Over the past year there has been a huge shift in the health and fitness scene with the word ‘balance’ being thrown around. I admit I’m a blogger guilty of doing this because I believe that having a healthy balance is important. But I recently started thinking about how generalised that word is and that it might mean absolutely nothing to some people.
I know that back when I was trying all of the fad diets many years ago, if someone had told me I just needed to find a healthy balance I probably would have thrown my bag of kale at them. Mostly because that’s all I ever had in my hand back then. Yep, I ate kale. All day long.
But what the f**k is balance? And most importantly, how can we all achieve it?
The journalist part of me actually just Googled the definition of balance and I was about to put it in this blog post, but then I realised most of you don’t give a hoot what the Oxford dictionary has to say about that word because it’s not exactly going to get you any closer to achieving your health and fitness goals.
Besides, balance (in terms of health and fitness) is very much subjective; it means something different for absolutely everyone. And that’s fine! For me, balance means training my body to be strong, fit and able to do everything I physically want it to do. It also means being free to enjoy food and eat without guilt attached to any meals or snacks, with no foods completely restricted. Well, obviously other than gluten…but I mean no foods are restricted for reasons of weight loss, etc. For me, balance basically means being happy and healthy. Hence the name of my blog!Balance is about looking after my body so I'm healthy, but it's also about enjoying my life.… Click To Tweet
I personally have an approach to food that is the 80/20 ‘rule’ (80% highly nutritious food, 20% whatever I fancy). This isn’t super strict though, it’s not like I get to the end of the week and freak out if I had 75/25 or 70/30. It’s just a rough guide that means I have no issues with eating a little of what I fancy!
For you, balance might mean something completely different though! But one thing that is an important factor in defining balance is that it has to be a healthy approach. So eating just kale all day or living off just juices while forcing yourself to try to ‘run off’ everything you eat is not a balanced healthy approach. I know because I was in a similar situation a long time ago. Having a healthy approach means removing the guilt associated with food and not treating exercise as a punishment for eating something other than lettuce. It means loving yourself and looking after your body, both inside and out.
So how can you achieve balance and break away from a strict diet?
First of all, let me point out that I appreciate it’s difficult to break away from a strict diet because having those specific ‘rules’ helps you to know exactly what to eat and when. But the truth is that fad diets and pills won’t give you the results you’re looking for. So, these are my tips to help you create a healthy balanced lifestyle with everything in moderation:
1. Accept that it will be confusing at first
I could have sugar-coated this part and maybe hidden it further down the list, but I think it’s an important first step to prepare you mentally for stepping away from any restrictive diets and moving towards generally making healthier choices.
It will feel weird. You won’t have a bloody clue what you’re doing at first and that’s ok because that’s exactly what this post is here to help you with. You’ll find yourself wondering what you can eat and whether you’re actually even approaching this the right way. In all honesty, you’ll probably consider giving up and going back to a set diet plan simply so you can have some structure to stick to. But just know that it does get easier and you will eventually develop a better understanding of how to make healthier choices without the need for a strict diet plan.
2. Make a meal plan to help you regain some control
This is something I personally love to do (but that’s possibly because I’m a huge fan of list-making). It’s a brilliant way to look ahead for the week and figure out what meals you’d like to have. This is particularly helpful if you’re trying to break away from a strict diet because it will still give you a certain amount of structure for the week as you’ll know what main meals you’re having. It will also help to prevent you from reaching for a takeaway or processed food in a rush because you had no food in the house ready to make a meal and you didn’t fancy having to prepare it all after a mad dash around the supermarket.
3. Make sure you eat plenty of fruit and veg
You know when your parents used to moan at you to eat your greens? Well they were definitely on to something because dark green leafy veg is brilliant! I know it’s not necessarily the most exciting thing you can put on your plate, but it’s full of nutrients and fibre!
It’s not just greens that are great for you though. All different fruits and veggies are full of lovely nutrients! I definitely recommend aiming to eat your ‘five a day’. If you can make that mostly veg then that’s even better! To give you an idea of how much fruit and veg makes up your ‘five a day’, 80g of fruit or veg is classed as one ‘portion’. So when you weigh it you’ll see it’s really not that much to try to fit in your diet. I’m definitely not advising you to start weighing all of your food though because that can quickly become obsessive; but weighing a few different veggies would give you an idea of a rough amount for a portion size just so you know for future meal preparation.
4. Don’t worry about finding the money for superfoods
Obviously superfoods are great. Ok, they’re super. But you can have a totally well balanced nutritious diet without having to fork out your money on them. I admit, I’m a big fan of chia puddings for breakfast, but other than that I mostly just buy either fresh or frozen fruit and veg (depending on my income for that month). No unicorn tears or dragon’s liver needed. 😉 So don’t worry about trying desperately to find the funds to afford all the superfoods in your weekly shop; just focus on buying basic good sources of carbohydrate, protein and fat. On that note, also don’t panic if you can’t afford organic. I can’t afford it either!
5. Don’t be afraid of eating fats
Over the years, all fats have been given a bad rep, yet you really shouldn’t be afraid of eating them. Just to clarify, I’m not saying you should march into the kitchen and spend the day munching on bacon rind or steak fat because there are obviously different kinds of fat. There are good fats and bad fats, and as always, I recommend everything in moderation. It’s best to make your diet contain mostly good fats though (obviously) and to have bad fats occasionally. ⠀
Anyway, without having fats in your diet, your body won’t be able to absorb vitamins A, D, E & K. So definitely don’t exclude all fats! Nuts, seeds and avocado are just a few examples of delicious and nutritious good fats to help get you closer to optimum health.
6. Be mindful of calories, but don’t go crazy about it
Keeping an eye on your calorie intake vs your calorie output is what will either result in your weight gain, weight loss or maintenance. So being mindful of that is important, but don’t let it drive you mad. It’s easy to become obsessed with calorie counting (I know, I’ve been there), but having a rough idea of your energy usage and intake will help you to achieve your goals.
Oh, and while I’m on this subject… 1,000 calories is NOT enough! I’ve seen so many fad diets over the years that sit around the 1,000 calories mark, but that is never going to be enough for the average person. I hate saying ‘average person’ because who the hell is this average person!? But most people need to eat more than that!
We have something called our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) and this is the amount of calories you burn by doing absolutely nothing all day. So if you were to literally lay in bed still all day, your BMR is the number of calories you would burn doing that. For most people, even just that number is higher than 1,000 calories. So think about all of the extra calories you burn by moving around, eating, working – it all adds up. And I see you sitting there wondering if maybe you should cut down to 1,000 calories just to try it out. DON’T DO IT! It’s not only dangerous – it also won’t actually help you to lose weight. It’ll just f**k up your metabolism.
7. Be careful who you take advice from
It’s totally understandable when you’re first looking into eating healthier that you’d want to look for advice on how to get started and also take some time to find recipes you can enjoy, but there are a load of unqualified and inexperienced people out there handing out advice. So be careful who you choose to listen to and make sure they are qualified to be giving you the advice. There are some fab recipe books available, but before buying any, just check to see if the author has relevant qualifications and experience to be providing nutrition advice.A lot of followers does not equal a qualification. Be careful who you take advice from. Click To Tweet
8. Make sure you get good quality sleep
We all know that sleep is important for both our bodies and minds, so there’s basically no point in me going on about how you should try to get a certain amount each night. But what I will say is that if you can’t move things around in your schedule to get MORE sleep, at least make sure that the sleep you do manage to get is of good quality. Calm your mind and body before you get into bed. Try not to just scroll through social media and then drop your head straight onto the pillow (although I admit I’m guilty of doing that sometimes too).
Aim to get into some kind of bedtime routine. Something I’ve found that really helps to calm me when I’ve been working late replying to emails and writing for upcoming deadlines is to meditate. I admit, I used to think meditation was silly, but since I started it about six months ago, I’ve fallen in love with it! A great app to get started is Headspace. It has a free trial, so if you don’t like it then you can just delete the app without having to pay out. It’s definitely helped me to relax before going to bed though. I highly recommend it.
9. Hire a good PT/nutritionist/nutritional therapist/dietician (if you want to)
This one isn’t a necessity if you just want to create a generally healthier lifestyle so you can be more fit and active. But if you have a specific goal in mind that you feel will involve more than just making your own healthier choices over time, finding a reputable professional could really help you to get on track (and stay on track) with your goals. I really wish I could help you by throwing out some ‘magic calorie’ number for anyone reading this post to eat every day, but sadly it doesn’t work that way. Every single person is different, so if you want to take your training and/or nutrition to the next level then hiring a professional could help you to figure out exactly what is best for you.
10. Don’t get obsessed – make it enjoyable and create a goal based on more than just a number
This one is probably the most important point on the path to achieving balance. Although being obsessed with certain things can be a great driving force to being successful, being obsessed with food or exercise is definitely not healthy and it will not lead to balance. You know what’s even healthier than kale? Having a healthy relationship with food.
Working towards removing those guilty feelings we’ve all attached to food over the years is one of the main steps towards achieving balance. Just remember that everything in moderation is absolutely fine! It’s balanced.
Find a way to make eating healthy and working out enjoyable so you don’t hate doing it, because if you don’t enjoy it then you won’t stick with it. Finding a form of exercise you enjoy is also a great way to help you create goals based on more than just a number. Do the same with food too! Take time to try plenty of healthy recipes. I started enjoying food loads more when I realised that lettuce and kale aren’t the only healthy foods! Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I hated food. I didn’t have an eating disorder, but I definitely had disordered eating. So if I can create a healthy relationship with food where I have got to the point I now actually describe myself as a foodie, then you can do it too.
There are so many other points I could mention in this post, but it’s already far longer than I would’ve liked (sorry). Please comment if you have any questions though, I’m always happy to help. Alternatively, you can message me in private on my blog Facebook page if you’d prefer to keep your question confidential.
Please also comment if you’ve managed to create your own healthy relationship with food and exercise, and let us all know how you got there. We all learn from each other and I’d love to read your stories.
Last, but definitely not least, on your quest to achieving a healthy balance that works for you, just remember that every person is different. Don’t compare yourself to others. You are on your own unique journey.
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