HAES 101: Listen to your body, it knows.

Listen to your body. If you don’t feel right, its not normal. If you feel in any way “off” (forget the number on the scale–it can’t tell you how you feel) and if you can’t figure out what’s wrong, then the problem just might be your food.

I’ve had insomnia for as long as I can remember, at least since I was 10. 21 years of waking up two or more times every damn night. 21 years of always being tired. 21 years of thinking it was normal, that it was just the way it is. I didn’t know that most people actually sleep deeply all night long.

Because I am tired, I eat and drink to give me extra energy. Sugar. Chocolate (yes, for breakfast). And of course, caffeine. My prefered source of caffeine: Pepsi and/or Red Bull. I don’t drink coffee because it upsets my colon (a hint that I should have paid more attention to sooner). In recent years, I would drink two or three Pepsis a day, or two Red Bulls a day, in addition to chocolate candy.
It was what I needed to get through the day without falling into a coma of exhaustion. Soda (+ candy) made me function.

I tried other means to fix the insomnia. Sleeping drugs: Unisom. Ambien, Tylenol PM. Liquor. All would put me asleep, but none could KEEP me asleep, and I would wake, and wake, and wake again, and finally wake for the day and feel like a zombie for hours. Needing ever more caffeine to combat the “grog” and tiredness.

One day last year, before I discovered HAES, after a particulary bad bout of sleeplessness that had me waking up every 90 minutes, I realized my waking patterns were NOT typical or normal or healthy.. So I read up on insomnia online and one of the tips suggested was to avoid stimulants, including caffeine, as they make symptoms worse. I noted it, but didn’t pay much attention to it, for after all I NEEDED soda just to get by. I went to a doctor. He gave me ambien. It helped, for only four days–but not completely, and the insomnia never went away.

Fast forward to recent weeks, while I am processing the lessons of HAES and intuitive eating, and “listening to your body”. I’m doing so mostly to figure out what’s causing my symptoms of IBS (that’s a whole ‘nother post which I will get into another time) and a notion came to me: what if the sodas I drink so copiously are making me sick. And then I remembered, caffeine + insomnia = bad idea. So I did an experiment: I cut caffeine from my diet altogether, to see what happens.

I bet you can see where this is going, and you would be right. My IBS symptoms have abated slightly, but most significantly, after two days, I slept 7 hours straight for three days. Woke up once each the other two days. I felt good. My sister even noticed a change in my appearance.

Then it was time to test the hypothesis further. Sunday, I had indulged in some drinking, so felt very groggy the next day and drank ONE can of Pepsi at lunch, noon. That same night, Monday night, I woke up no less than five times, maybe six or seven.

I believe this is indisputible, that I am way too sensitive to caffeine. I am sure also that I started drinking sodas and eating candy on a regular basis around the time my insomnia began. What I had been using to TREAT the insomnia had been the CAUSE.

For 21 damn years, my body has been trying to tell me that I cannot drink caffeine. It was only by finally listening to it that I understood. And I would never have learned this if it were not for HAES.

So, listen to your body. Let it tell you what it likes and doesn’t like. The small changes in how you feel when you listen are worth any sacrifice you think you’re making.