The human body is a marvelously designed machine that not only reacts to and conforms to input from its environment, but also produces various signal outputs we can (and should) utilize when trying to improve upon our health. It is important to be in tune with the body’s signals, so to speak, because this can have a profound impact on achieving physical health goals, such as weight and fat loss. This practice is knows as interoception, and is described in THIS article:
“Interoception is our ability to sense our bodies internal states (whether it is hungry, cold, in pain or tired). It is not ‘thinking’ about your body — as if contemplating our physical image in a mirror, but on experiencing what our body is feeling inside.”
A lack of interoception can actually hinder the weight loss or fat loss processes. If we focus too much on health tracking devices, as an example, our brain can override what our bodies are telling us and take the device data as gold. The device data may not give as accurate account of how exactly our bodies are changing with the exercise, but keen interoceptive awareness does, if we learn to tune into our body’s signals.
As THIS study illustrates, two groups of people who were trying to lose weight were observed – one group utilizing wearables and the other without. The group using the health tracking devices actually lost LESS weight than the ones without! It is a very real possibility that the group with the wearables just focused on hitting a certain number vs reacting to what their bodies were telling them. Being in tune with signals, such as heart rate, fatigue state and internal bodily temperatures/perspiration rate can enable a person to push past their “comfort zones” and achieve significant results.
It’s so important to be in tune with your body with respect to ALL health related activities, such as meditation, exercise and diet. If we focus too much on the scale numbers or device data, we can actually trick the brain into thinking activities that are working and beneficial, are in fact NOT. Just because a goal of 10,000 steps or 10lbs of weight loss has been established, doesn’t mean hitting that number is the “end all be all”. In fact, it can be a barrier to hitting the “true number” a specific individual may need for their specific health need or desired change.
Additionally, if you inundate your body with negativity (thoughts/stress), unnatural or manufactured substances, and bad foods, the body’s output signals will become accustomed to the unhealthy inputs and play a trick on you. In this case, your interoception will actually work against you as you have trained your body to want more of the unhealthy inputs and operate in a stressful state. It goes without saying you should avoid these types of inputs!
The good news is, especially if you’ve fallen off the wagon a bit, your brain has the ability to rewire itself in response to the signals that you give it (see post on Neurogenesis and Neuroplasticity). If you are constantly feeding your brain with positive thoughts and your body with healthy actions, your body will in turn feed you with healthy output signals.
How do we use interoception to improve upon our health?
Listen to your body when performing health related activities. When you are exercising, feel your heart rate and respiratory rate. When you are lifting, feel the muscle tension with each contraction. When you are eating, pay attention to the level of satisfaction vs. fullness in your stomach. When you are meditating, don’t stop until you feel yourself enter into that “transcendent” or altered state of consciousness. When you are trying to sleep, focus on your breathing and feel every part of your body absolutely relaxed.
The more in tune with your body you are, the greater ability you have to affect it when performing any and all health related activities. You can have a better sense of what needs to be done to achieve an altered state, the amount of force and repetition required to break down a specific muscle, how hard to push during a workout, or when to take a break and relax. Listen to your body and learn how to better optimize your health!
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