New research out of Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) has found that we can increase our appreciation of our bodies by paying better attention to our internal body sensations — such as our gut feelings.
Nope, we’re not talking about the kind of instinct or intuition that tells you something is amiss or guides you to make certain decisions. We’re talking about your actual gut feelings, also known as gastric interoception — the feelings of fullness or hunger that originate in your gut.
Researchers had 191 adults from the UK and Malaysia fast and then consume water. They measured:
- The amount of water the participants drank in relation to their stomach capacity.
- How the participants felt and what they experienced while drinking the water, which included having the participants complete questionnaires that examined different aspects of body image including appreciation of the body and the body’s functionality.
When it was all said and done, the researchers found an association between:
- A greater change in the intensity of the gut feelings after drinking water and,
- Significantly increased levels of appreciation of the body and the body’s functionality.
This was true for both the adults in the UK and the adults in Malaysia.
Jennifer Todd, a Psychology PhD student ARU and the study’s lead author, says:
Our study shows a clear link between bodily awareness, in this case the feeling of fullness, and body image. In other words, people who are more in tune with their body’s internal workings have a greater appreciation of their body in general.
So, why is this potentially the number one reason to trust your gut? At least, in my opinion?
It’s an almost immediate way to begin fostering a positive body image.
As concisely defined by PsychAlive, body image is “the perception that a person has of their physical self and the thoughts and feelings that result from that perception.”
Many people with body image issues — or negative body images — because of things they can’t change overnight or perhaps at all. For example:
- They think they’re too tall or too short.
- They believe they weigh too much or too little.
- They have a visible and distracting birthmark or scar.
- They have body parts they think are too big or too small.
- They think they’re too pale or too dark.
- They think they have too many freckles, their teeth are crooked, or their ears aren’t even.
Again, these aren’t things a person can change overnight (and I’m not suggesting they need to change them; I’m just acknowledging that for some people, removing a distracting birthmark or having their teeth straightened provides a big self-confidence boost and there’s nothing wrong with that) and in some cases it’s not something they can change at all.
However, you can pay attention to your body’s internal workings right now. You can tune in and feel your gut when it’s full of water, your lungs when they’re full of air, your muscles after a good stretch and start loving, respecting, and appreciating your body right now.
You can start working toward a positive body image at this moment. Forget the reasons you think your body looks wrong and tune into all the functions your body is doing right.