The Primacy of Listening to the Body for Health

So we have our practice of listening to the body. The next thing to understand is where does this fit in with things?

We talk about the primacy of listening to the body because listening to the body comes first.  When people don’t understand this they often override the benefits.  Let’s have a look at a few examples of this.

Let’s say we have an intention in our heads to drink 8-10 glasses of water a day.  Or maybe we have a notion in our head that being vegetarian is healthy.

In addition to that, we have our notion of listening to the body.

So what do we do when the two (or more) ideas disagree?

What comes first?  What do we do in those moments when self-imposed practices contradict what our body is telling us?

What comes first? What do we do in those moments when self-imposed practices contradict what our body is telling us?

We may attach rigidly to a notion of drinking 8-10 glasses of water a day, but what if our body is telling us “Enough already, stop, you’re drowning me!”?  This is where we say 8-10 glasses of water may be a good principle, in general, but right now I have plenty of water on board, thanks.

Or what if you are walking around the deserts surrounding Las Vegas, the sun and the atmosphere draining fluids from you at a rapid rate?  Your body will doubtless be telling you to drink much more.  Nobody, in such thirst and dehydration, would steadfastly insist, “I’ve had my 10 glasses of water so that’s my lot”.  Of course they would take on more water.

The same may apply if we are aiming for our “5-a-day” of fruit and vegetables.  We may have had six pieces of fruit and veg already today but our body is telling us “I’d really like an apple right now, just for a bit of energy and to feel good and refreshed”.  Another day we may only have had three or four pieces of fruit and veg, but our body is telling us “I’m tired now, I really need to sleep”.  We don’t want to force ourselves to stay up and eat, so we listen to the body and respond to its needs. 

So conventional health wisdom is there to serve us, rather than control us, and as we listen to our body we will know how best to use the conventional wisdom. 

Many opinions about good health have valid points to them in and of themselves, but we must make sure that they are merely there to inform and serve, rather than dominate, because there are very many different circumstances to any one person in any moment, and even then they are always subject to change, too.

…it’s the same if someone recommends vegetarianism.  Or raw food.  Or swimming or running.  They may indeed have their merits, but these should be seen within the context of what is right for you in the given moment.  What is your body asking for – or not, and what is it asking to do – or not?  Raw food is good, but for some people if you put them on an all raw food diet without any thought for their current state you could kill them.

This is why we talk about the primacy – the prime importance of listening to the body first and foremost – and responding to that.

Paying attention to, and responding to what our body requires is the cornerstone of good health.

There is one caveat, and ironically it is to do with water, as in the case of rehydration, it is too late to wait until we feel thirsty, as David Heard explains in our dialogue on ‘Lungs and Muscles’.

“While I am a great believer in this (listening to the body) there is a cautionary note: in the case of rehydration it is too late to wait until you feel thirsty. Programme your rehydration just as you would the petrol tank in the car; i.e. don’t wait until you are literally running on empty.” – David Heard

Again, listening to our body and getting used to our body will tell us how to get this balance right.