Inner Wisdom & How to Listen to Your Body
Outer vs. Inner Wisdom for Health & Weight Loss
How to listen to your body and access your inner wisdom
What’s the difference between inner wisdom and outer wisdom? And what impact can each have on our health and weight loss efforts? The majority of our health efforts center around outer wisdom: external knowledge and tools. Yet, most of us neglect or ignore the power of our inner wisdom, like learning how to listen to your body and its signals.
This “Inner & Outer Wisdom” framework has had a significant impact on my own relationships with food and health. Honestly, I now believe that our inner wisdom holds the key to making lasting change and achieving our health goals. And yes, this includes weight loss.
First, I had to realize how out of touch I was with my inner wisdom. (I didn’t even know what it was!) I had loads of outer wisdom, so much knowledge about nutrition and diets and health and expert opinions, but it was never enough on its own. Before I could make real progress towards my goals, or even reach and maintain my ideal weight, I had to build a solid foundation of inner wisdom and learn how to listen to my body.
In today’s video, you’ll learn about inner & outer wisdom, and the role each plays in our health. Plus, what’s missing from most of our efforts to live healthier, lose weight, and make changes that last.
What is Inner Wisdom vs. Outer Wisdom?
I spent most of my life believing the answer to health was to be found in nutrition education, science, knowledge, expert advice, dieting, and recipes! Certainly, all of these tools have been helpful, but they are aspects of outer wisdom.
Inner wisdom is valuable information that only you can access within yourself. This includes your personal biology/physiology (genetics), as well as your thoughts, emotions, and beliefs. It’s also an attunement to yourself and your bodily sensations, such as knowing when you’re hungry or full, as well as how foods taste and your preferences. And this requires learning how to listen to your body and hear what it’s trying to tell you.
In my own experience the last few years, I’ve found that outer wisdom can be most supportive to my health journey if I have that inner foundation first.
A foundation of inner wisdom is the ability to listen to our bodies. Outer wisdom can provide tools and guidance, but without inner wisdom, it can take over in an unhealthy way, or become a distraction.
Inner Wisdom is the Cake, Outer Wisdom is the Frosting
I like to think of inner and outer wisdom as a cake: our inner wisdom is the cake itself, and all of the outer wisdom is the frosting on top. A cake without frosting is still a tasty cake, and it has a structure to stand on its own. On the other hand, frosting isn’t much without a cake! Frosting has no structure, and it’s easy to overdo it on sweetness when consumed on its own.
Your inner wisdom is the structure for your own health journey; it’s the foundation on which everything else can be built and take shape. Then, all of your outer wisdom can add to that foundation. Just like cake and frosting, inner and outer wisdom are best when they’re together! We need both to achieve our health goals.
Ultimately, external health knowledge and tools like diets are only helpful if we know how to discern what is right for us—which requires a sturdy inner foundation. And you can cultivate that inner wisdom by learning how to listen to your body and tune in to your emotions.
Listen to Your Body & Reduce Emotional Eating
When it comes to applying the inner and outer wisdom framework to our relationships with food and health, tuning in to inner wisdom can help us reduce emotional and stress eating. We can learn to turn to healthier coping mechanisms, and to eat the foods we love in amounts that satisfy us—rather than trying to fill an emotional hunger.
If you struggle with emotional eating or overeating, you’re not alone! Personally, I struggled with binges driven by my stress and emotions for years. And, at the time, I didn’t realize that these cycles continued because I wasn’t attuned to my body, and I didn’t know how else to cope. Learning how to listen to your body and manage stress and emotions can help break cycles like these.
This downloadable worksheet and quiz can help you reflect and notice how much inner and outer wisdom are playing a role on your health journey, as well as possible signposts of disconnection between your inner and outer wisdom. Remember, we can benefit from and need both inner AND outer wisdom!
There’s no ‘scoring’ for this quiz—the purpose of this exercise is simply to increase self-awareness and get a clearer picture. Reflect on your answers to assess where your strengths lie, and what you’d like to improve.
If you feel stuck and stressed, or stuck in a dieting cycle that never ends, or stuck in cycles of stress eating or overeating—cultivating inner wisdom tools can help. By learning to tune in and listen to your body, you can connect more deeply and make greater progress with your health goals.
Today’s Journal Prompt:
What are your food rules? (i.e., when you’re supposed to eat, how much you’re supposed to eat, what kinds of foods are ‘allowed’ or not.)
Do you feel that you need a specific diet or way of eating in order to be healthy? Explain.