A funny thing happens as I read women's health expert Aimee Raupp's new book, Body Belief. When she describes how women should be feeling in a state she calls "thriving health," I tear up. Included in her checklist of expected experiences, none of which I seem to be experiencing, are the following: a refreshed feeling when you wake up in the morning (er, never); a glowing complexion (like, without makeup?); and good digestion (let's not get into it).
When I call Raupp to chat about the book, I tell her I hadn't realized I'd become so complacent in a state of far-less-than-optimal health until I read these words. She assures me this is common among the women she sees in her practice, whether they suffer from an autoimmune disorder (like Gigi Hadid and Selena Gomez) or not. To some extent, she says, this phenomenon has to do with worthiness—as in, our feeling that we don't deserve better health. However, much of the time it's related to something a bit easier to tackle. "We're just not listening to our bodies," she says. "We tend to ignore its cues, which say, 'I'm just not feeling my best anymore and you keep pushing me.'"
One of my favorite pieces of advice she has for restoring balance to your health is to ask your body, "How can I better support you?" When she tried this practice, she tells me, the answer came back simply as, "Love me more." (Sadly, too relatable.)
"We tend to ignore [our bodies'] cues, which say, 'I'm just not feeling my best anymore and you keep pushing me.'" —Aimee Raupp
To this end, Raupp contends that when we do speak with our bodies, the conversations tend to be pretty negative. This is, she says, because we hold certain deeply-ingrained derogatory or pessimistic beliefs about them. According to Raupp, these thoughts then help to fuel illness in the body because your beliefs dictate your behavior, and your behavior dictates your health.
When I note that it's unusual for a book about physical health to spend so much time addressing what's going on above your neck, e.g. thoughts and emotions, Raupp tells me that readers could just skip ahead to read her diet and the lifestyle recommendations. "You would see results for sure," she says. "However, I don't think you'd own them and I don't think they'd be lasting, because I think eventually what will win out is the belief system that you have."
Below, find an excerpt from the book that deep dives into the process of reconnecting with your body. Raupp calls this the most important step in attaining what is now my new #goal: thriving health.
Read an excerpt from Aimee Raupp's new book Body Belief (available March 13) below.
Reconnect to You
Reconnecting to yourself is the most important pillar of the Body Belief plan, because what I have found is that most people who walk through my clinic doors are disconnected from themselves. They are not in touch with their current state of health—mentally, emotionally, physically, and nutritionally. They don’t even have language for their emotional space beyond “I’m doing OK.” And they can’t quite convey their physical symptoms. It’s like they’re in a fog.
They may have a medical diagnosis they received from a Western doctor before coming into my office, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, or endometriosis, but beyond that they don’t really know how they feel or how to listen to their bodies. For instance, about 80 percent of the new clients I meet don’t know whether or not they had a bowel movement that day, or what it looked like, or how it felt coming out. Most of them are not sure if they feel rested in the morning, or how they feel after a big meal, or if they have more or less mental clarity as the day progresses. And if I were to ask them about their emotional space, most of them would not connect to that either. In fact, when we start discussing what it is they feel, they can’t really figure it out. They can identify what they are feeling only superficially, but not why or how long they’ve been feeling it, or from where it really stems.
In order to transform your health and heal you must be able to connect and communicate with your body, and it must be able to connect and communicate with you.
Do you ever connect the dots between your actions and how you’re feeling? For instance: “I skipped breakfast and had only a large cup of coffee; maybe that’s why I feel so lightheaded and my heart is racing.” Or, “I have such a headache in the morning; maybe I was clenching my jaw all night in my sleep because I’m so worried about ______________ (fill in the blank).” Or, “I feel so short-tempered and frustrated all day; maybe it’s because all I do all day is take care of everyone else and I have no time to take care of myself.”
What I would love for you is something like this: “I slept eight solid hours last night, and I feel so clear-headed today.” Or, “I ate a healthy breakfast this morning and my energy levels are better than I can remember.” Or, “I meditated for five minutes today and I feel so grounded and present.”
Many people lack effective communication with their body and mind. They have very little body awareness, and their emotional clarity is less than ideal too. What I am going to teach you is how to listen to your emotional and physical body cues so you can go from wondering “Why do I feel this way?” to “I know how I am feeling and why.” You are going to learn how to reconnect to you so you can heal.
It’s as if your body’s GPS can’t find a cell signal to get directions back home. There’s a loss of communication, a dropped signal, a cellular amnesia.
The word reconnect means to connect back together, to reestablish a bond. I am going to help you reestablish kind and compassionate communication with your body—from your cells on up. Your healing depends on it. Remember, autoimmune disease is a result of confusion and miscommunication in the body; something that was once identified as being part of you is now being perceived as something that is foreign and that needs to be rejected. It’s as if your body’s GPS can’t find a cell signal to get directions back home. There’s a loss of communication, a dropped signal, a cellular amnesia. Even more, it’s not just cellular miscommunication that causes your immune system to attack cells that are healthy and normal—it’s your emotional disconnect too.
Take Jennifer, a 38-year-old stay-at-home mom. She came to my clinic two years after the birth of her second child. I asked her how she felt and why she was coming to see me, and she said, “I feel like I’ve been hit by a truck.” When I asked her to describe her symptoms to me in more detail, she couldn’t. All she could tell me was how tired she was. Only when I began asking specific questions like, “What are your bowel movements like?” or “Do you have any skin rashes or dryness in any area of your body?” could she give me more information. As I completed my intake, I discovered that she experienced diarrhea, constipation, extreme fatigue, headaches, skin rashes, cold hands and feet, hair loss, terrible brain fog, depression, and joint pain. When I asked her about recent blood tests that her doctor took, she told me “My thyroid is normal.”
“No. Something is definitely up with your thyroid,” I said.
I have been practicing long enough to know exactly what a thyroid condition looks like. When I looked at Jennifer’s lab results, her thyroid numbers were within the normal range for the lab tests but they were not in the functional range. There’s a big difference: normal on a lab test can be a lot higher or lower than what a healthy functional range should be. So I suggested that she get a few additional tests. Sure enough, the new blood work showed what I suspected: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition of the thyroid where the immune system begins attacking the thyroid gland. Her doctor told her that medication wouldn’t help her at this point and perhaps she should talk to an endocrinologist. Frustrated and confused, she came back to me for a plan to get her health back. She wanted to feel better immediately.
“Tell me what to eat. Tell me what vitamins to take. I’ll do it all—just help me feel better,” Jennifer said.
“I will do all that,” I said. “But there’s still so much more for us to talk about. . . . Tell me about your emotional state. Are you happy?”
She started to cry. “Of course I’m not happy. I feel like crap every day.”
“When was the last time you were happy?”
She paused. “I don’t know.”
“So, were you happy before you started feeling unwell?”
“I guess not. Life’s just been so hectic with the kids, and my husband hates his job, and we’re so stressed about money, and I miss working. I’m so exhausted all the time and impatient. I really don’t like myself or who I have become. It’s all too much. Is there a vitamin for that?” she joked through her tears. “Really, it’s that I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
I handed her a tissue. “I hear you.”
The truth is, I hear this all the time. Especially from women who are suffering with autoimmune conditions. What I have concluded is that not only is there a loss of connection on the cellular level, but there is one on the emotional level too.
Not only is there a loss of connection on the cellular level, but there is one on the emotional level too.
Take Jennifer, for instance: Yes, she has an autoimmune thyroid condition that is causing her physical ailments, but what about her emotional mind-set? She confided in me her complete state of unhappiness, how disconnected she feels from herself, how she doesn’t even know who she is anymore. Her feeling unwell physically is just one piece of what is going on with her, and it’s completely tied to how she is feeling emotionally. What I discovered with Jennifer, as I have discovered with hundreds of other clients, is that the emotional piece preceded the physical symptoms.
Because her body heard everything her brain had been saying.
Jennifer’s brain was saying, “I don’t like myself or who I have become; I don’t know who I am anymore.”
And then her cells started saying the same thing: “Even though you were once a part of me, I no longer recognize you, so I am going to attack you.” That’s what autoimmunity is—a state of being disconnected from yourself so much that you can no longer differentiate self from the non-self, cellularly or emotionally.
What I saw in Jennifer is something I see often, even in myself—an inability to connect the dots as to why they feel the way they do. Take the example about myself that I shared with you earlier about the eczema I had from the emotional turmoil I was putting myself through over stopping breastfeeding. So many of you are doing the same thing I did—you are not living in your body enough of the time to understand the why behind how you are feeling. Maybe you have constipation but don’t understand why—is it from what you’re eating, your stress levels, dehydration, or all of the above? Or are you short-tempered and have fits of rage but aren’t clued into what sets you off or who or when the next attack of rage is coming? Or do you have incredibly restless sleep because you go to bed with so much on your mind that you spend the whole night processing instead of resting? This disconnection comes from moving through life too fast to notice the reason things are happening, and usually people move so fast precisely because they are avoiding their connection to their hearts and minds and bodies. They have numbed themselves to all feeling, and that cannot go on too long without ill effects.
Are your mind and body engaged in a standoff? Hilaria Baldwin offers some advice. Plus, dig deep into the fascinating history of the mind-body connection in fitness practices as pioneered by Joseph Pilates.
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