Lately, I’ve been contemplating the concept of ‘balance,’ which has become a very overused word in the world of health and fitness. Balance seems to represent something different for everyone, depending on their health and fitness goals. For some, balance means having a teaspoon of peanut butter on their rice cake instead of eating it plain. For others, balance is having an entire pepperoni pizza and a glass of pinot grigio. Balance, as a concept, has been used to validate and justify disordered eating, binges, treats, cheat meals and more. But what does it really mean?
- Eating Healthy but not Restricting is very challenging for anyone who feels a strong desire and pressure to be slim and stay slim. We live in a society where restricting is viewed as “motivation” and thin is viewed as “successful.” Salads are the only acceptable option on the menu and everything needs to be gluten-free, dairy-free, nightshade-free, meat-free, carb-free and basically, calorie-free. Pass the celery?
- Being Mindful of Food but not Obsessing over ingredients, calories, macros, etc. too much unless you are on “prep” or a professional athlete. The fitness community can be somewhat irresponsible when it comes to sharing the grueling diet and fitness regimes that are followed by competitors on prep and professional athletes. Unless it’s your full-time job or career, spending hours analyzing food content can result in disordered eating and thinking. If you’re on a diet, calorie-counting and macros-counting can be important and will help you lose weight, but know when your diet will end and stick a time-limit on it.
- Exercising to Stay Fit but not Punishing your body because this will wreak havoc on your mind. Extreme over-exercising puts stress on your body and elevates your cortisol levels, which affect your sleep, your hunger hormones, your mood and much more. Not to mention that exercising for punishment takes the joy out of something that should be fun and should help relieve stress rather than causing it. Have fun with your fitness and enjoy feeling fast, fit and strong!
- Enjoying Food but not Over-Indulging will help you maintain a steady metabolism and balanced blood sugar levels. It will also avoid the urge to restrict to make up for having a few too many chocolates or calories. Food shouldn’t be primarily for pleasure, it should be primarily for nutrition and we should eat with our health in mind. It can become a drug and it’s important not to approach food this way. Try to be aware of your emotional triggers and find another outlet that is not food or alcohol. Easier said than done after a hellish week at work, right?
- Having a Drink but not Bingeing is the healthiest way to consume alcohol. Giving up alcohol altogether is not easy and when I tried this, I found myself avoiding ALL social situations for the fear of succumbing to my cravings and having a drink. This was a very long, lonely year and I missed out on many opportunities to enjoy a drink with friends. Going from party-girl to sober and back to party-girl again, I am now finding a new form of balance when it comes to alcohol. Is there a way to drink and not get hangovers? If so, let me know!
- Working Hard but not Pressuring yourself to be perfect in every aspect of your life. If you prioritize fitness and health, other areas of your life will take a backseat. I don’t know many people who work really long hours and have very successful careers AND very full, exciting, boozy social lives AND the body of a fitness model. If you’re out there and you have all of the above, please call me ASAP and tell me your secret. For me personally, I feel that I can have two out of three but not all three at the same time. Maybe next year, I’ll have mastered the art but this year, my goal is to have two out of three and be balanced and happy. In my experience, putting pressure on yourself in all areas of your life is not good for your mental or physical health.
Through my journey so far, I have not yet achieved balance. I have see-sawed from ultra-healthy to ultra-indulgent. I have bounced from not drinking at all to boozing and cruising. These behaviors result in extreme distress, anxiety and guilt. The impact on mind and body? Torture! Weight gain ensues and your metabolism and digestive system don’t know what to do with themselves. Sleep is disrupted and mood is a rollercoaster. Your mind torments itself up with feelings of failure, disappointment, discouragement and more. Sugar levels and energy levels are all over the place. It’s not a healthy way to live! During 2015-16, I was eating extremely healthy and exercising every single day. I was on a path of weight-loss and I was the fittest I’ve ever been. But my social life suffered and so did my friendships. During 2016-17, I have been eating and drinking whatever I want and have spent a lot of time indulging. My social life is the best it has been in years. But I feel really bad about myself, guilty about the weight I’ve gained, and disappointed that I am not the lean, mean, fitness machine I used to be. So where do I go from here? The next chapter of my journey will be finding a point halfway between the ultra-healthy and ultra-indulgent. This is scary and exciting but my body feels ready for a positive challenge and some positive changes.