What is balance?

How do I achieve it?

What does it look like?

These are questions that people often have about building a life of balance, simply because so many of us don’t have it. Our culture in North America is very focused on extremes. Work a lot, spend a lot, eat a lot, do a lot of wacky things to go viral online, restrict this food group, kill yourself in the gym, and so on. I remember when I worked in a convenience store during my first year of University. I was stocking magazines for the first time and I looked at the cover of a bodybuilding magazine. And of course there was a HUGE GUY with HUGE MUSCLES and one of the headlines was something about a WORKOUT THAT WILL MAKE YOU PUKE and I thought…why the hell would you want to do that?? Unfortunately, the mentality of ‘no pain, no gain’ and ‘go hard or go home’ is pervasive in the fitness community and it’s not very helpful in the long-term. I am definitely not knocking people who push themselves to their limits, especially for competitions. I am in awe of what I have seen people do and I envy them for being able to do it. But to go into the gym with the intention of working out so hard that you end up seeing your breakfast again? No thanks. That’s not healthy, either physically or mentally.

Oftentimes, people think that if they listen to their body and allow it to tell them what it needs or can do that day, they will end up laying on the couch and eating box after box of chocolate or mac and cheese right out of the pot. I mean, that does kind of sound fun, but when you learn to add habits into your balance, your body learns to expect certain things like vegetables and water and movement. It’s amazing what you can build when you are intentional about it.

For me, because I live with so many chronic health conditions, I have no choice but to listen to my body constantly. Last Monday my shoulder was killing me and so I didn’t go to yoga on Tuesday morning. Today my shoulder was fine and I went to yoga. If I’m having digestive issues I might go to the gym instead of running. And if I didn’t sleep well last night, I might go back to bed for a couple hours while my son is at school because I know it will be better for both of us when he gets home.

My version of balance takes the long view. I might not be able to lift one day but can in a few. I might be able to run today but not in a few days. If I can’t exercise today, I will do something else that fosters balance and self-care, like reading a novel with a cup of coffee or space out watching baseball later because I just need to recharge.

I am currently reading a book on the philosophy of yoga and I found this quote in it the other day:

Finallyfoundmy newhome!

It really struck me, because it urges us to find guidance in ourselves. To look inside and see what balance means to us and consider all the facets of who we are when we look for balance today. Today’s balance may look different than tomorrows. And that is totally ok! Take nutrition for example. It would be great if every day was awesome and you got all your veggies in and drank a ton of water and ate whole grains only. But we all know that every day isn’t like that. Some days you just order pizza for dinner because Some days you have a big salad for dinner. Sometimes you’re feeling unwell and don’t eat much of anything or just crackers and toast. And that is totally fine. Don’t judge your nutrition by one day. Look at your whole week. I bet it will balance out over that period of time. Mine usually does.

So what exactly is balance then? For me it is giving my body what it currently needs that will support my health in the long run. It means resting when it’s needed. It’s also moving your body intentionally when you can and want to. Sometimes it’s pushing through, but it’s not doing it to the detriment of your health as a whole. It means having veggies with your dinner but enjoying birthday cake at a party too. It’s about enjoying life, not being a slave to plans.

All parts of us come together to make the whole. Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. Think about all of these things when you are building your balance. Shape a life that supports all the facets of who you are. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Fostering your spirit is just as important as eating well. Who you are matters when it comes to balance. So build your balance, do it intentionally, and see what it helps you achieve.



Let’s Talk About Garbage Cans

In this post I wanted to share a valuable piece of advice that I picked up along my journey of developing better habits for my health. A lot of my habits have centered around food, but some have been about actual eating. For instance, waiting until you’re hungry to eat. I know, it sounds totally obvious, but not everyone does this! Some people just eat because it’s lunchtime and we’ve been trained to eat at certain times. Some people eat 5-6 small meals a day because they were told by someone that it’s the best way to eat for fat or weight loss (it’s not!).

I think one thing we all struggle with is the idea of clearing our plates at a meal. And really this isn’t limited to official meals. It could also be related to snacking, even though snacking isn’t a habit we want to encourage. Many of our negative food habits that follow us into adulthood are things we were trained to do as children. “Clean your plate” is definitely one of them. So what do we do about this compulsion? Being aware of when your hunger is becoming satisfied during your meal and stopping then is helpful, but again, it’s difficult. Sometimes we need a reminder that it is ok to stop and here it is.

You are not a garbage can.



So what do garbage cans have to do with anything? Well, many people feel they should clean their plates because their food will be wasted otherwise. But how is that really different from finishing your meal when you don’t need to? When you’re already satisfied and continue eating so as not to waste, you’re putting that excess/waste or whatever you want to call it into your body anyway. I know that you’re probably thinking, no that’s not the same. But continuing to eat when you’re full and satisfied is not helping you. If you don’t want to ‘waste’ it, save it for later. Give it to the dog. Start a compost pile. I know we all heard about ‘starving orphans’ in Africa as encouragement to clean our plates when we were younger, but unless you can find a way to overnight your leftover spaghetti to someone starving, it’s not actually going to make a difference.

If you are really concerned about waste, start making smaller plates. I am so familiar with the habit of filling your plate or bowl too much and I get it. You’re hungry, you made delicious food or got takeout from somewhere and it just smells so good! But you can always go back for more if you’re *really* still hungry after eating your first serving. However, this practice is a good time to check in about some things. Are you really still hungry or do you just want more? These are different. And in that vein, are you savoring this yummy food? Or are you eating distracted and too quickly? Try to take your time. Put your phone down, turn the TV off, and actually experience your food. Think about textures and flavours. Don’t make it satisfying only to your physical body. Make it satisfying to your mind and your palate as well. By doing this, you can move beyond treating your stomach like a garbage can and you can start focusing on it with your dining actions.

Questions? Comments? Chime in below!