It’s your inner wisdom.
Many of us turn to the world around us for advice on how to get healthy: medical doctors and alternative practitioners, friends and family, the guru du jour and Dr. Google, books, articles, blog posts, and even celebrities who are latecomers to the field of health and wellness (you know who you are, I’m looking at you) love to tell us what we “should” be doing to get healthy.
But how often do you turn inward when you want health advice?
Why is inner wisdom important?
Integrative Nutrition® health coaching—the style I practice—is founded in part on the principle of bio-individuality, the concept that we are all unicorns.
There’s nobody else in the world like us, so why would any one solution (whether it’s a way of eating, a workout, a spiritual practice, a family structure) work for everyone? It’s really the idea that your kale might be my kryptonite.
And yet, we tend to discount inner wisdom in favor of others’ quick fixes. “Oh,” I hear from many clients, “I’m not intuitive.”
What does intuition feel like?
I like to say that intuition is not located in the mind; rather, it resides in the gut, so we need to drop out of our minds (where we love to live) and into our bodies to get in touch with it.
Luckily, there’s a really simple way to do that—something called “the sway test,” which I learned from a food intuitive named Lana Nelson.
The part I love about this—in addition to the fact that it’s so easy, a child can use it—is that it works for any choice we need to make, whether it’s in the area of secondary foods (what we put in our mouths) or primary foods (everything else in our lives that nourishes us … or doesn’t!) [***Terry, if you have a link to the earliest piece I wrote for We Love A2—SOLE food to SOUL food, April 2018—you could insert it here. It may not have been moved to the new site?***]
Here’s how it works:
- Hold or picture the food you’re considering, and ask yourself, “Is this the right choice for me right now?”
- Notice whether your body sways toward the food or away from it.
- Toward = yes; away = no.
If you want to use it on a primary food, imagine one option you have in front of yourself and ask, “Is this the right choice for me right now?” Proceed with steps 2 and 3 as above.
Obviously, you have to keep it simple: a yes/no question, not a list of options.
Don’t believe it works?
Here are two examples:
Secondary food: It’s a hot, humid Michigan summer day, and we are going to eat lunch on the patio. I propose a lovely hot soup for the menu: do you a) lean in and think, “Oh yes, that sounds lovely!” or b) think, “Oh HELL no!” and back away?
Primary food: You’re what my kids call “one of the moms who live at school.” You volunteer for everything. (This is not a criticism! I know that our schools run on volunteers, and I’ve always been grateful for your presence.) You are on any number of committees, you are a team mom, and you somehow still find time to drive the carpool 3 days a week.
I ask you to volunteer on the team end-of-the-year banquet: do you a) jump in with enthusiasm or b) run screaming in the other direction?
Yup, that’s your intuition talking.
That’s your inner wisdom, and it’s that simple: swaying toward or away from an option. It’s your body (not your mind) reacting to the question, “Is this right for me right now?”
The lovely thing about this is that because of bio-individuality, neither option is wrong! You might happen to love hot soup in the summer, and you may be delighted to organize the banquet.
Ready to up your intuition game?
Here’s an exercise for when you’re facing a more complicated decision, such as whether to completely overhaul your eating choices, move to a different city, change jobs, leave a relationship.
- Write each option on a piece of paper, then place the papers around you on the floor.
- Stand on each paper in turn, barefoot if possible and really rooting your feet into the ground. “Feel” into each option: How does your body feel when you think about this option? What emotions come up for you when you consider it?
How does this relate to health?
Our inner wisdom is persistent, but quiet. It will always whisper, but it will never stop knocking at your door. ~ Vironika Tugaleva [***Terry, I’d love to make this a “pull quote” if you have that functionality.]
Our bodies are constantly, persistently letting us know when something is wrong: we get a rash, we have indigestion, we have insomnia, we can’t eat something that never used to bother us. And we dismiss it: we push through because “It’s happened before, and it goes away—I don’t have time to deal with it.
Most of my clients are women over 40, and this will resonate with them—loudly! Christiane Northrup writes about the phenomenon this way in The Wisdom of Menopause: if you suffer from PMS in your fertile years, it’s your body gently telling you, “Hey, pay attention to me. Maybe you need to take better care of me right now.” If you push that voice aside month after month for years, Mother Nature knows that as you reach the end of your fertile years, it’s her last chance to get your attention. And she will not be ignored: if PMS was a gentle poke, poke, poke, every month perimenopause will be like a 2×4 to the head—for up to a decade!
And the message is true for anyone: dismiss those niggling symptoms and push through at your peril. Ignore your inner wisdom long enough, and you’ll get the mother of all diagnoses somewhere down the line.
We only get one body in this lifetime—and our bodies are miraculous! If we make good food and lifestyle choices, our bodies can thrive into old age and heal themselves from just about anything that comes up.
And if you’ve been making terrible choices, take heart! It’s amazing what you can reverse (or prevent) by starting to make better choices today.
WLAA health columnist Liza Baker is a health coach, cookbook author, blogger, podcaster, nonprofit consultant, and woefully underpaid COO of a busy family of four spread across the globe. Liza lives in a half-empty nest in Ann Arbor and is passionate about health and happiness, education and empowerment, SOLE/SOUL food and social justice.