How To Listen To Your Body And Actually Get Answers

When diet and exercise fail, here’s what one expert recommends doing.

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When diet and exercise aren't working, we often blame ourselves. "What's wrong with me?" "This used to work, why isn't it working anymore?" "Is it my age? My genes? Maybe this is just how my body is now..."

Liz DiAlto
Liz DiAlto
Unless you've been to the doctor and you've been diagnosed with a thyroid or hormonal condition, chances are, it's not you. (And even then, it's still possible to change your body composition!)

The culprit here is usually your approach.

Trust me, after years of training my own body and hundreds of clients online and in person, I can say with confidence there is an approach that will work for you. It just requires trial and error, patience and kindness toward yourself, and a commitment to consistency. You can do it.

[Read: Are You Tough Enough to Complete a Tough Mudder?]

The best place to start is learning how to work "in" before you work out. This means listening to your body. Now, we hear people say, "Listen to your body" all the time, but most people don't actually know how to.

I've put together some key steps to help you tune in and get answers that will help you transform your body – whatever that means to you.

Most Americans spend a lot of time out of their bodies, living externally. By focusing on primarily external things like what you eat, how you look, what you weigh, who you're dating, where you're going and your daily to-do list, you condition yourself to go long periods of time without checking in with how you feel.

And I'm not just talking about emotions. I'm talking about deep in your gut, organs and even your cells. Many of us – unless we regularly practice yoga or meditation – don't take enough deep breaths each day, and we don't slow down for five minutes or more and ask our bodies, "Hey you! How's it going in there?"

[Read: 3 Meditation Techniques for Beginners.]

Our bodies are much smarter than our minds, so as we behave this way – rushing around, focused on the external world, ignoring ourselves – our bodies have to speak up like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum when they want attention. They do this in the form of illness, fatigue, stress and more. All of these things are like big fat stop signs begging us to slow down and pay attention to what's going on inside.

I know this because I lived the greater part of my 20s this way. It wasn't until 2011 that I learned to slow down, shut up and listen. Coincidentally, 2012 and 2013 have been way better years personally and professionally.

[Read: How to Stop Sabotaging Your Health.]

Here's a four-step technique to tune in and listen to your body and actually get some answers:

Step No. 1: Stop and take three deep breaths. And I do mean deep. Breathe into your belly for at least five seconds, pause and hold the breath for a second, and then exhale through your nose for at least five seconds.

Step No. 2: Ask your body a question. It's up to you whether it's out loud or to yourself, and that might depend on where you are, as well.

Step No. 3: Listen. This is kind of like a word association test. The first thing that pops into your mind is the answer.

Step No. 4: Trust the answer. Your body is wise.

[Read: The Most Effective Diet: Listening to Your Body.]

Now, I obviously don't expect you to start tuning into your body every day for every single thing you need to know immediately. I just want you to try it out. Start with small stuff like, "What do you want for lunch today?" and work your way up to more important things like, "Why do I keep hanging out with this person who is not a good friend?"

The best time to apply the technique: Any time you feel the urge to call, text, email, Facebook, Tweet, or smoke signal someone to ask their opinion on a situation, ask your body first.

For a more in depth crash course in tuning into your body, visit thecompletebodyprogram.com and download our free handbook, "What To Do When Diet and Exercise Aren't Working."

YOUR TURN! Have your own tips and strategies for tuning into your body? Share them in the comments. We love hearing from you!

[Read: Video: Top Chefs Talk Healthy Eating.]

Hungry for more? Write to eatandrun@usnews.com with your questions, concerns, and feedback. 

Liz DiAlto is a fitness and lifestyle coach, speaker and sought-after fitness personality. She's on a mission to help millions of women across the globe get the bodies and lifestyles they crave.

At the core of everything Liz creates is a belief that willpower stinks and simplicity, motivation and enjoyment are the non-negotiable keys to achieving success. Connect with Liz for fitness and lifestyle advice at lizdialto.com, and on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.