I’m no stranger to dieting, battling cravings, trying to fit fitness into a busy lifestyle, or any aspect of trying to balance personal fitness into my life. If there’s a popular diet out there, I’ve most likely given it a go at some point.
Over the years, though, I’ve learned there’s no short-cut to getting healthy. It takes work and determination has to become your new best friend. It’s a struggle every single day. And you will have good days…and there will always be bad days. But I’ve learned a lot of things about me and my body and more specifically how to listen when my body is trying to tell me something.
One of the biggest things I’ve had to realize is I didn’t listen to my own body nearly enough before. In fact, sometimes I would actually tune it out, which is counter-productive to getting into shape and in-tune with your body. Obvious, right? But I didn’t realize I was doing it for a long time. It’s about reading the signals and deciphering them correctly.
If you are anything like me, you may have started a gazillion different exercise programs over the years and found that your body is more tired when you add a lot of exercise into your life. That’s normal. So, it’s important to make sure you give your body more time to repair when working your body so hard. When you add stress, physical and mental, to your daily grind, your body is in more need of repair. So, if you were getting 7 hours of sleep before you began your exercise regimen, you should probably bump that up to 8 or 8 1/2 hours until your body has adjusted.
But that’s not what I did. I was still going to bed and waking up at the same time every night, same as I had done before. And I would wake up tired. I upped my coffee intake, which wasn’t that bad since I drink it black, but the added caffeine would deplete my waterstores. Then, I’d need to drink more water and couldn’t drink enough to overcome the caffeine. Plus, with the added exercise, I actually needed even more than that. It was like burning the candle at both ends. Not healthy at all.
The other problem I started to encounter is the late afternoon sugar craving. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had trouble with sugar cravings before, but these were serious monster-like cravings that I just couldn’t control. Every afternoon after lunch, I would pace like a prowling cat, wandering around looking for something to satisfy my craving. Once I found what I wanted, usually something chocolate and loaded with all the bad stuff and tons of calories, I would literally binge. This is the kind of binging that gives you tons of guilt afterwards. I would feel so badly after, I believed all the exercise I had done was for naught. And inevitably, I would eventually give up whatever program I was on and go back to my usual ways. Defeated again.
What I now understand is my body was trying to help me. My own body was trying to tell me what I needed and I interpreted the signals completely wrong. I was exhausted and water-depleted. My brain was trying to send signals for me to rest and drink more water, and I was interpreting those signals as sugar cravings. Most of the time when we feel strong cravings come on, it’s a sign that something is missing. But the secret is to figure out what it is you’re missing instead of going with your first feeling. Mostly, you body will not need sugar or chocolate, no matter how strongly you feel the urge to eat it!
Now, when I know the late afternoon is approaching, I’m very mindful of my food and water intake. I want to make sure I have given my body the proper nutrients and water before the cravings have a chance to sneak up on me. That’s the first step. Next, when I feel cravings start, I don’t react right away. When I catch myself pacing, I analyze what I’ve missed in my diet first. Then, I evaluate how much water I’ve had and how much exercise. If I’ve exercised a lot and haven’t had a lot of water, I make sure to correct that.
If, after all of that, I still have cravings, which I sometimes do, then I take a nap! This is my latest tool in the battle of the sugar cravings. If I’m having some bad cravings even though my diet and water are in check, then the last thing I go to is my sleep. I’ve found that when I’m tired my cravings shoot up and my resolve sinks to almost nothing. So, I lay down and take a power nap. Usually not for more than half an hour, but it works wonders on my brain and body. It sounds simple, and it is, once you learn how to interpret the signals your brain is sending.
I’m still no expert on reading my body’s signals but I continue to learn every day. It’s nice to know that my body is looking out for me. Especially when I just thought it was trying to sabotage all of my efforts before. Still, it’s a continuous journey to health. The more I learn, the more I grow…healthier!
To a healthier, happier and longer life!