Lesson 2: Listening to Our Bodies

The happiest and healthiest version of yourself is the one who is able to understand and listen to your bio-individual needs and apply the scientific information as such. However, the concept of "listening to your body" has been often misinterpreted. People ask all the time, "Well, what if I want a donut constantly? That isn't healthy for my body." This perception is completely irrelevant to the point. Our bodies are made to keep us alive and healthy. So even though a donut is not scientifically healthy, in terms of nutrition, there is an underlying reason your body is craving it in excessive amounts. Your body believes it needs it for whatever reason. Understanding the possible roots to our cravings allow us to have the freedom to know what our bodies truly need and when it's time to enjoy a donut.


1. Genetic

  • If there is a habitual pattern from your parents, it is going to be a part of your system before you are even born.
  • Growing up, the foods you have or don’t have access to directly depend on your parents.
    • Therefore, your parents may influence the foods you seek out.
    • This isn’t a bad thing, just something to be aware of.

2. Primary Food

  • We’ve talked a lot about primary food, and being fulfilled and nourished in all aspects of life.
    • We are not robots, and our body needs a lot more than just food to prosper.
    • When we go through life feeling as though we’re lacking in relationships, purpose, health, and so on, we attempt to fill that void.
    • This deep need to fill the void of something often presents as deep uncontrollable cravings for various foods.
      • Our body adapts to survive in ways we don’t always recognize.
      • Our bodies are an amazing thing! As athletes we are master compensators, even more so than the average person. Our body is always looking to function at 100% and when it can’t do that due to a lack of resources, it will pull from other areas to get it.

3. Dehydration

  • It’s normal to crave sugar and foods when dehydrated.
    • There’s an evolutionary basis behind it:
      • Historically, water wasn’t always readily available, so the hunters and gatherers would have to obtain it from foods high in water.
      • Dehydration activates the center for hunger and thirst within the hypothalamus; therefore, along with the ancestral instinct, it may be hard for us to distinguish between the two.
    • Dehydration also impacts the liver’s function which affects our body’s ability to produce glycogen [stored glucose].
      • Due to a lack of glycogen production, our body may crave the glucose in sugar as a substitute.
    • Dehydration also impacts the brain’s levels of serotonin.                         
      • Serotonin impacts our level of satisfaction after eating therefore, low serotonin levels may cause a desire to eat more.

4. Overhydration

5. Food Imbalances

  • Salty foods can create cravings for things like alcohol and sweets.
  • Yin and Yang

6. Inside Coming Out

  • Clean your tongue.
  • If you eat something, 2-3 days later you’re going to crave it.  

7. Seasonal

  • Think of your Pumpkin Spice Latte, or Thanksgiving Feast where portion control isn't the main focus.

8. Lack of Nutrients

  • Our body and mind creates food rules.
  • Lack of protein can create cravings for energy (caffeine/sweets).
  • Low fat creates cravings for full fat things (like ice cream).

9. Hormonal

  • Stress and switching of the hormones
  • Poor sleep -> increased levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone) and decreased levels of leptin (appetite control hormone)

10. De-evolution

  • Everything is going great; you make a decision that makes you feel like hell.
  • Need self-love and self-acceptance for when things aren't going well.
  • We go back to what is familiar.

How to approach cravings and listen/trust your body:

  1. Acknowledge the craving
    • Ignoring the craving will often make them seem stronger and more powerful.
    • When foods become off-limits, they often become more desirable.
  2. Explore the origin with non-judgmental curiosity
    • Is this craving occurring alongside a particular emotion or physical feeling?
      • Feelings such as stress, fatigue, loneliness, and boredom often lead to food cravings.
      • Lack of sleep and being tired has been shown to increase the cravings for calorie-dense foods.
      • Food is not going to fix the feeling it is only treating the symptom.
    • Is this craving for a highly palatable food?
      • Some foods are designed to be craved.
        • Sugar: you build up a tolerance to sugar and the more you eat of, it the more you will need to feel satisfied.
        • Processed foods: researchers have been involved in combining the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat that makes processed foods so hard to resist.
          • These craved foods tend to be higher in calories and fat and lower in protein and fiber – they usually don’t offer a ton of nutritional value aside from energy.
    • Is this craving tied to a habit?
      • You may desire a certain food and a certain time or place because you’re used to having it at that time.
    • Is this craving guiding me toward a food that would support my health or well-being?
      • Fulfilling a craving may also contribute to your well-being beyond a nutritional standpoint. For example, craving a piece of cake to enjoy among friends and family might provide a strong feeling of connection and love. This may be a powerful form of primary food nourishment for some.

Applied to Athletics

Learning how to become aware of what our body is craving, then listening to it is the ultimate form of trusting ourselves. Your body doesn't know your goals, it is simply trying to keep you alive in whatever way it can. By honoring your body and giving it what it needs you are going to be able to ask a lot more from it. Taking care of your body and trusting it will allow you to perform at a much higher level than ever before.