Balance is trendy. All the self-help gurus tell us we have to focus on balanced healthy living.
But WTF is Balance????
If you looked at my social media feeds a year ago you’d think I was running and working out like a mothereffer six days of the week. I was eating nothing but spinach and then guilty eat a cookie on Sunday for balance.
Guess what? THAT isn’t balanced, as I’ve recently learned.
So let’s look at this definition from the Merriam-Webster site:
Simple Definition of balance
- the state of having your weight spread equally so that you do not fall
- the ability to move or to remain in a position without losing control or falling
- a state in which different things occur in equal or proper amounts or have an equal or proper amount of importance
The third definition best suits our purposes when we talk about having balance in a healthy life. It is important to emphasize the “equal or proper amount of importance” part of this sentence!
You see, once upon a time I forgot that.
When I first started working out, in my late twenties, I tried to achieve balance in my routine. So, I did a lot of research on what that meant. Growing up, I wasn’t part of a family of jocks- family time involved a lot of carb-laden snacks in front of the TV. Rarely, did we go out to throw a ball around or go for a long walk.
My life as a young adult living on my own was similar. I worked long hours, and I was depressed. When I did have time off from work, I made my favorite comfort food and stationed myself in front of the TV. Old habits die hard.
Then, I met my husband, and we had kids. My whole life changed, and I realized I wanted to be there for it.
I began to exercise and eat better. I read a lot of articles and books that said you should “seek balance” in your workouts, so you don’t take it too far. That advice led to me to “trusting my intuition” and skipping workouts because I was “too sore” or “might get a cold.” I finally realized that I needed to make working out a priority if I wanted to see changes. Exercising for 20 minutes a week versus the 6 hours of watching TV wasn’t any closer to a balanced lifestyle.
I began to focus on a pre-set workout program that I ripped out of a magazine. Once I was working out regularly, I felt motivated enough to add in a diet (this is where it got dicey).
I focused a lot- too much- on food. Adding a bit of cheese or ranch dressing on to the meal felt like an extravagance. I acted as if I was training for a specialized fight or fitness modeling competition! You know, instead of being a mom of two who said she wanted to be more energetic but wouldn’t take it too far.
Why did this happen? The simple answer is that I became too focused. I fed into the idea that I should be a perfect being with almost no body fat and no cravings. I believed the hype of the toxic messages in media: “perfection is everything” and “quitting is for losers.”
My family even started to seem like an interruption to my workout routine, and I wished I could do more. I lost sight of “different things occurring in equal or proper amounts or having an equal or proper amount of importance.”
I redefined balance to suit my obsessive nature. I worked out 80% of the time and hung out with friends and family 20% of the time (a generous estimate). I would post social media photos of myself out for a walk with my family. The captions often read, “ONLY worked out for an hour today. Ditched the second hour to go on a walk with the fam cuz #balance.” Wow, hey?
I knew it was becoming a bigger problem. I was even making people feel ashamed of enjoying food or eating a piece of cake on their birthdays. Even writing, “Because I need balance” as a caption for a photo of a cupcake implies guilt for eating a cupcake.
I am trying to move past the days where I felt guilty if I didn’t exercise for over two hours a day. I went from one extreme to the other, and I want to be a better role model to my friends and my kids.
I long for the day when we share photos of ourselves without nitpicking our most endearing qualities. I love that people are moving away from bemoaning their “childbearing hips” or that “piece of cheese I ate caused bloat in this photo.”
Some of my favorite bloggers, magazines and videos don’t mention this at all! They unabashedly live life, post about it, and leave balance, bloat, and the like out of the conversation. I, myself, strive to be this person. I have had weak moments where I look outside myself for validation. I’ve had those moments where I read a damaging slogan and beat myself up over eating a cookie instead of an apple.
Balance shouldn’t feel so hard or forced. Embrace your inner child and have fun. In fact, I am challenging myself- and all of you- to change the conversation. To live life without guilt, fear, or food choice regret. The next generation needs our demonstration of TRUE balance and pride. We got this.
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