Let’s face it, we’re all really bad at self care. Ask us to take care of our kids, pets, pot plants, even that colleague we’re not overly fond of, and we step right up.
But looking after number one? Not so much. If that scenario sounds familiar read on. If it doesn’t, you’re either lying or very evolved.
Here’s why you should listen to your body. I’ve just spent the last four days in bed with the flu.
I normally get the occasional cold at worst, so this turn of events took the wind out of my sails. Literally.
Where I’m usually able to continue as usual, albeit at a slightly reduced paced, this time I could do nothing more than lie around in bed hacking and spluttering like a neglected Datsun bakkie.
Not pretty and not fun. Particularly for poor Sporty, who was trying her best to be supportive while at the same time maintain a safe distance from the lurgies I was spreading about with reckless abandon.
Ironically, I’d recently started reading Hear Your Body Whisper, a book about unlocking your self-healing mechanism (i.e. honing the fine art of self care).
You know that saying about how when the student is ready the teacher will appear? I think in this case the teacher had already appeared, only the student was skyving off. That is, until she found herself laid up in bed and bored beyond reason.
All out of options (i.e. no new books to read) I eventually picked up where I’d left off with Hear Your Body Whisper and suddenly it was super interesting. I know, right? It’s so weird when that happens.
If you’re interested in learning to communicate with your body I highly recommend the book, but I’ll offer a couple of disclaimers upfront.
It’s a little on the ‘hippie’ side of things, so you need to keep an open mind.
It’s written well enough, but don’t go in expecting Steven Pressfield because you’ll be disappointed. Then again, anything that isn’t penned by him will leave you empty inside, so perhaps that’s a moot point?
On the upside, the advice it offers is practical, accessible and relatively easy to take onboard. It also costs less than $4, which is ridiculously cheap for something that has the potential to get and keep you healthy.
What on earth are you waiting for? Order it already, I’ll wait.
Is It Possible to Communicate With Your Body?
Overeating is pretty much the antithesis of self care, yet we all do it anyway. Something tastes really good and we overindulge. We happily eat past those early warning signs when our body tells us it’s had enough, until eventually we’re sitting there with indigestion (and our belt undone).
Recognising and adhering to those initial ‘full’ signals is one of the most basic ways to communicate with your body. It talks, you listen (hopefully).
Most of us can’t fathom a language beyond these ‘caveman grunts’ because we assume our bodies are incapable of anything more intelligible.
The fact that we can’t walk and talk on the phone at the same time is beside the point.
But the human body is way more advanced than we give it credit for. It has the capacity to let us know exactly what it needs and when. We’re just too busy taking care of our wants to take any notice.
We have to stop eating only with our eyes and taste buds and focus instead on the nutrition our body requires to operate at optimal efficiency. Relax, this doesn’t mean subsisting on a steady diet of wheatgrass smoothies for the rest of your life.
You just need to think about food beyond how it tastes or what it looks like.
Consider how it will benefit your body. Healthy food has a bad rap, but it’s not all lackluster lentils and mounds of spinach. Blogs like the Minimalist Baker and Oh She Glows are chock full of delicious recipes that are also really good for you.
Why Listen to Your Body?
You don’t get sick without good reason. If you find yourself man (or woman) down with the flu, then rather than trying to rush the healing process by doubling up on over-the-counter meds, rushing to the doctor for antibiotics and getting impatient with your body, you simply need to slow down and take stock.
But let’s back up to before you even get sick. Learning to listen to your body(i.e. practicing self care) will help you dodge most of (if not all) the lurgies that you come into contact with on a daily basis.
Learning to listen to your body will keep you in a constant state of overall good health. It’ll also keep your waistline from looking like a hippo snuck into your pants. Think beach body this summer (and every season in-between).
Self care pro tip: You don’t have to turn into a drama queen, but when you next feel unwell, whether it’s a headache, scratchy throat or whatever, take the time to slow down and notice what’s going on in your life.
Hunger Versus Thirst
Your brain translates the body’s thirst signals as hunger, so you need to apply some common sense here. If you haven’t eaten in 3-4 hours you’re probably hungry. However, if you had a sandwich an hour ago, drink a glass of water and wait 30 minutes before eating something else, because it’s likely you’re just thirsty.
Self care pro tip: Keep a glass (or bottle) of water within arm’s reach. If it’s there, you’ll drink it!
What Is Hunger?
When your body shows signs of hunger it’s looking for nutrients. This is why you invariably feel hungry again about an hour after eating a Big Mac. The calories are high, but there’s not much goodness in it.
Conversely, if you eat a balanced and nutritionally dense meal you’ll stay full for a good few hours. Hence the whole food, plant-based diet approach that Sporty and I are always on about. Check out the Blue Zones to see what the world’s healthiest old people eat.
Self care pro tip: Fill the majority of your plate with fresh veggies (especially dark leafy greens) and check out our series on eating a plant-based diet.
How Well Do You Take Care of Your Car?
If you own a car chances are you take better care of it than you do your body. You give it the right fuel, you make sure it has oil and water and you take it for regular services, right? You have to. If you don’t the warranty won’t mean squat and worse, you’ll be stuck sans transport.
And yet, when it comes to our body we treat it like a garbage dump, mindlessly shoveling all manner of junk into our mouths with no thought whatsoever for the workmen below who need to sift through the crap in the hope of identifying something resembling a nutrient.
I’m not judging here. I used to eat cold pizza for breakfast and then wash it down with a cup of instant coffee and a couple of cigarettes. My car, on the other hand, enjoyed weekly trips to the spa, regular services and as much fuel as it desired.
We only get one body, you’d think we’d take better care of it. Instead we treat it like it’s a consumable and then get angry when it stops working properly. It’s time we started treating it with the respect it deserves.
Self care pro tip: The next time you do something for your car (e.g. take it for a service, get it cleaned or even fill up the gas tank), make a point of doing something kind for your ‘self’ as well.
So, How Did I Manage to Fall off the Self Care Wagon and Get Sick?
Well, I have a couple of theories floating about. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m not sure I would have finished Hear Your Body Whisper if I hadn’t. Finishing the book helped me realise how far I’d strayed from my health path with all those seemingly insignificant indiscretions.
This in turn has resulted in Sporty renewing her commitment to living a healthier lifestyle. We’re back on the organic, no sugar, no preservatives (or other shitty additives) wagon with a vengeance.
I’m a runner and typical of most of our ilk when I get injured I run through it. A while ago I aggravated an old heel injury and rather than take a break I ignored the pain. This morning I noticed that it had cleared up.
It was the perfect opportunity to practice patience and acceptance, two things that have never managed to stay on my ‘strong suits’ list for any length of time. And you know what, it felt pretty good. (Okay, up until yesterday when I started getting a tad antsy.)
Finally, it meant I had the time to watch this. Twice.