No matter who you are, what shape your in, or what goals you’re trying to accomplish in life, listening to your body is one of the most important factors on the road to physical fitness and mental wellness. During my cross-country bike trip last summer with my dad, I remember the constant hunger pangs and headaches as my body struggled to meet the rigorous demands of life on the road. The moment I stopped listening to my body, it would react is such unpleasant ways that it didn’t take long for me to become sensitive to its needs. Hydration and proper nutrition became paramount as we crossed the United States on our bikes, and during those four weeks I learned the difference between a productive body and a nutrient deficient body.
After I finished the ride I remember being told by the staff that we were going to have to restrict our caloric intake or risk gaining an excessive amount of weight as our bodies adjusted to life off the bike. Since my college days I’ve always been fearful of gaining weight. So when I heard this little piece of information I did exactly what they told me. The problem was that I became so concerned with following someone else’s advice I ignored the delicate relationship I had forged with my body.
This past summer was the roughest that I can remember in recent years. I cut my caloric intake by 2/3 and tried to limit my carbohydrates to the bare minimum. Headaches began to plague me everyday, and I constantly felt weak and tired. I tried to continue to workout but suddenly found myself unable to push myself to the intensity that I knew I had been capable of before I left for the bike trip. My overall mood and outlook in life was grossly affected. I began to suffer from anxiety and mild depression. Everything from my work performance to my relationships with my friends and family began to suffer.
And then, one day while sitting on my couch I decided to eat a big bowl of pasta. My stomach was calling for carbs so for once I gave in and went into the kitchen to heat some water on the stove before pouring in a generous helping of whole-wheat penne. There was nothing crazy about this meal. It wasn’t gourmet cheating on chocolate or baked goods, just a large portion of complex carbohydrates. I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten just pasta. My diet at this point consisted of merely salads and lean protein.
When I was finished, it took me about five seconds to realize how much better I felt. Suddenly, I had more energy than I had in weeks, my headache was gone and for once I actually felt full of life and positive emotion. I began to rebuild my relationship with my body and for the first time in years I felt control of my life. It’s amazing how sometimes the simplest solutions can be the most effective ones.
So remember, it’s important to listen to the demands of your body, especially if you are active.
Tomorrow, I will be discussing exactly what I eat, when I eat it, and why I've picked those foods.