Learning to listen
One of the things I have learned in the past few years is to pay attention to my body's reactions to both food and the environment. I've also learned how to follow my intuition. Growing up, I often heard my mother say, “listen to your body" or "your body knows best” but I never fully “heard" or "connected” to my body until recently.
Listening to your body is a skill, a connection, a love, and a respect that comes from within.
While I was attending the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) to become a health coach, Joshua Rosenthal, the institute's founder and director, gave a lecture about daily vitamins and following your gut. I’ll never forget the lecture. He explained that he has a routine of vitamins he takes daily. He also explained that, if his body tells him not to take specific vitamins for a day or two, he doesn’t. He explained that our bodies know best and that the body is always changing. Just because a supplement was good for you two months ago, it is not necessarily good for your body now. His message was to trust your body and to evaluate what makes sense on a day to day basis.
Applying what my body communicates
It takes patience to truly pay attention to the feelings and reactions occurring in our bodies. Mental training is key. When I am listening to my body I have to stop, tap into my brain and try to connect with all of the different functioning parts in my body. I check in to see how everything is feeling and functioning and I direct my energy to different parts of my body that I feel need my attention.
I acknowledge my mental state by asking myself how I am feeling. Am I calm? Stressed? Happy? Overwhelmed? I then see what kinds of ingredients I have in my home or garden that can help to balance my mood and improve how I feel. This is a skill that I teach my clients, how to utilize food to help achieve balance. For example, If I am feeling sad, I know that goji berries and green leafy vegetables enhance the release of mood-boosting hormones. If I am feeling low energy, I scan my body and ask follow up questions like "How are my iron levels?" or "Have I had enough vitamin C?". If either is low, I quickly think of what I can make with the baobab powder that I have in my pantry since baobab provides ample amounts of vitamin C, has iron in it, and enhances iron absorption. As a bonus, it is great for immune health too!
I take time to center myself and sit still so that I can connect to me. I then come up with a game plan that fits. On the days that I feel like I need extra support via supplements, I take them. On the days I feel great with food intake and overall health, I don’t take supplements. I ask myself if the food I have for the day is enough to achieve my health goals and to feel my best. After I complete my body assessment and assess my overall mood, I consider the ingredients I have to cook with for the day. Only after this full assessment can I decide whether or not I need to add supplements.
Honoring my body everyday and checking in to see what I need is my priority. Some days I take supplements along with food and other days I rely solely on the nutrition on my plate. There are many factors one needs to keep in mind to have a well rounded healthy life. It’s been helpful for me to have a holistic approach that requires a mindful exercise regime, personal challenges and goals, and food and supplement intake, when making my daily assessments.
Different approaches and thinking
Some people believe that the benefits of vitamins and supplements contribute to good health. Some take vitamins on a regular basis because their doctor tells them to. Others take vitamins and supplements because they know that their body simply needs something that they aren't getting from their food. For example, pregnant women often take folic acid supplements to protect against their babies being born with neural tube defects. Similarly, people with increased risk of developing osteoporosis often take vitamin D supplements as it helps to maintain bone health. Some people need vitamin supplements because they have particular medical conditions that can lead to deficiencies while others are simply looking to improve their body's efficiency or boost their mood.
We must each be our own advocate and work to provide our bodies what we feel it needs to be our best. I believe in having regular check ups with health teams but it is also important to understand what our bodies are saying. We must ask questions and understand explanations from health professionals but we also need to check in with our bodies to see if the advice we are getting matches up with what our bodies are telling us. Our bodies speak to us and we have a responsibility to treat it with the utmost respect. Nobody knows you better than you.
Being able to connect and guide yourself to obtain your best health outcomes begins with believing in yourself and honoring what you feel your body needs.
Sit in a quiet place. Be still. Give yourself a hug and tune in... to YOU.
You are where you should be.
Ryann Morris is passionate about food and nutrition. She strives to inspire others to be more mindful of food and the effects it has on their bodies. She is a graduate of both the Ayurvedic Nutrition And Culinary Training (ANACT) program at Bhagavat Life and the Institute of Integrative Nutrition (IIN) where she was certified as a holistic health coach.