My previous post was about dieting and why diets aren’t really a good solution for weight loss (Ten Reasons to Stop Dieting). In this post I discussed how diets are restrictive and how this often leads to failure because it’s not something that can be sustained for a prolonged period of time. While doing my research for that post I found that I was beginning to ask how exactly you eat healthy without having a restrictive diet; in other words: what is balance and how do you do it?
The only thing that’s easy to understand about balance is that it is different for everyone. That’s what makes it so difficult. For some people a balanced diet will be one treat a day, for others it will be a treat on special occasions. For some people a balanced lifestyle will involve regular exercise, for others it won’t. So how do you find your balance?
While there is no precise algorithm for creating balance there are some basic guidelines that can help you find a framework that works for you.
It’s All About Mentality
The thing that comes before a healthy diet or an exercise regime is having a healthy mindset. Probably the first thing to work on is to stop seeing food as bad and to stop using exercise as punishment. Food isn’t evil. Yeah, there are some foods that aren’t so great for you, but that doesn’t mean that you should never, under any circumstance, have it. It’s a similar story for exercise. While exercise can be great for your body, you shouldn’t use it as a way of punishing yourself for what you ate and you should never exercise if you are getting sick or are injured.
Having a healthy balance in life is all about learning to love who you already are. Once you’ve learned how to do this finding a diet and exercise balance becomes so much easier because you don’t see food an exercise as means of making you happy with who you are. So how does one embark on the journey of loving themselves?
- Spend time with yourself. It’s easy to have harsh thoughts about ourselves and just brush it off as normal. Next time you have some time to spare, sit down with yourself and start asking the difficult of questions of “why”. When you don’t feel good about yourself or if something really brings you down just take some time to reflect on it and ask yourself what is it that makes you feel that way.
- Find what you love about yourself. Everyone finds it so easy to just list off what they hate about themselves. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself like “why aren’t you better?!” then remind yourself of three things you like about yourself such as things that you can do for other people.
- Accept that you are human. We live in a day and age where we all need to be the best and the most perfect. We see others succeeding all the time and sometimes that success makes us feel inadequate. Next time you are in this position remind yourself that you are only human and that you can only do your best and that your best is more than good enough. (Side note: sometimes getting rid of or getting rid of social media can help with this.)
Have a Healthy Relationship with Food
Having a healthy relationship with food is all about being able to switch your mentality from “I want that, but I can’t have it” to “I can have it, but I don’t want it”. It is at this point that finding a healthy balance of food starts to get easy.
For those of you who are still working on this mentality switch it can be easiest to focus on actually eating enough. Most of the time when we are craving foods that make us feel guilty it is because we need some immediate source of energy. Try planning your meals ahead of time and make sure to bring lots of snacks. Although this is the advice that basically every health and fitness blog will tell you, it really does help.
Exercise Isn’t About Changing Your Body
Many people believe that they don’t need to exercise if they are fine with how they look. While you shouldn’t force yourself to do something, especially if you hate it, there are numerous health benefits to exercising that have nothing to do with losing weight or changing your aesthetic. Regular workouts have been shown to help with:
- Boosting endorphins which will put you in a good mood.
- Combating health conditions and diseases such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Boosting your energy.
- Promotes better sleep
The nice thing about exercise is that you don’t really need to do a lot of it in order to feel the benefits. The Mayo Clinic suggests that the average adult do moderate activity for 150 minutes a week.
The interesting thing about a healthy lifestyle is that the three key elements of healthy mentality, healthy diet, and regular exercise form a sort of positive feedback loop. Exercise helps you feel good and gives you a good night sleep. Eating well helps you feel good and doesn’t give you that gross feeling of junk food in your tummy. Both of these things help influence our mentality. On their journeys to better health, many people find that doing things such as exercising and eating well help contribute to their healthy mentality. That being said, our mentality can also influence our diet and exercise patterns in both a positive and negative way.
Once again, learning to find a balance is entirely up to you but the best place to start is to start by taking care of yourself mentally.