23. The Magic That Happens When You Listen to Your Body
Welcome to episode 23 of the Mindful Weight Loss podcast. I am your host and your coach, Emily Erekuff and today I am talking about the magic that happens when you listen to your body and share some of my own experience around that because I know this is the thing that so many are scared of doing. You think you need structure, rules and restriction to lose weight and that your body is working against you.
And I thought this too and I held out for a really long time. Even when I was doing all the thought work and addressing emotional eating and allowing myself to eat all the foods, I was still intermittent fasting and having zero snacks. I believed that was the way to do it, but man despite so many improvements I would still overeat at times and I see now that it was because I was fasting - i.e. restricting earlier in the day. And I feel so silly now but I honestly didn't realize that intermittent fasting was restriction. And I know that might sound silly to some of you too, but I think that just shows how sort of complex the diet landscape is and how it has warped our thinking. I was thinking, well I'm not restricting because I allow myself to eat all kinds of foods and when I do eat I satisfy my hunger, so I'm fine. Except that I was ignoring my hunger at breakfast time and between lunch and dinner. And so stopping this final form of restriction was the final piece to the puzzle that really set me free.
And I do want to take a minute to clarify that while I do agree with the principals of intuitive eating (which if you're not sure what that is, check out intutiveeating.org) and so much of what I teach is about listening to your body, I still think you can follow those principles and have a goal of weight loss. I don't think they are mutually exclusive as many do and I don't advise people to throw away those goals or the scale. I think the scale is a great tool, not to measure our weight but to see the judgements we have about weight and work through them. I talk more about that in episode 12, how to weigh yourself if you haven't listened to that one already.
So yeah, I don't think striving to lose weight has to set you up for not listening to your body. I really think you can work with your body and lose weight, and I've seen that happen with me and with those I've coached. And in fact I think the desire to lose weight, when it comes from a place of wanting to feel healthy and unburdened vs trying to fit in, I think that helps you double down on listening to your body and making the best choices that really honor your body.
You know people talk more these days about the gut brain and we've always talked about your intuition being a gut feeling and I've noticed that the more I get in touch with my body, the more I listen to that gut brain rather than my regular brain I guess and when I do that I choose more healthy foods - foods that are more satisfying to my body than they are to my head. And let me be clear, my head doesn't feel restricted. It's simply that sometimes I turn down something like a chocolate chip cookie in favor of something more "healthy" because that feels better to my body. Because I don't restrict anymore I have that choice.
And you know when I first stopped when I stopped restricting and began really listening to what my body wanted, I did gain weight.
I had also just started a strength training at this time and all in all I gained about 10 pounds and if I had to guess, I'd say that just a few of those were actually fat, because overall, and I think others would agree with me, I certainly did not look like I gained 10 pounds and all my clothes, including my pants, fit just fine.
Initially though I was a little freaked out about the scale, but I made the decision to listen to my body no matter what, and actually when I saw it go up I used that as motivation to double down on listening to it and giving this my all. And what ended up happing is that I felt so good that the jump on the scale really didn't matter.
Once I realized the freedom of listening only to my body, it was like I knew deep down that I was doing the right thing. I compare it to a faith in God or the Universe where you hand over the reigns and believe that the best outcome will result. It's giving up that control and responsibility and letting go of a burden. I really found an inner knowing that I didn't need to and wasn't supposed to control my weight. My job was to listen to my body and have faith that my body would lose weight.
And initially I felt like I was hungry all the time. Like eating every three hours, but I leaned into it and not long after that I saw the results in that my meals spread themselves out. Instead of eating every 3 hours I was having breakfast, lunch, a small snack and then dinner.
And some of the time I noticed that if I would eat more than usual one evening that the next morning I wasn't as hungry. I would feel some hunger and would make breakfast, but then I wouldn't finish it. And it's funny too, but I suddenly started eating fruit and yogurt almost daily whereas before I would have told you that I don't even like those things. And thinking back on that now, I think it was more that I thought sugar was evil and didn't want to waste the precious sugar consumption that I could have on something ordinary like fruit. I needed to save up my indulgence on sugar for something decadent like chocolate cake. And similar with yogurt, I think I avoided it because it wasn't my favorite and I didn't want to waste the calories on it. And now I love those things.
I had also avoided store-bought granola bars because I thought they had nothing valuable in them and then after I started listening to my body I was out running errands and I got hungry and that's what was in the car. And I ate one and that experience was so freeing and fantastic, that I like still remember it, not that the granola bar was so good or anything, it was the freedom that tasted so good. Knowing that I didn't have to stress over it and scrutinize it was a revelation.
Gosh and once I fed myself whenever I was hungry I really did notice that I physically had more energy. And the best part is that I finally stopped binging and overeating. The intense, driven need to do those things really was gone. And certainly I still get tempted to overeat things, but because that biological desire is no longer there, dealing with emotional cravings is a million times easier.
And I want to share one last benefit with you that I actually experienced more recently. And just for a TMI warning, I am going to talk about my period and stomach issues like gas and constipation. It's nothing graphic so if you can handle those mentions you should be good.
So, I have dealt with stomach issues like bloating and trapped gas that is just so painful that as a kid it had me lying on the floor in tears, and I went to the doctor for it and was basically just told to use stuff like gas x and maybe stop eating dairy.
And so I did stop drinking milk and there was maybe some improvement, but not really. It wasn't like I was dealing with it all the time. The issue would come and go. And because of that it made it really difficult to see what was going on, like if it was a food sensitivity or something.
And it wasn't until I was close to 30 when I realized that I finally this was related to my period. And I know some of you are probably like duh, but in my defense, it would happen more like 10 days before my period vs 5-7 days when most experience pms kind of stuff, and it didn't happen every time.
So just knowing more of the cause and that it would pass was helpful, and honestly in the past 5 years or so I can't say that my stomach issues have plagued me as much, until recently. I switched birth control pills and suddenly these stomach issues were back with a vengeance and then just recently they showed up not just pre-period.
And whenever I would research this stuff online I would get confused because when you're dealing with gas, most resources point to food intolerances and too much fiber. I love beans and eat them pretty regularly and I had always just tried to go easy on them before my period, but then suddenly this pain was happening not on my period and I was so confused and frustrated.
And to give you some more background on this, these stomach pain have been a cue or trigger for me to overeat. I would have the urge to fill my stomach and felt like that would help get things moving, but I figured that urge was really just mental and that I was really just numbing my discomfort.
But when these pains came on again, I made a really conscious decision that instead of googling and researching that I was going to double down and listen to my body. And when I did that and felt that urgent desire to fill myself up, it finally occurred to me that this desire to fill myself up, and get things moving was a craving for more fiber.
Usually I tried to avoid fiber when this happened thinking it was the cause of the problem, but fiber is filling and so I went with it. And when I looked back at what I had eaten before this last bout of pain started, I realized that it had been precipitated by a lack of fiber earlier in the day. Normally I eat fruit and granola in the morning, but that morning I was in a rush and skipped the fruit, and normally I also eat beans with my lunch and I just happened to have skipped those too.
And so I listened to my body and ate more fiber and made the intention to keep my fiber intake really consistent so this doesn't happen again. And lo and behold I am feeling so much better. And I know I would not have realized this solution if I hadn't listened to my body and understood that my craving contained some wisdom, wisdom far beyond what my brain or the internet had so share with me.
And I hope that sharing this inspires you to listen to your own cravings. They really are there for a good reason. And your gut knows more about you than google and maybe even your doctor. So tune in and see what it has to say.