What is biofeedback? How can it help you on your fitness or nutrition journey? Read this post to learn about biofeedback and listening to your body while on a nutrition plan or exercise regimen.
Hi there! My name is Chantal. Welcome to my website!
For context, I’m a mom, certified personal trainer, as well as a nutrition coach.
*I am NOT a doctor. What I share with you today is general information in layman’s terms. The science goes way beyond what I can explain in one post, and I encourage you to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing issues!
Today I want to talk about something that might be totally new to you if you’re just starting out on a fitness or nutrition journey.
Honestly, for me personally, I tried and failed to follow a fitness regime and nutrition plan until I learned about these things I want to share with you today.
Fitness and nutrition might NOT be new to you either, but you might have started and stopped your journey because of similar reasons to mine.
I just didn’t know how to keep going when I went through various cycles of my journey!
What am I talking about?
It’s something called biofeedback!
What is biofeedback?
According to VeryWell, biofeedback is defined as:
“…a mind-body technique that involves using visual or auditory feedback to teach people to recognize the physical signs and symptoms of stress and anxiety, such as increased heart rate, body temperature, and muscle tension.”
In the world of fitness & nutrition coaching, it’s basically learning how to listen to your body and respond to any symptoms you might be having.
Ways to monitor biofeedback can range from elaborate medical tests, to monitoring your sleep, to simply paying closer attention to the way your body feels.
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Learning about biofeedback can help you make small changes to your routine in order to get over plateaus, cope with stress, address hormonal issues, and more.
And, if you’re like me, learning how to listen to your body can help you stick to the plan and quit quitting! Why didn’t anyone tell me about this stuff before?
As you already know, there are many different factors that contribute to overall health. Your body responds to everything you do and don’t do.
It responds to internal factors (such as what you put in your body) as well as external factors (like having a busy week, financial stress, etc).
While your body doesn’t always seemingly exhibit obvious signs, symptoms, and changes with each thing it is subjected to, there are some things we can look for to help us make different choices in the name of health.
Here are some of the things you can learn to monitor on your own:
- Bloating / Digestion Issues
- Strength Levels
- Energy Levels
- Sleep / Rest
- Caffeine Intake
- Lack of Water
- Hunger / Over or Undereating
- Mental, Emotional, & Hormonal State
Biofeedback and learning the signs and symptoms that your body exhibits takes time. But it can be super helpful on your journey, so there’s no better time to start than now!
Bloating & Digestion
Every woman knows what bloating feels like.
It can present as an uncomfortable feeling of fullness that can seem like sudden unexplained weight gain. It can also be associated with constipation and involves water retention for various reasons.
It’s uncomfortable and can be very discouraging when it presents itself on the scale!
If you are experiencing bloating or constipation, it can throw off your hunger cues, bowel movements, and make you feel sluggish and full.
However, since bloating & digestion issues are almost always related to what you are eating (or not eating) and water intake, it is something you can learn to navigate yourself.
Eating junk food and very salty foods (and overeating in general) are often to blame for bloating and digestion issues.
If you are experiencing bloating, constipation, or other digestion issues, there are some specific things you can do in response:
- Increase your water intake
- Cut back on salty & high-fat foods
- Increase fruit and vegetable intake (they can be rich in fiber)
- Increase fiber intake in general – it’s a large factor in proper digestion and regular bowel movements
Related Reading: 13 Easy Ways To Drink More Water Every Day
Strength/Energy Levels & Sleep
Have you ever had a workout that you just couldn’t get through because you felt weak or tired?
It’s important to listen to your body when that happens!
When your strength and energy are low, it’s important to look at the reasons why that could be happening and respond accordingly.
As you might have already learned, a tired body & brain has a hard time making good decisions. Your nutrition or workout plan will suffer if you don’t have energy.
If you are experiencing low strength or energy levels, here are a few ways to respond:
- Try to go to bed earlier each night
- Cut back on late-night screen time
- Try calming tea, melatonin, or relaxing aromatherapy before bed
- Take a break from heavy workouts for a couple of days
- Make your room darker
- Get on a more consistent sleep & wake schedule (use an alarm)
- Create a nighttime ritual that will help you wind down consistently each night (i.e. hot bath followed by reading)
Related Reading: 10 Easy Ways To Get Better Sleep
Stress & Caffeine
Stress & caffeine are also related to sleep & energy levels. Caffeine can give you energy, but it can also increase anxiety levels and create a dependency/bad habit.
The more you drink, the more you need. Then it can affect your sleep and your ability to focus. When you can’t focus, it’s harder to stick to your plan.
It’s kind of a vicious cycle.
Sleep is obviously an important factor in your caffeine dependency and a lack of sleep contributes to your stress levels.
(Poor sleep increases cortisol levels. This is the stress hormone that can negatively impact weight loss and increase your risk for a variety of illnesses.)
It is important to keep your caffeine intake low in order to improve your sleep and stress levels.
The suggested daily maximum is 400 mg. One 8 ounce cup of coffee has approximately 100 milligrams, so keep that in mind!
As far as stress goes, know that it is super important to keep stress levels low as often as possible to be in good health. (Not just while on a workout or nutrition program!)
High stress can make it harder to focus, easier to overeat, impact sleep, cause hormonal weight gain, make you more likely to get sick, and more!
True health and the best results in your program requires that you practice self care, take rest days, and find effective ways to manage your stress.
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Ways To Manage Stress & Caffeine Dependency
- Eat mood-boosting foods. Here’s a list.
- Be sure to eat foods rich in antioxidants to combat stress & sickness. (Blueberries, broccoli, spinach, strawberries, etc.)
- Practice meditation or spend time in prayer daily
- Find simple ways to practice self-care daily – stretching, reading, painting your nails, etc. Whatever helps you calm down!
- Go for easy walks daily
- Get outside and get your daily dose of Vitamin D
- Improve your circadian rhythm (sleep & wake cycle) by darkening your bedroom and going to bed at a consistent time
- Cut back on caffeine gradually to avoid headaches or fatigue
- Know when to take a break! Increasing your activity levels and decreasing your food intake places stress on your body.
- It’s okay to have a few days off – just focus on great nutrition when you do!
Related Reading: 25 Easy, Must-Try Self Care Ideas For Moms
Water / Hunger
Water and your hunger levels play big roles in your success on this journey.
Did you know that not getting enough water actually promotes bloating and inhibits digestion?
If you don’t get enough water, your body will retain whatever you do have and not be able to effectively flush out any toxins or other waste.
Then, of course, there are other symptoms and issues that come along with dehydration. They can affect your ability to exercise, your focus, and many other bodily functions.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of dehydration:
- Sweating, diarrhea, vomiting
- Fatigue / tiredness – studies show that dehydration shortens your sleep duration
- Dry skin, cracked lips
- Headaches & dizziness
- Heart palpitations & low blood pressure
- Poor concentration & altered mental state
The moral of the story = drink up! About a half-gallon per day should do for most people.
Whether you’re over-eating or under-eating, hunger levels can be an important biofeedback measurement.
If you are overly hungry for many days in a row, it can cause undue stress to the body and set you up for failure. The result could be binging, tiredness / low energy, low strength, etc.
If you are very hungry for many days in a row and can’t seem to satiate the hunger, it’s time to consider lowering your deficit percentage to a more modest amount.
While an aggressive deficit will often yield great results for a time, it quickly becomes unsustainable and can lead to a crash-and-burn.
You will also be unable to gain muscle at a good rate if you aren’t consuming enough. Your workouts will suffer, too.
The same goes for feeling overly full – it can negative affect all of your efforts!
Navigate hunger issues by adding or removing 150-200 calories per day until you feel a bit more leveled and your hunger feels in control.
P.S. If you want to learn more about nutrition and go back to the basics, check out this online nutrition coaching course I created!
Mental, Emotional & Hormonal
It is super normal to experience mental, emotional, and hormonal fluctuations throughout your program.
Actually, it’s something we women will deal with forever – so we need to learn how to navigate them!
Whether you are happy, sad, burnt-out, or downright emotional, it’s important to address those emotions!
You don’t have to give up on progress towards your goals just because you are experiencing changes mentally, emotionally, or hormonally.
We can’t control everything, but we CAN learn to be self-aware. Being self-aware and knowing the cause of our emotions and mental state is the best way to fight back against back-tracking.
The best thing to do is become aware of what you are feeling or experiencing, and consider the root or reason you are experiencing that.
Sometimes this takes a few days or even weeks, but it we understand more about our emotions or mental state, we can learn to respond more effectively.
For example, we may not always know why we feel down or downtrodden and overcome by hunger.
Then suddenly, our monthly cycles appear and explains why we felt an influx of emotions and hunger.
Knowing that it had to do with something out of our control (and being self-aware in body and mind) we can give ourselves grace and take a little extra care!
At the end of the day, just know that our mental and emotional states can be affected by hormones as well as outside factors. When experiencing changes in these things, be sure to practice extra self-care and get good rest!
That’s it, folks! One could get way deeper into biofeedback (using medical testing) but this is enough knowledge to get you started, right?
To recap – what is biofeedback?
It’s the signs and signals your body gives you when it’s time to adjust and make changes! That’s all, really! Learn to listen to your body and respond accordingly.
Hopefully know you can understand biofeedback and use it to find success on your journey.