Balance is a word that gets used a lot in the health and wellness world. A lot of what gets posted on social media is all how we should all be striving to get that balance in our lives when it comes to eating healthy and enjoying the foods that we love. But the problem is, it’s basically an elusive concept as it’s completely subjective! One individual’s version of balance could be completely excessive for another. In the same way that another version of balance for someone could be completely limiting for someone else. It can feel overwhelming when you’re striving for something that has a different definition for everyone!
Balance is something I practice and whole-heartedly believe in when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m all about balance when it comes to the foods that I eat. I love food too much to swear off of anything entirely. But with that being said, there are foods that I have intentionally chosen to limit from my diet because I know they aren’t serving my body and they don’t make me feel my best. It’s taken me a long time to get to where I’m at today with my habits- and I’m still evolving!
When I first started my journey to becoming a holistic nutritionist, I was pretty hardcore about everything. My “type-A” personality is pretty hardcore in general, but I was definitely striving for perfection when it came to my diet. I swore off of certain foods and eliminated a lot from my diet in an effort to be the healthiest version of me I could possibly be.
While this worked for me temporarily, I realized after several months that it wasn’t going to be sustainable. Maybe this way of eating was healthy for me in some ways, but in other ways it was mostly just causing a lot of stress over the foods that I “couldn’t” have. A life without dairy, gluten and sugar sounds easy when you’re focusing on being healthy, but never having pasta, butter, cheese, dessert etc. ever again?! It just wasn’t something that was going to make sense for me in the long run.
Now that I’m older, I think about how crazy it was I was willing to give up so many foods in the pursuit of health. Don’t get me wrong, I am still very health focused and most of what I do is still centered around keeping my body healthy; it’s also clearly the focus of my business and how I counsel my clients to live their lives. But there has definitely been a shift in how I view food and health and it’s changed the way I speak about it to my clients and the public in general. Instead of swearing off of certain foods that I love because they maybe aren’t the best for me, I’ve found ways of incorporating more balance with how I live and I’m much happier for it.
It can be really hard to find balance when it comes to healthy eating. It’s often easier to give into our cravings and our old habits than it is to stick with change. It can also be really difficult to find moderation and not “pig out” or binge when we do treat ourselves, though some people are just naturally better at this than others.
But it’s important to remember that balance is key when it comes to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This is the reason that so many diets fail in the first place; they lack any type of balance as they are usually all about eliminating at least one food or food group from the diet. This can lead to rapid results that don’t last because you’ve never learned the skill that is balance- and it really is a skill.
If you’re just new to eating healthy and changing your habits, it can definitely feel overwhelming at first. Depending on your personality type, you may have more of an “all or nothing” mentality and want to give up all those “bad” foods right from the start with a zero tolerance policy for eating them. Or you may feel stuck even starting because you don’t want to imagine a life without all of your favourite foods and treats. I promise you there is a way that you can get to where you want to be. There is absolutely a way that you can achieve your goals, feel your best and still enjoy all of your favourite foods from time to time.
I’ve rounded up a few tips for you to get started on your journey towards balance! It will take a bit of homework and planning, but if you put in the work and take the time to think about the ideas I’ve listed below, you’re going to be in a much better place to get started and to be successful in your efforts.
Figure out what foods make you feel your best
The first thing you should be working on is bringing mindfulness to your food and understanding which foods make you feel your best. It’s a lot easier to stick to something when you can see the benefit to what you’re doing. Not only is it easier to stick to, but you’ll actually want to eat those foods more frequently once you start realizing how amazing you feel.
The best way to start this habit is by keeping a food journal. If it’s easier, you can keep a note on your phone and track your foods as you go throughout the day. Keep track of everything you eat and drink, when you’re eating it and how you feel throughout the day.
Noticing how you are feeling may be tricky to pick up on at first, but try to “check in” with your body every few hours; note if you feel tired, hungry, foggy, headachey, bloated, any cravings, have heartburn etc. Eventually you’ll be able to pick up on how your body is feeling as soon as something is “off”. This is a helpful habit to get into and can be really beneficial to help you identify those foods that work best for you!
Figure out which foods aren’t serving you
This is something you’re going to do alongside figuring out which foods work for you. In the same way you’re paying attention to what foods make you feel great, you need to start noticing which of those foods don’t work for you. These are the foods that you should limit from your diet- notice how I didn’t say remove entirely!
The foods that often don’t serve us are the ones that we like to indulge with. Not only do these foods affect our bodies physiologically and cause us to not feel well, but often these are the foods that are preventing you from achieving your goals in the first place. If one of your goals is to balance your blood sugar and you indulge in a sugary latte and pastry from Starbucks every morning, it’s a safe bet that this daily habit is not serving you and not contributing to your goals. Again, I’m not saying you can never have your sugary latte and favourite pastry, but it’s just about realizing that certain habits are contributing to the imbalance and preventing you from moving forward with your health goals.
Avoiding sugary foods for blood sugar balance is a pretty obvious example, but there may be other foods that aren’t as obvious. It may not be obvious right away which foods don’t work for your body as sometimes these symptoms can take several hours to appear. Keep up with that food journal and mindfulness to help identify those foods that are a concern. If you continue to experience side effects and imbalances with your health, it might be a good idea to consider seeing a professional who can help you better identify and work through the problem.
Do your current food and lifestyle habits align with your health goals? If one of your goals is to improve your energy levels and sleep better, then maybe those two coffees at 3 o’clock aren’t working for you.
If you aren’t clear on your why then you’re never going to have the drive to stick with things when you are struggling. Goal setting is also really helpful when you are working towards balance because it helps remind you why you started in the first place. You probably already know that your past habits weren’t working for you in some way. It makes it harder to fall back into your old habits if you remember what you’re working towards.
Get some systems in place
We are creatures of habit and we need to consciously break those habits if we ever plan on changing. I have some clients who start creating balance for themselves by making rules around their vices. For example, I had a husband and wife as clients and they loved evening snacking on chips and candy and any other junk food they could get their hands on. So instead of cutting it out right away, we decided it would be best if they limited their junk food habits to weekends only. During the week they would snack on dried fruit and popcorn if necessary but for the most part they were really great about leaving the junk food for the weekends. They actually really appreciated having that to look forward to at the end of their week! We’ve since cut this habit down even further so they are less dependent on their junk food and they’ve now found a healthy way of incorporating their favourite treats in moderation.
I never expect my clients to “quit” their habits cold-turkey, but change does need a starting point. Setting guidelines for yourself can be really helpful as you begin navigating how to incorporate more balance into your habits.
Keep moving forward
The most important thing I want you to remember is to keep moving forward and not to strive for perfection. You will drive yourself crazy if you try to incorporate everything at once while also giving up the foods that you love. If you have a bad week and you fall back into old habits, that’s totally okay! It’s going to happen, life has it’s up’s and down’s and anything from stress to, vacations to social events will seriously throw things off for your diet. Those short-term things don’t matter as much as what you focus on most of the time. If you are committed to your goals and making a positive change to your life then you will always get back on track!
Are you feeling stuck in your habits and not sure how to attain your balance? Let’s chat! I specialize in making nutrition realistic and attainable for all of my clients. I would love to create your personalized plan to help you find balance in your diet and get you feeling your best!