The Intelligence of the Body
Which part of me is the most intelligent – my body or my mind?
I have been trying to work out how I can find myself eating something sweet when I have made a resolve not to eat it! The body is the smartest part of me, it is blunt, consistent and sensitive, it tells me when something I put on it or in it is not agreeing with it. It can show me with irritated skin, a headache, a stomach ache, losing bodily functions, looking like I am 5 months pregnant within minutes of eating... It is ruthless in its honesty.
My brain, on the other hand, is easily influenced, highly manipulative, perhaps even manipulated and incredibly persuasive. So how can I be intelligent and not listen to a body that is clearly more intelligent?!
I have to ask the question “who is in charge here?!”
Clearly there is something at play long before I have the food in my mouth.
When did I start to feel tired?
Have I let a routine slip that is part of my foundation?
What is going on in my head when my body communicates that I am tired, upset, anxious or fearful?
Where do those thoughts come from?
Are they supportive or not and ultimately how can I choose to get different - more supportive thoughts?! You know the ones that don't put me at risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease!
Does it come back to being distracted and not consciously present with myself in the moment? Should I be working on that? There is so much talk about mindfulness, it is supposed to be a tool to slow the mind down and bring it to a more consciously aware state. Yet, I am already pretty good at that, so there must be another level of understanding to take me from it being about my mind and to it being about my body and for the body to be appreciated as the intelligent system it is.
Consider this – we have an autonomic nervous system that works to keep us alive 24 hours a day – it is INCREDIBLE. Our body can grow from an egg to a fully-grown adult, potentially to repeat the process over and over again with, it seems little help from us. Here we are, thousands of years later and the amazing system is still working regardless of the fact that we have been abusing it by indulging in lifestyle choices that do not support its’ smooth and harmonious function. It doesn’t wait for us to listen, it just carries on doing its’ job and letting us know what works and what doesn’t work regardless of whether we choose to listen or not.
So why does anything need to change?
Well, the body is breaking down, our choices are having consequences and they are serious ones both for our own health and for the health of the national health systems that support us. The statistics for deaths from non-communicable diseases NCD’s are on the rise (82% worldwide as per the World Health Organisation) and type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest growing disease and one of the major consequences of the obesity epidemic. These are consequences from lifestyle choices, so rather than just say we have no choice, perhaps we should look at what is feeding the choice to have the behaviour that leads us to override or completely ignore our body’s communication in favour of behaviours that lead to our own health demise which has a financial impact both personally and on the public purse. Time to listen to the intelligence of the body.
The body communicates with us by providing symptoms, we feel them and the brain decides what to do about those feelings. Do we clock them and respond, or do we clock them, not want to feel them and react by going into behaviours we know numb the unwanted feelings?
One option, if there is a willingness to choose not to react is to ask ourselves questions, is to become our own investigator. Ask questions like why am I bloated? what have I eaten? am I tired? do I need more sleep? maybe I shouldn’t eat it any more! These questions take time to answer and tenacity because we are asked to keep looking at the ‘why’ in order to really understand the root of the behaviour and how the ‘intelligent’ brain can justify the repeated choice of abusing its own body. All too often, it is simpler to make the symptoms go away by choosing the easiest option in the short term – taking a pill to numb the pain, drinking alcohol or perhaps consuming more food. A truly ‘head-in-the-sand’ approach.
This is clearly a familiar route for many as the statistics are bluntly demonstrating and if we don’t want to bankrupt our health systems it is up to each and every one of us to make a decision to pay attention to the intelligence of the body and appreciate the extra-ordinary wisdom that is waiting for us to connect to when we get our head out of the way. The body, in my experience, is playful, honest, direct and unsubtle!
So to answer my own question about who is in charge of my body? I want to be and therefore I have to choose to be aware of what is going on long before the decision presents itself or I find the food in my mouth. I am the only one who can make that choice and I can clearly see it is my responsibility to myself, to my family and to the world to not contribute to those statistics but to re-engage with the intelligence of the body.