When we think about building better health habits we often think that we have to embark on a big program where we have to change everything at once. We expect that it will be hard. We gear up and find a time to start when we can focus our energy.

I find that for most of us, the first step is just slowing down enough to really listen and trust what our body is asking for. Our mind might say cold salad while our body says warm chicken curry. We might be planning a long run or a hard spin class when our body says today is a yin yoga day. Elevating our stress hormones when we listen to the list of “shoulds” both inside our own heads and in society won’t build optimal health no matter how healthy the habit.

I recently worked with a client who had a whole list of things she would not eat because they were what she described as “bad foods”. While we worked together, we slowly reintroduced some of these new foods. It turns out when she let go of the stress and judgment that she had attached to the foods, she created space to feel how the foods actually felt in her body. Some made her body hum and others left her feeling not so good and some she realized didn’t even taste very good. In the process, she also realized that she experienced fewer digestive issues, some of that was caused by certain foods and some of it was having a more relaxed attitude around food.

Have you ever wondered what magic would happen if you approached health as a process where you learn from your body instead of an all or nothing goal? As we get ready for the new year and we take stock of our health and wellness goals for ourselves, I encourage you to start to take some time to really listen to you what your body is telling you. Could your afternoon coffee and chocolate habit be due to a dip in energy because you simply don’t get to bed with enough time to get the amount of sleep your body needs and not due to some kind struggle you are having with willpower?