“You mean I should just do and eat anything I want? Because when I listen to my body it says it wants an skinny iced mocha,” she said, with not a little skepticism.
My client Jen and I were talking about her sugar cravings.
They felt constant, annoying, and she was trying to be “good” and not eat any sugar, of any kind, for two weeks before her vacation. She wanted to drop a few pounds before putting on a swimsuit, so she was eating these tiny little portions at each meal, and had sworn off sugar until her trip.
“You should listen to your cravings, Jen. You don’t always have to follow them exactly, but you do need to tune into your body and really listen to what it’s telling you.”
I had a funny feeling that Jen wasn’t eating enough and that her cravings for sugar were getting stronger because she actually needed more food in her body.
She was working extra hours before she left for vacation, and she was feeling tired after the holiday weekend with her kids. Jen had managed to stick to her diet rules all weekend, but she had been tired, impatient with her kids, and frustrated by Monday afternoon at work.
“Jen, your cravings are a message from your body that you need balance. It might be nutritional, physical, or emotional balance. So let me take you through a meditation I call the Gut Check. You’re going to close your eyes, scan through your body, especially your gut, and tell me what sensations you feel. Ready?”
Jen closed her eyes (we were on Skype together so I could see her) and sat for a few seconds.
“Where do I start?” she asked.
“Start at the top of your head,” I replied. “Just scan down through your body, and tell me what feelings, colors, sensations, or anything else you notice.”
Scanning through her body, she told me her neck felt tight and her eyes were heavy. As she scanned through her body, and got closer to her gut, she said,
“My gut feels empty. My eyes are tired, and my neck is tight.”
“Ok, can you ask your body how it feels and what it needs right now?” I leaned in and watched as she fidgeted a little bit. This whole “woo-woo” talking-to-her-body thing was a little weird for Jen, but she was so ready to feel differently about her body and feel good, that she was willing to try.
“My belly is hungry. I’ve been eating small portions for a week, and it’s really just hungry. I don’t think the iced mocha will really satisfy my hunger. I’d really love some more of that chicken and tomatoes I made last night,” said Jen.
Her body relaxed a little.
“My shoulders are so tight all the time. I’m working really hard so I can take time off with my kids, but I was so irritated with them all weekend, I doubt they want to go on vacation with me at all.” She sighed.
“And my eyes are so tired and heavy. All this computer work and sitting at this computer are tough on my body. I wish I didn’t have to sit down so much. Plus all the commuting time in the car! I’m totally stressed out and just want a nap. That’s what I want – a nap.”
See, Jen’s body, when asked the deeper questions, didn’t really want the low-fat, caffeinated chocolate drink. Her body was hungry, a little tired, and she was stressed out.
Her body, in its wisdom, just wanted to feel better. Since she wasn’t listening to the more subtle cravings for more food (because she needed to wear a bathing suit in a couple weeks), rest (because she was working too hard), and relaxation, her body shouted at her:
“At least drink a skinny iced mocha so we can get through all this crap!”
Jen’s body was actually trying to help her feel better. She just had to learn how to listen a bit deeper, and then follow through and honor what she heard.
Her calorie-restrictive diet wasn’t helping her feel good, and she saw that she could eat some more real food and still look and feel good on her vacation.
Her hard-working, hard-driving attitude at work wasn’t helping her feel happy with herself, or helping her enjoy her family. Jen realized that she could leave work at 5pm, have a simple dinner with her kids, and do some simple yoga before going to bed early so that she felt relaxed and rested.
She lit up when I said, “Hey! Why not do a few yoga stretches right now, at your desk, or go outside and take a 10-minute nap in your car? You’ve been working hard all day – your body deserves a little break.”
Jen saw that she could give herself what she really needed, and by the end of our chat, she was more relaxed, and more confident that she had a plan for how to eat and take care of herself so that she could feel great every day, and not just wait to feel good on her vacation.