What does listen to your body mean to you? Honest. What comes up when you read those words? Read them again, but this time insert your name. "________, listen to your body." Pause. What are you feeling in your body?
For me, when I hear the phrase "listen to your body" I have a mixed bag of reactions; it depends on when you catch me:
-On a good day I might feel: empowered hopeful, excited and trust
-On a bad day: anger, distrust, defective, frustrated, and alone.
The good day is pretty easy to understand right? It's the same reason so many of us in the health and wellness field say these words, "listen to your body." It makes sense in in theory—when you tap in and listen, you know exactly what you need physically, mentally and emotionally.
However, take a tougher day—a day when you've spilled your coffee, yelled at your kids, screwed up a proposal, you are battling a heartbreak or a loss of any kind. These are the days it's hard to know what you need in all areas of your life.
Let's break down "listening to your body" a little more.
Physically—Breaking Down Listening to your body
My physical body has been a huge battle for me. I gained an extra 20 lbs in the last two years and I'm not Preggo. There is a long story that goes with my weight gain that I will share as I talk more openly about my story. However, in this regard I trusted nothing and nobody. At this time in my life healthy food made me sick, sleep wasn't happening and disordered eating was at its greatest. Additionally, my psoriasis was high and my heart was torn, I wanted to be home with the kids but I felt like I was trapped. To stick with the theme of my body, in a nutshell, my body wasn't working for me. The more I tried the more I could hear jack squat. Nothing. I was so angry that I couldn't even make a damn soup because they all had tomatoes and beans and peppers, all which made me incredibly sick. Not to mention I felt like I was not myself with extra 'love' and a wardrobe that didn't fit. Sweats and yoga pants were the name of fashion in my world. And if you've ever been there you know how that feels. It makes you feel worse. Finally, why is my psoriasis so bad? Why is my body fighting with me as I nurse my sweet baby into a healthy world? Enough said.
Mental-Emotional—Breaking Down Listening your Body
Let's put mental and emotional together because they go hand-in-hand and are easier to talk about at the same time. As I mentioned above, my heart was hurting. After having my son I found the transition into life was harder. I cried a lot, was angry a lot and while I knew I wanted to inhale the smells, sounds, and touch of this gift to be home with my baby and my little girl, I couldn't actually be present enough to enjoy. I compare it to eating lunch while driving or watching a movie while doing work emails, but even more painful. Because not only am I NOT enjoying, I am also hurting and filled with feelings of SHAME. What the F is wrong with you Kristin? Can't you see what you have In front of you? Can't you actually enjoy what you wished for? Why are you mean to the best husband and dad you could dream up? And why is your body failing you? I would think, "I can't eat anything yet I'm still fat," or "I must be defective because my stomach hurts, my joints hurt, my skin is fared up, my girlie part is broken, not to mention my abs are separated and I might never do a sit up again. And I don't have the willpower to eat what doesn't flare me up." I felt broke.
The food stuff started with me sneaking the cereal in the cupboard with oats and sugar and things that make me sick. It had been a couple years of me trying to eat a fairly restrictive diet. Quick snapshot of my no's and yay's in the food department. The bottom line, I attempted a modified yeast-free diet and then it turned into variations of that as I progressed. Just because this was my attempt doesn't mean that I followed this the entire duration; there were ups and downs. It was always my intention to eat clean and lots of the right veggies, gluten, dairy, yeast and sugar free, but there were many moments I would choose otherwise. Sometimes I would physically feel worse when I ate things off of the "no list" and sometimes I wasn't sure. This experience by itself caused a lot of confusion in my mind because I wondered if what I was trying to do was actually going to work? That is just a small part of the equation. Below is a snapshot of the Yes/NO list from 2011 - 2015
Snapshot of Yes/No List from 2011 - 2015
Foods on the "Yes List"
- Proteins were a yes, fresh is best (beef, chicken, pork, eggs, etc.)
- Vegetables, the non-starchy ones were better. Sweet potatoes were only on occassion or a little amount, same with other squash like butternut squash, but I could eat just not loads of them.
- Quinoa (this is now a no for me ironically)
- Fruit that were a yes: apples, especially green because of the low-sugar content, strawberries, some blueberries and raspberries
- Fats like avocado, nuts, seeds all okay. These sat well with me sometimes and other times almonds, cashews and other nuts made me sick. So it truly depended on the day.
- Beans were okay at the beginning
Foods on the "No List"
- No Gluten
- No Dairy
- No sugar, including maple syrup or honey
- Little to no fruit
- And absolutely No dried fruit
- No vinegar
- No ketchup, dressings or sauces
- No wine, or very minimally
- No coffee (but I figured espresso seemed okay)
- No dessert even the "healthy upgrades" including chocolate
- No Nightshades
- No Corn
- No Oats
- No beans of any kind as time progressed
Attempting the restricted diet f'ed with my mind. Because I couldn't have it, I wanted it. Then I wanted it because my turkey and broccoli didn't satisfy my (wonder why), and at nap time I would sneak in the kitchen and pour a bowl of that cereal. Just a little bit. I would eat it and want more. So another pour and another. And then shame quickly happened. That moved on to days when I would eat a little and then say something like ,"wtf" and I would pause and spit it out, but then go for another bite and then spit it out again. And there became the dysfunctional pattern. The dichotomy of wanting something I knew would make me sick but the desire to have it. I was stuck between two worlds. Thus, I picked neither. I didn't resist nor did I eat it. I would eat and spit it out. It was so nauseating and awful, yet I continued to find myself in that situation. Sometimes it was a small bowl of something and sometimes it was a whole bag of candy. Yup. The day it became more than a little "event" (we will call it) was Halloween night three years ago. Eat some of it? Nope. Forbidden. And bedtime happened and hubby was out with neighbors. And I thought what the hell, it's the closest thing to enjoying the candy right? I won't do it again. And there it happened. How could I do it so I left zero trace? A little of this and a little of that. A few times I ate a little and a lot of others I just couldn't.
Holy f. What just happened? It was such a blur to me and so out of body (just like writing this is**). One more important detail in all of this. I had been trying for almost two months to not eat (or eat as little as I could). What? Why would anyone do that? Again, this one is a long story I would like to elaborate on later because it is a huge piece of my story. The summation of this desire was I was sick with a parasite in July that year (2014( and lost 10 + pounds--you know, the extra baby weight I couldn't lose plus five extra. Once I was well again, instead of have the wisdom to be grateful I was so SCARED to eat. I was so AFRAID of getting fat. Thus, I tried to eat the least amount I could. I completely disconnected from my mind, body and spirit. And in that state, there is NO way I could "listen to my body." None. I was so clouded by this fear and this desire to stay in my clothes. And to be enough. And to top it off my food choices still were quite limited so I had to plan and cook and think about food all the time.
Needless to say, this was a silent pain in my heart. A suffering that made me feel even more defective and alone and an inability to trust my body or mind. My suffering, in hindsight is the biggest blessing I could have ever had. It is now becoming clear to me that I needed to learn a lot. That although I thought I got help in 2002/3 I still had a "monkey on my back." I had more healing to do, and as I write this I know I must stay true to always knowing my triggers and realizing each day I can create a safe and healthy environment where these behaviors are not me, they were just moments or " an event." And that is so freeing to think about. I am not Kristin with an eating disorder. I am Kristin with moments in my life where I had disordered-eating behaviors. I am free and I have power within to choose my thoughts and thus my actions. These were misunderstandings in my mind and moments that likely have many causes and reasons. In fact, I still wonder if there are additional factors during that October 2014 when I had just taken an anti-parasitic and was likely beginning my challenge with adrenal fatigue. Those can all impact your mind and behaviors.
A year ago I wrote a post filled with so much push-back and anger against the phrase "listen to your body!" However, it never felt right or that it was the whole story. Until recently, I read the book Women Food and God, by Geneen Roth.
This book asked me to pause, listen, and feel. This author asked me to be curious and see what this whole "food thing" was all about. So I gave it a shot. I tried to pause more and listen more. I've found thought and story lines and key points to it all just pop in my head. My little girl caught me not in the cupboard the other day but feverishly writing post-it notes. These notes came from a different place, a place so deep in my soul and heart that I had to write fast. Perhaps I am not defective at all. Perhaps my story and experiences are critical to exactly where I am now. Perhaps I have even more to learn. And although it is coming to me in pieces, and my hormones continue to feel off (I am burning hot when it is 60 degrees out and am wired at midnight), I have promised myself to keep listening and be curious. But what I have also promised and learned through it all is that "listen to your body" isn't easy or clear or even simple. It is a journey and on many days can be clouded by life, experiences, feelings, and situations and deep-rooted pain or joy.
I cannot say what this phrase ("Listen to your body") means to you, but I honor that is different for all of us. Thus, I beg all of you to keep being curious, keep dropping into the present and to the NOW. But know, it's okay if listening is just too hard, you are doing your best, you are enough and only YOU KNOW what YOU NEED.
I wish you only the best and many moments of joy and present moment contentment. Thank you for honoring your story and your life.
In deep gratitude, love and light,
P.S. After reading this story and my list of "no's" you can get a better understanding of why the name, "No Rules Wellness?" I think we all know that when someone tells us "no" to something we almost instinctively want it more. Thus, the No Rules Wellness was born because instead of what the experts say, how about you be the expert? I like that a lot more. Namaste!