7 Signs that You’re Ignoring Your Body

When I was in medical residency I got my first ever urinary tract infection. Busy working 80+ hours per week, I was cutting back on how much water I was drinking to avoid having to make time to go pee during grueling hospital rotations, surgeries, and long hours in the clinic. Add coffee to the mix to help me stay awake for the over 30+ hour shifts that were required in residency back then. At first I ignored the sensations – the irritation in my bladder and bit of burning when I finally did urinate. But then the pain because so bad I couldn't ignore any longer. I felt like I was peeing out knives. My back was aching. I had a low-grade fever. And there was blood on my toilet tissue when I wiped. I had ignored a urinary tract infection all the way to a kidney infection. I had created an infection so serious that the doctor who saw me wanted to put me in the hospital for IV antibiotic therapy!

That week I took antibiotics for the first time in over 30 years. I had let things go too far to try to rescue the situation with my usual go-to natural medicines.

Prior to medical training, I was genius at listening to and respecting the wisdom of my body – knowing how to calibrate my diet and lifestyle at the first symptom of a cold or other discomfort, adding in an herb here or a nutritional supplement there. But doctors are some of the worst at listening to our own bodies. The training itself is known to teach physicians to ignore their bodies, including ignoring when they are sick. It also teaches us we are not our own best experts — but that is not true. 

After getting sick, you can bet your bootie that I got to paying full attention to my own BodySpeak™!  I started to teach women to do the same using BodySpeak™ – listening to our bodies so we can stay in the health sweet zone, rather than get sick from ignoring our own inner guidance systems. Because your Body is Your Best Health Expert!

Women come to me from all over the world looking for solutions for their health problems – from weight that’s been difficult to lose to complex autoimmune conditions. It’s natural, of course, to seek the advice of experts when we have problems we're having trouble solving.

But one expert that most of us forget to turn to is our own body. Our bodies are actually genius and, in fact, may be our best source of information if we can start to learn the language – millions of bits of information every second that our wonderful gut, brain, and immune systems do the work of processing and integrating to keep us well informed.

Yet at some point most of us stop listening to our bodies. We override our hunger signals with the latest diet, we get too busy to eat when we’re hungry, and we start to ignore small symptoms – the little signals that tell us when something is not right in our world – until they become too big too ignore, then sometimes forcing us to get medical attention. One of the things I do as a physician is remind women to tune back into the expert within — our inner wise woman who often  does actually have a pretty good clue about what's knocking us off balance — and how to regain it. It takes practice and some amount of diligence to remember to hit the pause button long enough to reflect — but when we do, it's amazing what we can learn about ourselves.

Why We Ignore Ourselves

The reasons we stop listening to our bodies are complex and include:

  • Not recognizing that our body is telling us something important
  • Not trusting what our body is telling us
  • Being too busy to listen or respond to the messages
  • Not wanting to hear the truth about what our body is telling us

The roots of mistrust in women’s bodies actually began centuries ago during a time in history when women’s intuition was considered irrelevant and unscientific, and our bodies, and the earth itself were all considered unsacred feminine. According to the 17th century scientist, Francis Bacon, women’s bodies, and the earth, were to be used as men saw fit. These philosophies formed the early roots of the scientific method and modern medicine, and continue to pervade how we are taught to think about and experience our bodies from the time we are born.

From our earliest years and our first visits to the doctor’s office, we are taught that we are not the experts on our own bodies and to hand our care over at every stage to the medical profession. When we go to the doctor, we are not asked what we think might be causing our chronic headaches, our recurrent urinary tract infections, or our difficulty losing weight. We are simply given a diagnosis and a prescription.

Can you imagine how different our experience of our bodies – and health care – would be if our doctors asked us, “So, what do you think this symptom is telling you right now?”

When I ask my patients this type of question I hear answers like,

  • I’m just not making any time to take care of myself.
  • I am in a really toxic work environment so I’m eating a lot more sugar than I know I should.
  • I’ve been really depressed since that break up and just keep sabotaging my weight and mood with ice cream.
  • My marriage is the biggest source of inflammation in my life.

Some of my patients just say they aren’t sure because they either haven’t taken the time to actually check in on how they are really feeling, and many just didn’t realize that the body can tell us truths about our lives. I believe that the body doesn’t lie – when things are going on in our lives that we can’t face head on, they often manifest as symptoms – sometimes small, sometimes glaringly loud and large!

Listening is the first and most important step to understanding your body's important messages. But most of us are so busy going about our lives that we ignore our body-speak – the language our body uses to get information to us. Some of it is quite basic and easy to learn!

Are You Ignoring Your BodySpeak?

So how do you know whether you are listening to – or ignoring – your body? You probably already have a clue. But here are 7 common things we women do to ignore our bodies. If you answer yes to any of these, then yup, m’dear, you too, are ignoring your body’s wisdom and clearest, strongest messages. If you answer yes to any of these, it’s time to take better loving care of YOU!

  1. You get headaches from not drinking enough water or not eating when you need to.
  2. You ignore your need to urinate at the first urge, instead waiting until you “really need to go.”
  3. You  ignore your need to have a BM because you don’t have time in the morning, don’t want to use the public restroom at work, or for some other reason.
  4. You  have blood sugar crashes. (They are telling you that you are ignoring your hunger signals and are either skipping meals or not eating enough good quality protein).
  5. You knowingly overeat past your satisfied and full signals. (Yes, why are you doing this?)
  6. You  have food cravings. (They are telling you your body needs something nutritionally, or that you need something emotionally or spiritually that you’re not getting or letting yourself go for!).
  7. You wake up tired and drink coffee for energy or you ever crash at 4 pm and grab for more caffeine and some sugar, too! (You need more rest and relaxation, and more balance in your life).

If you are doing any – or all! – of the above – I promise, you’re not alone. So are most of the women who contact me for health advice and medical care. But you’ve made a major shift toward realizing that your body is actually talking to you!

If you can simply start to pay attention and respond in a healthy way when you experience any of these BodySpeak clues, you will be on your way with the first steps to understand and respond to your Body Speak™.

Learning to listen to your body will take you to new levels of self-awareness and health. You’ll get sick less often, your weight will optimize, you’ll have energy you thought you’d never have again – and all of those little annoying symptoms will get the attention they need so they can stop bothering you!

To your good health,




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Read or leave comments 21 Comment

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Aviva, I appreciate that you refer here to the historical roots of this problem, because recognizing them is crucial if we're going to return to being people who honor our bodies and the larger life system. As an historian and scholar of spirituality and ecology, I teach Francis Bacon's writings partly to show the important evolution of the scientific method, but also to show my students a striking example of how early scientists held deeply condescending attitudes toward women and the Earth. Thanks for including this in your wise and helpful blog. When we recognize that some of our ways of thinking and behaving are based on outdated perspectives, we can choose a different way.

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    I couldn't agree more! Can we clone both of you? Strong, intelligent, wise women are the foundation of most families and essential for our future.

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Darla Sparrow

This week, I fell apart, was overwhelmed by what usually inspires me. I suddenly realized I'd had mastitis, and cold sore and a massive breakout of acne within 2 weeks. So I let myself fall apart, and cry and feel it all. Then I announced I was taking a mental-spiritual health week and got down to taking care of myself. Writing, taking long baths, napping and going to bed early, reading books, cooking healthy meals and deciding to stock up on the right supplements. I'm already doing better and am vowing to myself to make self care a top priority. I know it will be a challenge to schedule it in sometimes but I had the realization that self care is part of caring for my families health and I can look at it as part of my business plan because without it, neither my family or business can blossom.

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    Sending you strong wishes! Yes, we all fall apart now and then. Take care of yourself and make sure you reach out to the people who love you!!! :)

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Elizabeth Heck

So true Aviva. I too ignored the whispers which got louder until I had a major problem. Sad that sometimes we have to be hit over the head before we start listening. It's then that we learn to have more compassion/care for ourselves and step into our power. Let's hope many more women learn this earlier on. Thanks for your post!

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Laurie Gerber

So wise!

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Aviva, I don't remember how I found you but I think you are an answer to my prayers. A few weeks ago I turned 50 and I heard this voice in my head say "Don't neglect yourself any more" It's been a long journey and a hard life. I've been through a lot of healing emotional and mental. I'm ready for my physical to get on board. Your site came at the right time and I look forward to getting g to know you. Thanks for caring so much. hugs-Jamie

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Is it ok to go for a walk or exercise if you feel tired or sleepy around 3-4 p.m. ?

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    It's GREAT!

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Holly Hunter

Thank you for these wonderful blog posts that always seem to smack me right between the eyes. These are things I know yet I continue to ignore! I get so caught up in taking care of everyone else I tend to leave myself out. Late last year I ended up in the hospital ER twice over the worst UTI I've ever experienced! I had no idea a seemingly "simpl UTI could make my body hurt all over, completely zap all of my energy, make me nauseous, etc. I could barely function for a solid week while I recovered. But, the problem is I've gone back to too much caffeine, going to bed late, having headaches throughout the day, and eating too much sugar laden junk when I'm experiencing cravings. As a result I've recently put on a little weight, mostly to my belly. I'm done! I've scheduled an 8 day solitary personal retreat to my parent's mountain cabin in CO. During this time I will be doing a 3 day juice cleanse that involves removing caffeine. I will also be re-visiting all the supplements and tinctures I rarely use these days, going to bed early and rising when I'm rested. I plan to read, journal, do art and photography, hike, and...well, just relax and reboot and deeply analyze my habits self-care (and neglect). I matter and I deserve to treat myself better! Thanks Aviva! Maybe I will have time to read all of your past posts as well.

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    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Holly, This is Megan from Dr. Aviva's team. What you have planned sounds amazing and completely inspiring!! Just in case you have yet to read it, here is another one of Dr. Aviva's blogs that has been life changing for many! http://avivaromm.wpengine.com/get-rid-negative-thoughts Megan- Dr. Aviva Romm Nutritionist

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Thanks for this post - I am sick and couldn't figure out why. I've been struggling with identifying allergies/sensitivies in my life -- I cut out many things and simply stopped being sick (almost a full year now cold/sinus infection free!) This week I've been struggling with a sinus infection and couldn't figure out why - this helped a lot and helps me understand that sometimes I must seek antibiotics. Thank you very much!

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You mention the dangers of not drinking enough water a few times. But I want to add that many people, like me, have fallen for well-meaning advice to drink far too much. It was a revelation to me that drinking too much water can cause headaches, confusion, and other symptoms. I was plagued by regular headaches for a year, and they have mostly gone away now that I drink according to thirst instead of forcing down lots of water every morning. Health really is about paying attention to the body, or "dropping into the body," as Philip Shepherd teaches.

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    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Abby, This is Megan from Dr. Aviva's team and I just wanted to say great point! It's all about tuning into your body and listening in. This is at the core of what Dr. Aviva teaches! Thank you for sharing your story and experience. Megan- Dr. Aviva Romm Nutritionist

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Katie MacCionnaith

Aviva, I love this!! Can you share how you started listening to yourself in the middle of residency? I am a caregiver for a home with 11 patients who all have memory issues plus Parkinson's/stroke/etc., and I'm the NOC shift. I am a mama by day...not unlike a midwife schedule. Suggestions?

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Erika A

This is right on, Dr. Romm, especially with women having knowledge today from wellness blogs like yourself that we ingest like candy! I haven't been feeling myself for a long time. I have chronic lyme disease, which I have in control it seems most of the time - these ugly autoimmune lead to more inflammation and with that a host of unpleasant symptoms. I just suffer thinking that's what it is and eat very healthy, take probiotics regularly and get regular yoga and exercise. But the quality of my life could be so much better if someone could just help me. I've healed myself through my own research with books and blogs. My medical doctor has been testing the perfunctory labs. I felt in my gut the root of my problems could be metabolism so I asked her to check my thyroid. I had to beg her not to just test the TSH (I learned this through your lesson on thryoid testing). I told her I'd pay for the other tests, so finally she agreed and I just got the results. My TSH seems okay (1.4), but get this... my TS 3, which is what I asked her for, is 53, which is very low giving the normal levels. She has no clue on what to do, as she thinks the levels are "fine." (Then why am I slowly gaining weight on my small frame and always cold, constipated, anxious, nervous, foggy brained and achy?) Alternative doctors do not take my insurance. It's so frustrating. Our medical doctors are trained a certain way, but with our evolving health issues, like GMO and toxic corruption, medical doctors need an update. So, YES, you are right. More than ever we have to take control of our lives, our health and from there all will be well. I just have to figure out what to do now! It's' overwhelming.

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I think this is so important. Thanks for sharing this. I was not taught to listen to my body as a child and I think that learning this vital skill was key to regaining my health and wellness.

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Melanie Sanders

I have a sporadic work schedule and it seems to trigger a need for me to have 12 hours a sleep per day to feel normal. I'm afraid If I leave my job I won't be able to get the sleep I need to live in the normal day working class. Is that just way too much sleep? Is it bad for me?

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    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Melanie, This is Megan from Dr. Aviva's team. Sporadic work schedules can be tricky and it's really important to tune into what your body is telling you. Here is a wonderful article that Dr. Romm wrote on sleep that I think will be a helpful resource for you! http://avivaromm.wpengine.com/sleep-well-7-natural-tips-for-getting-great-zzzzz Megan- Dr. Aviva Romm nutritionist

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Great article, though I must say I find it so difficult to understand what my body needs sometimes. I knowingly overeat all the time. What does that usually mean? Thank you!