If you are living with ALS or any other chronic condition, I’m sure you understand the frustration of not having your body work like it once did. In the past I have often felt like my body is broken and have blamed it for not functioning correctly. Sometimes it has felt like my body is a limiting factor that is holding me back from living the life I want to live, and it is easy to be resentful of a body that is not working as it should. Over time I have realized that it is far more helpful to develop a positive relationship with my body than an adversarial one however.
What I began to realize is that just like me my body is doing the very best it can to find balance. It doesn't want to be experiencing ALS any more than I do, and it is working hard to reach equilibrium and find a way to be healthy. Just like me my body is going through the most difficult thing that it has ever experienced, and just like me my body needs more love and support during this difficult time rather than less.
You may notice that this line of thought treats the body almost as if it is a separate intelligence from myself, and in many ways it is! The human body is more complex than any technology that has ever been created on this planet and we are only just beginning to understand the complexities of how it works. It contains its own intelligence, and most of its functions are happening automatically and beneath our conscious awareness. We are alive not because we think about breathing or beating our own heart, but because the body does that for us. Understand that with all of that intelligence your body is doing the very best it can, and even though it is struggling right now it wants to be healthy just as much as you do.
Now I know the tone of this seems to indicate that your body is separate from you, but it is more helpful to see you and your body as crucial components of a team. You need the body as a vehicle to carry you through this experience, and your body needs you. You can't exist in the same way without one another.
Just as love and appreciation motivate you more than criticism and negativity, it is the same with your body in the process it is going through. Treat it well by loving and listening to it and by working together as a team. I know it's hard going through this experience, but I promise that you will do far better with your body is your friend than as an adversary or enemy. If we are to rise above the difficulty of this challenge known as ALS, I believe it is crucial that we learn to love ourselves and our body as we never have before.
Developing Body Intuition
It has always been said that what you put in you get out, and everything we put into our bodies truly does matter. In living with ALS there are many things that we can't control but we can always do our best to be as healthy as possible. Making smart dietary decisions is a big part of this, which is part common sense and part listening to the body. Developing body intuition is a process of becoming aware of what foods your body prefers and what it doesn't; what makes it function better and what slows it down. Our bodies are always trying to talk to us and learning to listen is a powerful tool.
So how can we learn to listen to the body? Simply begin to pay more attention to how what you eat makes you feel in the hours after eating. Some foods may give you a quick burst of energy and then crash you down as sweets and junk foods often do. If a food gives you sustained energy and makes you feel light and clear however, then you know your body likes it. It may be helpful to keep a record of what foods you eat and how they make you feel over time to get a clearer picture of what foods your body appreciates.
It is also important to distinguish between what our minds want and crave versus what our body wants. If I constantly crave ice cream for example, but whenever I eat it I can feel that my body is having trouble processing it I am better off avoiding it. Even though my mind likes ice cream it is clear that my body doesn't, which means that whenever I eat it my body isn't functioning in an optimal way.
By developing body intuition we can find those foods that fuel our bodies and leave the rest. Treat your body with love and respect and your body will love you back!