Counseling Center

February 22, 2021

The Body Whisperer: Becoming a Better Listener to Your Body

Posted by Mandy Lu, Psy.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, UWCC


The Pandemic has no doubt impacted eating patterns, body shapes/sizes, and exercise routines in one way or another just like how it has upended routines in other areas of our lives. The connection between food and how our bodies feel, look, and move are some of the foundational elements to our well-being. Food, as a life-sustaining substance, has powerful influences on us as our energy source and key player in how we feel. For example, eating can elevate our mood through the release of dopamine in the brain. It is no wonder that food is often used to soothe challenging emotions.

 

 

Especially as we find ourselves isolated, bored, worried, and unmotivated during the Pandemic, food is one of the easiest tools to reach for to cope. I want to invite you to pay attention to your eating patterns and patterns in activities related to eating (like exercise, skipping meals, drink caffeine/alcohol, smoking etc.). Consider reflecting on what you’ve eaten in the past few days by using something like this:

 

 

When Where Who with What were you doing? What did you eat? What did you do after? Mood
 

 

What patterns are you noticing? Do you find yourself hungry when having nothing to do or feeling bored? Do you find yourself eating at night more often because you’ve been skipping meals during the day or feeling lonely? Do you find yourself being hard on yourself about gaining weight and the thought of that leads to skipping meals or dieting? Do you have specific concerns about these patterns?

If you’d like to make a change based on the patterns you’re discovering, here are some ideas you could try in the next week.

 

 

Eat mindfully

Slow down. Take time to notice the flavors, the texture, the smell, and colors of your food. Your full awareness to the food you’re eating will bring more enjoyment and you’re more likely to be satisfied after eating.

Eat when hungry

This may seem simple. But we get busy and skip eating even when it is mealtime and we feel hungry. Honoring your hunger by eating when hungry and eating the amount that matches your level of hunger will not only be the boost of energy you need but also prevent disruptions in your hunger cues overtime.

 

 

Have a plan

One of the reasons for skipping meals or eating more than intended may be that there isn’t food or the food you want around. Similar to making a schedule for studying or self-care, carving out 20-30 minutes each week to plan out your meals and snacks can make a big difference.

 


Move your body in a joyful way

Especially when we spend so much time moving and using our bodies for things that we need to do (assignments, jobs, chores etc.), it can be easy to overlook the things our bodies can do to bring us joy. Moving in a joyful way can help cultivate a sense of appreciation toward our bodies and ourselves. What is a joyful way for you to move your body? Busting a move to music? Stretching? Wiggling your toes?

 

 

Our bodies change with the times and circumstances. They are capable of delivering amazing achievements because they are so flexible, adaptive, and resilient. As National Eating Disorders Awareness Week approaches at the end of February, I hope that you’re caring for the wonder that you reside in with love and care.

If you are concerned about your eating patterns and are interested in reaching out for support, the National Eating Disorders Association and UW Seattle student health services websites are good first steps to take.

For more guidance on physical activities and nutrition, the UW IMA is open and a great resource.