Don’t Listen to Your Body

“Your body will tell you what it needs!” “Pain is your body’s way of communicating with you… listen to your pain!” “Listen to the body’s wisdom when you’re sick! Lay around like a sack of crap and eat macaroni and cheese!”

Okay look, I’ll agree that the body makes some valid arguments every now and then.

  • That huge amount of pain when you step on a nail and then step on another nail when you’re trying to get away from the first nail, and then you fall into a thorn bush? Listen to that pain. Maybe take a few days off.
  • The fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea when you have intestinal parasites? Your body knows what it’s talking about. Shine on, you crazy diamond.
  • Got the flu? That shit’s dangerous, and all the symptoms that your body’s throwing at you are right on. Feel free to blunt them with Theraflu or whatever, but this is one of the few cases of your body not overreacting.

Otherwise? Your body tends to be full of shit, some parts more than others. While your body should be a valued member of your healthcare team, and you should give its opinions due consideration, sometimes it’s tripping balls and needs to be quietly shuffled off to another room where it can spout its conspiracy theories in peace.

You've been reading those blogs again, haven't you?
Source: Will, via flickr, CC BY 2.0

What could I possibly be talking about? When is the body, in its infinite wisdom, ever wrong? So glad you asked.


You hurt. Your knees ache, your low back is killing you, and your hips feels like they’re just going to lock up or explode. No matter how much you rest, it keeps getting worse. Your body says you’re injured, and you start to get the idea that you’re permanently broken.

You should get even more rest, right? Your body says don’t move, so you should listen, right? Hell no. Exercise, even if it hurts, is among the best treatments for osteoarthritis, and an effective treatment for getting it to stop progressing.


Tired, so tired. I know it, man. Depression sucks, and your body is heavy, tired, and often painful. Your body says lay in bed while your brain works you over.

Again, nope. Tell your aching, leaden body to shut up and get outside and do some windsprints. Walk. Do some squat thrusts and handstands. Exercise can be as effective as medication for the treatment of many cases of depression, even leading to remission.

The Common Cold

“Listen to your body when you’re sick! Don’t take medicine that shuts down your symptoms, suffering is how you get better!” No one ever says that last part, but it’s implied.

Well, it’s garbage. The common cold is often asymptomatic, and you fight it off just fine. Hell, you might have a cold right now, and your body doesn’t even have the decency to tell you. The fact is that the typical immune system fights off rhinovirus just fine without all the gross, drippy symptoms; it’s just that some of our bodies act like it’s the freakin’ upper respiratory Apocalypse. That’s right, you’re the one causing the miserable, drippy, hacking, throat-on-fire symptoms, all in a ridiculous attempt to expel a small percentage of the virus.

Body, you’ve got this. Your little lymphocytes will figure out the right formula for antibodies, and then it’s just a matter of rallying the troops. All the theatrics are your body being a GD drama queen.


Enough said.

So, should you never listen to your body? No no, just realize that your body is dealing with limited information presented in a crude manner, and that your brain is Albert flippin’ Einstein compared to your crudely cobbled corpus. Listen to its input, listen to your intuition (more on this later), and then do your research. What’s the best approach to this particular malady? Should I stay off a twisted ankle for the full 2 weeks that my body says I should? Should I hide under a pile of coats every time I have a panic attack (much more on this later)? Maybe I should say, “Listen to your body. Just don’t trust it.”

You’ve got a rich network of information available to you, and your somatic nervous system is just a tiny fraction of it. As I said in an earlier post, all I want is for us to get to the point of feeling okay, and sometimes your body isn’t helping.

Am I wrong? Come argue with me in the comments!

2 thoughts on “Don’t Listen to Your Body

  1. You have a provocative way of writing about serious things but i get your idea. I guess those sentences you start your article with came from a reaction to an extreme positition of a vision of men and women like machines with no conection whatsoever to their own body that a wise doctor would come and take care of, you would then be absent of your body, in a neurotic way, kind of like living the car for someone to fix. Someone who knows better and that will fix you. People wouldn’t know anything about where they should go in what concerns their health. The doctor, sometimes not even looking at his patients, knew better and there. That made people lay off responsability of their own health and had some serious consequences. So like everything, when you go from one extreme to the other you loose the big picture. And so you get this also radical perspectives you open with.
    I loved your article because, in a very light way calls our attention to something crucial, the need for balance and thinking! That’s very wise and needed this days int his areas. Knowledge in some many areas of study and science grew immensly in a short period of time but with huge amounts of information you can easily get lost of the big picture and be focused in extreme radical points of view the end up being an impedment of growth and better health and well being instead of the contrary. Congratulations and thank you for sharing this. I’m sorry about my poor english. Writing from Portugal. All the best to you and your readers. Joana

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