What Does Balance REALLY Look Like?
Is it truly possible to balance eating healthy and living your life to the fullest? I don’t just think so, I know so...because I live it! It wasn’t always this way though, love--and I don't want you to feel discouraged, so I'll give you some background into my own struggle...
There was a point in my life when I thought that if I wanted to be healthy, I couldn’t indulge in the things I loved. Many years ago, I believed…
> healthy meant no sugar, so I tried to forget about how much I loved ice cream. (And dark chocolate. And cookies.)
> it would be best to stay within the confines of whatever my “diet of the moment” was while out to dinner with my girlfriends, which meant no bread basket for this girl.
> that if I worked out hard enough or ran enough miles, then I could enjoy the foods (and wine) I was looking forward to eating that day without feeling bad about it.
I wondered if it was even possible to be healthy while also enjoying my life without regret. Can you relate?
After many internal battles that ended with me feeling guilty for doing the things I simply looooved to do (think having drinks with girlfriends and occasionally going overboard, eating half a pint of ice cream for absolutely no reason, or indulging in spaghetti and meatballs on a Sunday night), I decided that I had to let go of feeling like the things I loved were “wrong” or “bad”.
I said goodbye to feeling crazy around food and the way I lived my life. Why did I decide things had to be so one-sided? Why couldn’t I just let myself have both? Was it so wrong to want to be healthy and eat well most of the time, but also allow myself the freedom to enjoy being human?
No. It’s not. But many people, especially the media, love to tell us that living this way is impossible. They tell us we can’t have our (gluten-free) cake and eat it too.
They tell us we have to deprive ourselves of the foods we love if we want to have a bikini body.
They tell us we have to workout insanely hard to achieve our desired look.
They tell us we have to look like a perfect 10 if we want to be happy.
You absolutely can have both if you allow yourself the freedom and time to do so. You can work towards your health goals while also enjoying your life!
Here are a few nuggets of wisdom to help you create balance between eating and being healthy while still enjoying your life:
1. Be realistic about your goals and don’t compare yourself to others (others being those famous celebs or fitness models we can’t seem to escape).
If you’re trying to get healthy in a sane and realistic way, it will take time. You can’t undo the damage you may have been doing for years with either poor diet choices or lack of exercise in just a few weeks or even months. Regardless of what you hear in the media, it will take you time to achieve your goals–and if you stick with it, beautiful things will happen.
Yes, celebrities may get back to their “post-baby” bodies in a matter of weeks. Yes, Jennifer Anniston still looks like she’s 30 in her late-40’s. And yes, it seems like every celebrity that’s on the cover of a fitness magazine has 6-pack abs.
But here’s the real talk: they have round-the-clock people working for them that help them get into shape and take care of their looks. It’s their job. To add insult to injury, there’s always the magic of photoshop. NO ONE REALLY LOOKS FLAWLESS, ladies. Ok, maybe Giselle…but she doesn’t count.
See? Here’s me pre- and post-photoshop magic. I never use altered photos on my site, but my latest photographer gave me retouched photos and it was a perfect way for me to show you what REAL looks like (with a few wrinkles, hormonal pimples, and dark spots).
What you see in magazines isn’t real. And often times, what you read about bikini bodies, getting into shape in just a few days or weeks, and eating based on the hottest new diet are completely false. Why compare yourself to a celebrity that is living a life of extremes that is much different than your reality?
Get healthy on your own terms and do it from a place of happiness. Be okay with the fact that you may never look like someone else, but instead, you’re going to look like the best version of you (which is way better anyway). Learn about food and nutrition when it comes to what works best for your body. Take action and the rest will fall into place.
2. Simplify your definition of health and balance.
Eating well, being healthy, feeling balanced, and having fun can be pretty simple.
Eat nourishing foods: organic vegetables and fruits, leafy greens, nuts and seeds, grains (if you digest them well), wild fish, and healthy fats.
Choose protein sources wisely and aim for local farms: do your best not to purchase conventionally-raised animal protein. This is better for the animals that have to undergo such poor treatment, and it’s also much better for your body (no antibiotics, steroids, or hormones). Eat a mainly plant-based diet and include animal protein when you feel your body needs it. A great book to help you determine this is The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates.
Exercise: as much as it feels good to you. Try bootcamps to build strength, endurance, and bone mass (these workouts are great for women 35+). Try yoga if you’re constantly stressed. Get out in nature and jog and bike around. Swim while the weather is warm.
Surround yourself with loving relationships: you can’t be healthy without mental happiness, and your relationships are just as important as your food. Surround yourself with people you love and who love you back. Do things for them that make them smile. The more positivity you surround yourself with, the less likely you will be to make decisions that don’t support your health goals (it’s a lot more difficult to drown your sorrows in a pint of ice cream after a breakup if your best friend comes over and wants to take you out for dinner).
Do what makes you happy or find happiness in what you do: we spend a lot of our time working. If you’re not in a position that you enjoy, I encourage you to change your trajectory, or if that’s not feasible, fall in love with what you do so you actually look forward to going to work.
What does balance look like for me?
I eat pretty well and make healthy food a priority in our home. Most of the food I buy is organic and our animal protein comes from a local farm that delivers to my doorstep. We pay a premium for this service, but I believe in the “pay now or pay later” philosophy when it comes to my health. And I sure as hell would rather pay now in delicious food then pay later and deal with a debilitating disease and ridiculously high medical bills.
I exercise. Weight-lifting classes, combined cardio and weight classes, and yoga are a part of my weekly regimen. Other days, I choose not to exercise at all and just stretch or go on a nice walk. I also love to bike outside with my husband. I choose my exercise based on what I’m feeling like for the day, as well as what I have time for. You can get in a heart-pumping HIIT workout or yoga routine in just 20 minutes. So to me, there’s always time to break a sweat, and I never regret the decision to workout after it’s done.
I have a loving, supportive marriage. I can also get into moods where I feel out of balance, but he’s always there to remind me that doing my best is what counts.
I very much enjoy having a drink or two during the week and on the weekends. I allow this to happen whenever I’m in the mood for it, even if it’s a Tuesday night. My friends know that if I’m coming over, it’s probably with a bottle of champagne. Life’s a celebration, right?
On the days where I don’t feel like cooking, it’s okay. I order dinner from a healthy restaurant nearby and that works.
If I’m in the mood for something that used to be on my “naughty” list (think pasta, pizza, meatballs, or anything Italian), I allow myself to have it.
I do my best to steer clear of the foods that don’t make me feel good after I eat them (gluten, high in sugar, conventional dairy), but if I end up eating them, it’s okay. I just make sure to take a probiotic or drink some kombucha to counterbalance my digestion. And I’m right back to feeling awesome the next day and not worried that I “cheated.”
Oh, and obvi…I love my job. I got so fired up writing this blog post that I begged my husband to read it when he came home. So of course, I love what I do.
Things weren’t always this way. It took me years to learn how to eat well for my body, how to really enjoy exercise without worrying about whether or not it was going to keep me “skinny,” how to take charge of my life and embrace entrepreneurship, and how to open myself up to the unconditional love of another.
But now, everything I described is how I truly live my life.
What does balance look like for you? Have you struggled with being healthy and “living your life?” Do you overdo it on the healthy side and completely let loose when you’re trying to have fun because you’re sick of being so strict? Do you think more of a balance is attainable? Can’t wait to hear from you!