Learning the hard way: listening to your body, a perspective

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The proverb goes, “you are what you eat.”

How does this translate into an everyday experience? All month in June, we have been writing about the importance of listening to your body, of recognizing the body has its own wisdom. Each of us gets the opportunity to learn to listen and if we do, what do our bodies say to us?

I’m hungry. I’m not hungry- I’m thirsty. I need to run. I need to rest.

Once we start listening, we realize how gabby our bodies truly are. A few years ago I began learning the mysteries and truths of my body and actually of my family history in my body. Recently, this has been put to the test.

During a vacation earlier this year, we spent long blissful days at the beach. I woke up excited to wade my way back into the ocean and body surf. My cousin and I spent endless hours in the surf and I became smitten. In spite of heat rash, I lathered on more sunscreen refusing to stay in the shade, out of the water. In the afternoons we would walk to a neighboring beach through a slender alcove of ancient steps past a deserted hotel. From there, we would walk the long stretch of sand to the neighboring town and treat ourselves to a cold refreshment of coconut water or on the rare occasion to homemade ice cream. I never felt winded from our long walks, but definitely felt a strain on my ankle and flat flat feet.

My family noticed at the end of the day that I found it difficult to walk, hobbling from the kitchen into the living room of the house we were staying in. With a shrug of the shoulders, I said everything would be okay tomorrow. And for the most part it was.

Until it wasn’t.

A few days after I returned home, I found myself walking across the office and a sharp pain seared my hip. I stood erect, frozen, unable to go forward or back. All of a sudden, with the clarity of hindsight, I began keening inward, listening to my body’s simple instructions. “Go back to your desk and sit. Get off your leg.”

It had never been this bad before. After hours and days in past years standing at tradeshows, working the floor during busy shifts at the restaurant in years past, I’d never experienced this exact message. In retrospect, there had been yellow flags, but I hastily put blinders on, thinking myself impervious. This time, I visited three doctors- including one who gave me a shot in my hip that did nothing to assuage the pain. I diligently set and met appointments with a physical therapist for three months, but he sought to heal my back. All along my body kept telling me in a voice I perceived to be quiet that the problem lay with my hip. To confirm this, I visited a former and trusted physical therapist / chiropractor from many years back who told me what I had intuited.

It was time to move on.

A few weeks ago, I began making pretty drastic changes in what goes into my mouth. While we eat pretty clean foods in my house, we began to address eating in terms of the idea of taking care of health and trying to address inflammation. See, I personally believe that food can heal and it can harm. I am in process of trying to change my palate and curb my cravings with healthier substitutes. I am trying to listen to my body when it says, “asparagus” and “salad” instead of “sandwich”- not that there’s anything bad with a sandwich. I’m just trying to be a better listener and becoming even more of a stalwart label reader. My body is telling me to slow down and so I have to obey it now (even though I disobeyed a few weeks ago and did a small amount of Zumba- and paid the price).

Healing takes time.

It involves listening, not just to the doctors that are trying to discern the root of the problem, but to your body with its deep wisdom. It requires patience in the impatient. So while I’m planning to see another orthopedist, I’m thinking about food differently and considering the possibility that food can be a good medicine.

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Please keep in mind that the information on this site does not constitute medical advice. If you are injured or experiencing pain, you should consult your doctor.

 

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