What Does It Actually Mean to Listen to Your Body?

By April 5, 2017Live, Move

How many times have you heard a health professional say to listen to your body? They say your body knows what it needs. It’s supposed to tell you what to eat, how to work out, when to rest, and so much more. 

In reality, though, you probably decide all that stuff based on a whole bunch of other factors. What’s the latest superfood in the news? What workouts are your friends doing? How much exercise are you “supposed” to get in a week? How much time do you have?

I can relate.

Because, really, the problem here is that your body doesn’t speak English. You can feel when you’re tired, but you don’t know if your workout was too hard or you didn’t get enough sleep. Your stomach might be upset after dinner, but you have no idea if it’s caused by the pizza you ate or the plethora of stress you’re under. It’s easy to let your favorite foodstagrammer tell you to go dairy-free or pick up Crossfit because you overheard someone in your class who looks amazing say that’s what they do.

How do you know if that’s right for you, though?



If you’re curious about a new workout or dietary shift, look into it before you make any changes. The number one thing to check here is whether it’s safe (which means no crash dieting or working out until you’re sick). Talk to a doctor or other health professional about the changes you’re considering. See what people are saying about the pros and cons.

Check in.

Why do you want to make these changes? Do you want to get healthier, lift heavier, run faster, or are you pursuing aesthetic goals? Are you looking for a challenge? If you’re feeling good as you are, there may be no reason to change anything. The fact that someone else isn’t eating a certain food or is working out a certain way doesn’t mean you have to do the same.


If you’ve decided it’s safe and you want to try something new for a good reason, go ahead and do it.

Check in (again… and again… and again).

This is where you really need to listen to your body, and I’ll help walk you through it. These are just suggestions, but they should give you an idea of what to look out for.

If you’re eating differently, ask yourself:

  • How do I feel before and after my meals?
  • Is it different from before?
  • Are any problematic symptoms I noticed going away?

If you’re trying a new workout routine, ask yourself:

  • How do I feel during my workouts?
  • Are my joints hurting?
  • Am I dizzy?
  • Do I have enough energy to complete each workout?
  • Am I exhausted after a workout, or do I feel accomplished?

No matter what, ask yourself:

  • Do I feel awake and energetic throughout the day?
  • Are my “healthy” changes getting in the way of my social or academic life?
  • Am I enjoying eating/exercising this way?
  • How is my sleep?

Adjust accordingly.

listen to your body

Now you know what feels good (or doesn’t) and you can keep doing the same thing or try something new. It’s up to you – and your body. And once you start listening, your body will thank you.

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Author Ellen Slater

Ellen is a second year economics major at the University of Chicago, and she is originally from Columbus, Ohio. Her favorite things include writing, hockey, Ohio State football, tea, Diet Coke, photography, cooking and baking, yoga and running, and food and fitness in general. She talks a lot about all of these things on her blog, My Uncommon Everyday. She considers herself a connoisseur of pizza, nut butter, and dark chocolate.

More posts by Ellen Slater