love myself unconditionally and wholeheartedly just the way that I am. We are taught to love ourselves and that, even if we fail, everything is going to be all right; but the message that we should accept ourselves is that just as we are sometimes gets lost in translation. Outside of yoga and meditation, you really aren’t taught how to tune in and listen to what your body is asking of you. These two things are not easily taught or practiced, but over time they get easier and easier to understand.
The universe (God, gods, spiritual being, satin, life … whatever you want to call it, no one’s judging here) doesn’t make mistakes. There is a reason that you are who you are right at this moment and whether you get to know that reason right now, in ten minutes, or a year from now doesn’t matter. When work is being put in, the answers will come because lessons will be learned. So, wouldn’t it be easier just to look at yourself in the mirror and say the words, “I love myself unconditionally and wholeheartedly just the way that I am.” Instead of constantly self-criticizing or self-loathing, why not treat yourself with love and acceptance? If this is the only you who you get, then why treat if with unkindness. Love can be such a powerful tool in this life experience.
When we open ourselves to love and acceptance, we are opening ourselves to change because nothing is being forced. What we resist persists; so, if we are resisting our true self, we will continue in a negative cycle. If you love yourself just the way you are, when you begin to make changes that love will stay. You will also be more forgiving when you’re not meeting your goals and you will find that you have more motivation.
The process of change, especially when it is health related, can make someone feel extremely vulnerable. You are testing yourself on so many levels that it can be really trying on the ego. One way to release yourself from the burden of judgment that might slow your ability to make healthy changes is to accept yourself just the way you are. Remind yourself that no one is perfect, everyone needs something different to change, and love yourself just as you are … and the universe will reward you with exactly what you need. This is not an easy thing to master; but, as with most things, practice makes perfect.
The second but very important lesson is to tune into and listen to your body. You already know everything you need to be healthy, you just have to listen. Mindfulness is one of the greatest tools we possess because it allows us to connect with Mother Nature on a deeper level. We didn’t always have so much knowledge about how our bodies worked; instead, we would rely on how our bodies felt after we ate something, drank something, or became sick. Now we just look it up on the internet and our listening skills are no longer needed. But, what happens over time when you lose your energy, start gaining a lot of weight, or are constantly getting unexplained stomach aches … without those skills that we were given at birth, we become sicker and sicker, weaker and weaker, without a way to explain it. Our bodies are screaming at us for change, but if we don’t have the skills to listen and become self-aware, then how can we hear them?
Listening to what our body is telling us is a hard skill to master. It requires time and practice. Mindfulness is not something that happens overnight and once you experience it you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. There is a chance that you do hear when your body needs something but doesn’t know how to interpret it. My best example of this is when you have a craving: this is your body’s way of telling you it needs something. Maybe it is water, sleep, to de-stress, or maybe you are running low on a vitamin; it all depends on what you’re craving. Cravings are just one of the many ways our bodies are trying to communicate with us.
Pain and Discomfort. This is probably the most recognized. If your body did not like something you ate or did, it will have no problem letting you know. Bloating, stomach pain, gas, nausea, or heartburn all are ways your body tells you that you ate something you shouldn’t, your gut bacteria is out of whack, or you have too much stress. If your body is always sore, maybe you’re pushing yourself too hard at the gym or the opposite, maybe you’re not moving enough. Headaches are a big signal, too, I consider them a pretty straightforward signal that something you’re doing is not making your body happy. Pain and discomfort can signal a lot of things, especially serious ones, so be sure to pay extra attention to that signal.
Bowel movements. If you’re not going regularly, or too often, that means that it is time for a change. You could be eating something to which you’re allergic or too much processed food. Eating food that your body is rejecting can lead to some serious health problems even if you think that taking a pill will help. The favorite one for people is probably dairy. If you are allergic and you eat it because you have a pill that will help, it will still cause damage to your system. Discomfort (like bloating, pain, and gas) and bowel movements are two really key components in recognizing if you’re eating something you shouldn’t or to which you might be allergic. This is just another reason to listen to your body when it is telling you something.
Fatigue. If you’re always tired or feel weak, that could mean a number of things. You’re not eating enough whole unprocessed foods, you’re too stressed, or you’re not getting a good night’s sleep. If you’re not sleeping enough and just fixing the problem with energy drinks and coffee, that is the same as putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound. It will fix you for the moment, but over time do nothing; most likely you’ll need more and more to keep it all going. When you tired it means you’re body is telling you that it is running on empty and that it is time to try a different routine.
Skin Stuff. Random rashes, eczema, and hives, I believe, are pretty straightforward as to what your body is telling you. Generally, if your skin is doing weird stuff, it means that it is time to stop doing something. Did you know that a lot of skin problems can be linked to what you’re eating. Acne is a big one; if you can’t appear to get your acne under control, it most likely means you’re eating something you shouldn’t, too much sugar or dairy. You can put all the products you want on your skin, but if they aren’t fixing the problem, then your body wins (or, is that “loses”?). You’re not listening and it is probably something your body wants you to stop.
Weight. Everyone knows this one, but a lot of times this is the most challenging one to fix. When your body gains or loses weight, that means it is not getting enough nourishment or it’s not getting the right nourishment. Something is missing, something is wrong. Change needs to happen because the path that you’re on is leading to fat storage or too much loss. Losing and gaining weight rapidly can mean something serious is going on in the body and it is time for a visit to the doctor. Most of the time when people gain or lose weight at a gradual pace it doesn’t mean there is something seriously wrong with you, it just means that it is important that you stop, notice, and understand what your body might need.
In the beginning of practicing mindfulness, the body’s voice can be really quiet and sometimes hard to hear. Usually the more discomfort you feel, the better you will listen. However, if you need some help figuring out the signals, there are ways to understand better.
Stop. When you feel discomfort or change.
Listen. Decide what your body is telling you.
Reflect. Look back to what might have caused the discomfort or pain.
Change. Remove what was causing you discomfort and make a better choice next time.
Notice how you feel after eating.
A great place to start if this concept is new to you. Our bodies can be really sensitive after we eat because our digestion is in full swing. If you’re having trouble feeling satisfied after a meal or you are experiencing discomfort, then you’re probably eating something that your body can’t digest very well. Bloating and swelling can also be signs of inflammation in the body. A lot of times it is because you’re eating the wrong foods or not hydrating enough. Your stress levels could also be too high or your good gut bacteria is out of balance; it might be a good time to change it.
What better place to learn mindfulness then the place where the concept started. Yoga teaches us how to move our bodies and be mindful of every square inch of ourselves. It forces us to balance and breathe into our bodies, putting us into positions in which we might not otherwise be. It is also a great way to build strength in the mind, body, and spirit.
Meditations is an amazing way to go inward and turn off what’s going on externally. When you meditate, you give the mind a chance to turn off for a few minutes and then the body can speak. There are numerous breath exercises you can try that can help you be more aware of your body. Never underestimate the power of quieting the mind to hear the body better.