Body Signals – How to Listen to Your Body

She earned her Master’s degree in nutrition and dietetics from Arizona State University. In her early career, she worked as a clinical dietitian in an intensive care unit.

In 2017, Abby co-founded EVOLVE Flagstaff, an integrative practice that offers weight-inclusive services including physical therapy, injury prevention, nutrition counseling, training, and meal preparation. Her nutrition practice mainly focuses on working with athletes and individuals with eating disorders. She helps her clients to re-establish their relationship with food and movement and unlearn behaviors that negatively impact their relationship with their bodies and food.

Apart from her work with clients, Abby is an aerialist and dancer, and director of a non-profit performing arts company, Dark Sky Aerial. She enjoys cooking, coaching strength and conditioning, and teaching yoga. Depending on the season you will find her outdoors biking, skiing, or reading in the sun with her dogs.

In today’s fast-paced world, stopping and listening to our bodies can be challenging. The constant demands of work, social life, and technology can distract us from tuning into our physical, mental, and emotional signals.

However, listening to our bodies can be a powerful tool for learning how to eat intuitively, aligning our eating and movement with what our body needs, as well as with our true self and the values we have, while helping lift our emotional health, mental well-being, and giving us better physical health.

Types of Body Signals:

Lady holding hand to chest, listening to her body

Physical Body Signals

Our bodies have a language through which they communicate with us. Paying attention to these signals can help us better understand our physical needs and make choices that promote our well-being. Here are some common physical body signals to look out for:

Hunger and Thirst: 

One of the most fundamental signals our body sends us is hunger and thirst. It’s important to pay attention to how your body feels when you’re hungry or thirsty. Early signs of hunger may include stomach growling, lightheadedness, or irritability. When you’re thirsty, your mouth may feel dry, and you may experience headaches or fatigue.

Energy Feedback Loop After Eating:

When you’re done eating, from the minutes sitting at the table right after you’re done to the hours later when you’re back at work, just hanging with the family or friends, or the next day when you wake up, ask yourself, “do I have more energy or less?” Is the energy you feel high quality and helping you find more mental clarity and enjoying yourself, or does it lead to more fogginess or even anxiety? Can you subtly shift the exact foods you eat to identify and be more precise with what causes you to feel the feelings and emotions you do?

Mental Body Signals

Mental signals refer to the sensations, thoughts, or emotions that arise in response to different situations in life. These signals can offer valuable insights into your psychological and emotional state, providing a powerful tool for self-awareness and personal growth.

One of the key indicators of mental body signals is stress. Stress can manifest in various ways, including tension in the body, racing thoughts, or feeling anxious. It’s important to understand these signals and take appropriate action to reduce stress levels. This may include practicing mindfulness or engaging in calming activities like yoga or meditation

Fatigue and Sleepiness: 

Our bodies need rest to repair and recover from daily activities. Paying attention to how your body feels when you’re tired or sleepy can help you prioritize rest and make choices that support optimal energy levels.

Some physical signals of fatigue or sleepiness may include a heavy feeling in the legs, nodding off, or difficulty keeping your eyes open.

Pain and Discomfort

Chronic pain or discomfort may signify an underlying health issue that needs attention. It’s important to listen to your body when it is signaling pain or discomfort. Ignoring these signals can lead to more severe health issues over time.

An illustration of writing on a body saying to listen to your body.

Emotional Body Signals

Emotions play a critical role in our overall well-being, and our body signals can be a sign of our emotional state. Understanding emotional body signals can help us identify underlying emotions and seek solutions.

Subtle changes in our breathing, heart rate, and other physical indicators can signal emotional changes that might need our attention. Common emotional signals include:

Tension in the Body: 

Emotions such as stress, anxiety, and anger can often lead to physical tension in our bodies. This tension can manifest as tightness in the chest, clenched fists or jaw, or a stiff neck or shoulders.

Changes in Appetite: 

Experiencing feelings such as sadness, loneliness, or stress can make us lose our appetite, whereas feeling anxious or depressed can lead to overeating. Therefore, it is important to understand our eating habits and patterns.

Focusing on Negative Thoughts: 

Experiencing a sudden increase in negative thoughts or excessive worrying can signal emotional distress. These thoughts can manifest as panic attacks and anxiety disorders. We need to be aware of negative thoughts and practice mindfulness techniques that will help us avoid getting lost in them.

Getting Easily Fatigued: 

Feeling tired or fatigued without any physical strain can be a clear indication of underlying negative emotions. Dive deeper by asking when you last felt like you had great energy, could do all of the things you wanted and felt like you had ample energy after to do more, and see if there were any big life changes that happened since that point. 

Listening to Your Body – The Way to Hear Body Signals

One of the most important aspects of self-care and overall well-being is learning to listen to your body and respond to its signals. But for many people, this can be a challenging and even intimidating task. However, by following some simple steps, anyone can learn to listen to their body’s signals, no matter how busy their life is. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind:


Relaxing is the first step in listening to your body. This can be done through various activities, including stretching, deep breathing, or meditation. By taking the time to slow down and connect with your body, you’ll be able to recognize and respond to what it’s telling you.

Practice Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing can be a helpful way to connect with your body and focus on the present moment. This gets your body more in the parasympathetic nervous system state, which is calm and much easier to listen to your body and go through self-exploration of the roots of your thoughts and emotions, stress, joy, movement patterns, and your relationships with food and your body.

To practice mindful breathing, sit or lie down in a quiet place, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose, hold your breath for a few seconds, breathe out slowly through your mouth, and repeat this a few rounds. Another technique is to count your breaths. Breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and breath out for six seconds. Repeat this a few rounds.

Ask Yourself Questions:

Then, while closing your eyes, you can ask yourself some food-related questions, including:

  • What was I hungry for?
  • When did I last feel hungry?
  • What did I eat?
  • How did my body feel after eating?
  • When did I last eat to fullness?
  • How full was I on a scale of 1 to 5 (five being uncomfortably full)

As you answer these questions, pay attention to your body’s reactions and note any emerging patterns or signals.

Be Patient and Kind to Yourself

Listening to your body is a process that takes time and practice. It pays to be patient and kind to yourself as you navigate this journey. Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do it, and what works for one person may not work for another. 

The Body Feels Pathway in the Way app is a great tool to help you learn how to listen to your body and identify body signals. After learning how to embrace foods that make your body feel.