My star-sign is Libra. Apparently this means I am a balanced person who seeks harmony in every aspect of my life. I would love to say how true this is but, honestly, the only thing my star-sign got right is the image of the scales, which I relied on for a good six years in determining my self worth.
The definition of balance is:
“a situation in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.”
This concept is one that has always eluded me. I have always been an all or nothing kind of person, a perfectionist, the kind of person who will do it right or not do it at all. These, of course, are prime personality traits in facilitating the onset of eating disorders. And of course when disordered eating sets in, all hope of balance goes out of the window. I remember my mum saying to me once in the early stages “you’re either eating nothing at all or everything in sight”, which was true – I would starve myself for a few days only to give in and react to the deprivation I had suffered through, with eating all the foods that weren’t allowed when I was on my diet, bread, cakes, pizza etc etc. And then later on, a couple of years ago when getting into the fitness lifestyle, balance seemed further away than ever. I followed people who used hashtags such as #nodaysoff, or had a square of dark chocolate as a “treat” and didn’t include anything in their diet that wasn’t clean. I even remember admiring a girl I followed a couple of years ago, for her determination in tucking into her tupperware lunch on Christmas day, because why would she ruin her progress with Christmas dinner? At the time I didn’t realise how dangerous this was, especially to young, vulnerable girls like myself who are so susceptible to the images they’re seeing every day from their “role models”.
This is why it is crucial we fiercely promote and advocate balance wherever possible, in magazines, through our favourite role models, journal articles, blogs and so on.
My lifestyle completely changed when I decided to do what I wanted to do, rather than what everyone else was doing. I went from strength training for 2 hours a day, 6 days a week with daily cardio to training for no more than an hour 5 days a week. I went from counting every single gram of carbohydrate, protein and fat that entered my body, to actually showing my body self compassion and intuitively listening to the signals of what my body wants me to eat, when I’m hungry and when I’m full. I now do a mix of just about everything – yoga, weights, running, calisthenics, spinning. Yes it means I probably won’t excel in just one domain, but it provides me with variety and it means I have options – for example if I wake up one day feeling sore and heavy, I do some yoga. If it’s a beautiful day outside, instead of feeling like I have to be stuck in the gym, I go for a run. Or, I do nothing at all – because that’s okay too. Never, ever feel guilty for resting.
So what is your own interpretation of health? As much as I’ve tried I absolutely despise green juices, have and never will enjoy pilates and I have absolutely no desire to eat clean. Instead, my body and my mind feels the brightest when I eat a good proportion of nutritious foods (I looove fruit and vegetables – as long as they’re not juiced), do some sort of movement every day, and eat the foods that make my soul happy, such as pizza and chocolate and WINE. You’ve got to figure out what makes your body, mind and soul feel good, nourish yourself in order to function optimally and effectively and let go of the idea that “health” and “losing weight” go together – they don’t. The health and fitness industry is a multi billion pound pile of bullshit promising that it will melt all your fat, tone your tummy and help you lose 10 pounds in two weeks. It encourages you to try the latest weight loss pill or the new fad diet. However, it has been proven time and time again that DIETS DO NOT WORK. The majority of people end up gaining back more weight than they had in the first place, which then creates a viscous circle of people going back for more.
To really be “healthy” you need to find what works for you. This should be something you can stick to happily and consistently, without feeling like you’re sacrificing other aspects of your life, such as going out for tea or skipping the gym to do some much needed work. It should mean that you can have two cookies without the need to eat the whole pack as you know that by next you’ll be deprived of them again. Or alternatively if you’re hungry for them – go ahead, eat the whole pack! It should mean you break a sweat every so often but to have a good workout you don’t need to leave the gym absolutely dripping.
So stop listening to your friend who claims she feels amazing doing this juicing detox (guaranteed she doesn’t) or your colleague who refuses the piece of cake because they’re on a low carb diet. These things (for the majority of people) aren’t healthy and they aren’t sustainable.
Health comes in all different shapes and sizes, and the idea that one size fits all is simplistic and reductionist.
My journey to balance has taken me a long, LONG time, but it is so worth it. Find your balance and health will follow soon after.
Happy Christmas everyone!