My eyelids are closing as I type this. I got two hours of sleep last night. My body is telling me to go to sleep. I should listen to my body.
“Listen to your body.”
You hear that phrase all the time. It sounds… right. It feels right, too. After all, the human body has doing it’s thang for millions of years now. It has to know a thing or two…
YOUR BODY WHISPERS
The premise behind “listening to your body” is such that your body has some sort of knowledge that your conscious mind doesn’t have. The only way to access said knowledge is by listening to your body’s whispers. But there are a few problems with this…
FIRST: SIGNAL AND NOISE
What if your body isn’t trying to tell anything? Put your head up to your stomach as it digests food and you’ll probably hear some gurgling and swishing. But that doesn’t mean those noises are but… noises. DON’T CRACK YOUR KNUCKLES, SONNY.
Problem: if you try to listen to your body too deeply, you’re likely to turn noise into signal and risk misinterpretation.
SECOND: DIFFERENT LANGUAGE
Assume your body is trying to tell you something. What makes you think you can understand your body’s language? How do you know you have the right translation?
Pain is a negative, right? A sign you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing. Wait. What about that whole “pain is weakness leaving the body” thing? What’s the difference between discomfort and pain? I’m confused already.
Problem: the translation you have for what your body is trying to tell you isn’t universal. You’re likely to rely on what you think your body is telling you, and, quite frankly, what you think might be wrong.
Listening to your body insinuates that your body works from inside of a vacuum. But your expectations greatly influence how your body functions. If you’re used to eating lunch at 12PM every day, you’ll probably be hungry at 12PM even though your body, deep down, might not ACTUALLY be hungry.
This is where the placebo effect lives. The placebo effect, in a nutshell: your body feels how you expect it to feel.
Problem: humans are creatures of habit and expectation, and sometimes those aren’t helpful to an end goal.
If you believe current evolutionary theory, then humans are pain and risk averse, meaning we’re always going to be pushed towards comfort.
What if comfort isn’t ideal?
If you’re trying to stop smoking, your body doesn’t really want you to stop smoking. If you listen to your body, you’re gonna grab a smoke.
Also, our primitive software isn’t terribly suited to the modern world. We’re afraid to take risks because our body codes stressors as ZOMG I’M BEING CHASED BY A LION, but, in reality, you’re not being chased by a lion. You’re just deciding whether or not to dump your shitty girlfriend that cheated on you.
Problem: the way the body functions is a matter of context. We evolved in a world different than ours, which means what our body tells us might not match reality.
I could continue with more examples. Continuing with the thread above, evolutionary theory also says that humans are misers. We conserve and hoard energy. If you listen to your body, you’re going to die of Pizza the Hutt Syndrome and eat yourself to death.
I get the sentiment. Listen to your body. I’m not saying you should ALWAYS ignore your body, just like I’m saying you should ALWAYS listen to your body. And because the door swings both ways, the phrase “listen to your body” is just another fancy yet flaccid fitness platitude.