I love dark chocolate. Its perfect mix of bitter and sweet scratches an itch down deep in my soul.
And yet, the past two times I’ve consumed it (once in the form of squares from an actual bar and once in the form of hot cocoa made with the highest quality cocoa powder I could find), it has upset my stomach.
Then, after these two incidents, I was just thinking about whether or not I should try it again — “Just one square!” — and my stomach felt off. After this third sign, I had to accept it: My body is trying to tell me it just can’t handle the deliciousness.
I already knew I was on thin ice with the dark chocolate. Two years ago, I made myself sick to my stomach — not once but twice — by eating too many dark-chocolate-covered almonds.
Then, I had a dream where I was out to dinner with a friend. She ordered chocolate cake for dessert and asked if I wanted a bite, to which I responded, “I’d love to, but I can’t. Chocolate just isn’t working for me right now.” That was a pretty clear sign from my subconscious; one I couldn’t ignore. So I swore off the bittersweet stuff for the better part of a year.
Then I got pregnant, and I thought maybe, just maybe, the baby needed a little dark chocolate nourishment. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Bummer. (I repeat: BUMMER!)
But when your body talks, you’ve got to listen. After all, who knows you — your needs, likes and dislikes — better than your body? So bye-bye dark chocolate. It’s been nice loving you. I hope to be able to reunite with you someday. But for now, it’s splitsville.
Hear and trust your body’s messages
I’m not the only one who experiences this phenomenon. I was speaking with Lisa Petty recently, a holistic health counselor who wrote the book Living Beauty and founded the omega 3 supplement company Nordic Naturals, and she mentioned that she had recently discovered she needed to give up her beloved green tea.
Despite her research and personal experience that said green tea has innumerable health benefits, she said whenever she drank it, her heart raced and she got so jittery and had trouble concentrating. She’d tried cutting her consumption down to one cup, but it didn’t matter. The effects were still the same.
You may think that your body isn’t sending you these types of signals, but it most definitely is. Perhaps you’ve got to hone your ability to hear its messages — through a mind-body practice, such as yoga or meditation. Or maybe you’re giving your body so much to deal with through your food choices and your lifestyle habits that its messages are getting garbled.
It’s been my experience that it gets a lot easier to hear what your body has to say when you work at treating it well. The healthier my diet and the more I do to take care of my body (such as exercise and sleep) and communicate with it (through meditating or practicing yoga or taking quiet walks in the woods), the clearer the signals are. Once you get better at hearing what you’re body is trying to say, the sooner you’ll be able to take steps to meet your needs, and the less dramatic your symptoms will be.
There is one caveat: The more you converse with your body, the more information you’re likely to glean — and not all of it will you enjoy. Maybe it’s trying to tell you that one of your favorite foods isn’t working for you anymore. Or you can’t continue to work as hard as you are without getting adequate rest. Or that someone you’re in a relationship with is not good for you.
You’ve got to trust that your body always has your best interests at heart so that you’ll be able to take the bad with the good. And when you start working in tandem with your body, you’ll find that your life and health start to flow. You’ll still have hiccups and setbacks, but you won’t have to waste any more energy on the struggles that result from making choices that just don’t serve you.
3 ways to decipher your body’s language
Here are some ways to start deciphering your own body’s language:
- Look at yourself like your mother would look at you. How is your color? Are there circles under your eyes? Do you appear healthy to the naked eye? Or are there nagging symptoms that you haven’t noticed or are perhaps ignoring that might be trying to tell you something?
- Check in with your sensations. If you’re contemplating a decision, think of one of your options and notice how your body feels internally. What do you feel in your stomach? How’s your heart rate? Are you hot, cold or mildly chilled? Do you feel tightness or heaviness anywhere? Or do you feel light and airy?
- Ask yourself for clues. Before you go to bed at night or before you sit quietly with your thoughts, ask your body to reveal anything it needs you to know. You might be surprised to see a vivid image pop into your mind or to have a telling dream (like mine where I basically told myself to lay off the chocolate). Whatever you hear, don’t judge. Just ask yourself what the image or the message means to you, and trust that there’s a helpful message that’s relevant to the situation.
As for me, knowing that the ole bod just can’t tolerate dark chocolate makes it a lot easier to give it up. That doesn’t mean it’s a painless process, but I don’t have to spend a lot of time agonizing over whether it’s the right thing to do — I just need to do it. Which is why I’m munching on uncrystallized candied ginger from Trader Joe’s. It’s not as sugary as most candied ginger, which means the spicy bite of the ginger really comes through. It’s got a great yin/yang balance that reminds me of my first love. So far, my body seems to approve.