I've tried every fad diet and trendy workout New York City has to offer.
I’ve strictly counted calories and obsessed over everything I ate.
I've done juice cleanses, cycling, pilates, personal training and sweaty dance classes.
None of that helped me lose weight.
But over time, I’ve discovered why.
I wasn’t listening to my body.
I wasn’t being loving and nurturing. I was being harsh, critical and extremely judgmental.
"Why can’t you do anymore jump squats?" I had just done 120 reps, so maybe that’s why.
"Why aren’t you losing weight?"
"Why don’t your abs look leaner like the women you train with?"
"Why do your knees hurt when you run? Why are you so tired? Ugh, what’s wrong with you?"
Wow. With that sort of self talk, I’m amazed my body does anything for me.
No wonder I wasn’t feeling like my best self, physical or otherwise.
I’ve since learned the biggest health and weight loss secret no one is talking about: listening to your body.
That’s what I wasn’t doing.
When my body told me, "Hey, I’m exhausted," I ignored it and pounded away at the gym anyway.
When I wasn't hungry for food, but really yearned for love and needed to do something relaxing like sleep or talk to a nurturing friend, I ordered pizza instead (and ate the entire pie by myself).
When my body was craving physical activity, I lied on the couch.
Our bodies are constantly sending signals.
The problem is, many of us aren’t listening to our greatest allies.
Our minds, picking up on many self-limiting messages and images from the media, thinks it knows best.
The key is to have our minds and bodies in sync with one another.
Our bodies talk to us, and we need to listen.
All the things you can do to find inner happiness require the body. The mind isn't living in a separate house.
I could never fully commit to the best regime of diet, exercise, stress reduction and meditation until I got my body fully on board and comfortable with it.
That meant loving, honoring and respecting my body for all it does for me, rather than criticizing it for not being superhuman.
It is vital to work with your body and not against it.
Here are the ways I learned to listen to my body:
1. Feel what you are feeling.
Simply ask yourself, “How do you feel right now?” Be honest with yourself.
Feel what you're feeling rather than escape through distractions and denial, including drugs, alcohol, food, work, shopping, social media and TV.
Now, when I crave my go-to comfort food (pizza), I ask myself why I feel the need to be comforted in that moment.
Last night, for example, I felt lonesome.
Instead of ordering pizza to comfort myself, I called a dear friend on the phone to connect, and I FaceTimed with my niece and nephew.
Afterward, I felt joyful and realized I was no longer hungry.
I made myself some white tea and curled up with a good book.
2. Accept what you are feeling.
Don't judge or criticize what you’re feeling. Practice radical self-compassion.
Instead of beating yourself up for wanting a cheeseburger and fries instead of salad, compromise with yourself.
Order something that's a compromise (like crab cakes, for example). It can be something satisfying that is neither super healthy nor super unhealthy.
3. Be open to your body.
It's always speaking, so be willing to listen.
I do this through prayer and meditation in order to give my body a deep sense of peace, relaxation, ease, calmness, lightness, alertness and energy.
When you are open to your body’s needs, you are less likely to pollute it with food, drugs or alcohol you know doesn’t agree with you.
You work together as a team with the common goal of feeling good, instead of ignoring each other.
4. Trust your body.
Every cell is on your side, which means you have hundreds of billions of allies.
Ground yourself by turning inward and feeling the sensations of your body.
Take deep breaths, and be aware of your body.
I recommend trying pilates or yoga.
When you are connected to all the ways your body is working for you, you will make healthier choices that support you.
5. Live your life.
Before I eat, I ask myself if I am hungry for food or hungry for something else like love, comfort, stability, validation, etc.
I shed unnecessary weight when I stopped obsessing over everything I was putting in my body and rigidly counting calories.
When I stopped labeling myself and food as “good” or “bad” and enduring the shameful feelings and emotions that accompany that way of thinking, the weight literally melted off my body.
The next time you want to reach for "bad" food, feel tempted to overeat or have any kind of craving, try to stop focusing on the food.
Listen to what your body is telling you instead.
When I'm out with friends and feel tempted to order a beer like everyone else, I can literally hear my body gently remind me that beer makes me extremely bloated and sick for hours.
I order a glass of wine or iced tea instead.
If I only want to drink water when I’m in a social setting and don’t want to deal with any pushback from party-goers, I ask the bartender to put a slice of lime in my drink.
People think I’m sipping on vodka and leave me alone.
Another trick is to ask, "How do I feel right this moment?"
Either you are hungry, which is natural, or you feel something you don't want to feel.
Instead of self-medicating through food, try being emotionally available to yourself.
Through the practice of checking in with and nurturing yourself, you will eventually stop feeling the need to comfort yourself through food.
Journaling has helped me open up and be honest with what I’m really experiencing.
Enjoy what your body wants to do.
I choose to ask my body what it needs, and I follow its advice without judging, whether it's sleep, rest, nourishment, physical activity or time spent in nature.
If you can barely keep your eyes open, it’s probably best to go home and sleep and skip spin class.