Last week I was trolling through Instagram (yes, it happens to all of us..) and unfollowing accounts that promote ideas of health and fitness that no longer resonate with me.
Why? I’m tired of seeing articles and photos that claim to be “the solution you’ve been looking for” in terms of nutrition and fitness. They’re all the same, shredded 6 packs on thin girls, and photos of meal preps: kitchen counters overflowing with chicken and rice.
I get it. This is what is blasted in our direction day in and day out. From advertisements to magazine covers, to social media.
I know because I’ve been there. I was the fanatic athlete training all the time: running 6 days a week then lifting 6 days a week, then doing both. I was the extreme dieter, always hoping onto whatever new trend or diet that came my way and promised the sexy body with toned abs, a juicy booty, and shredded arms. (But this isn’t a blog about gym mindset and training, you can read about that more HERE.)
That’s how I discovered that in order to gain balance, sometimes you have to lose it.
The constant hopping and bouncing from one training protocol that promised to shred and destroy my body and all vestiges of fat, to the insanely restrictive meals that removed all hopes of ever having chocolate or heaven forbid, a glass of wine. It wasn’t realistic for me.
I was tired of drinking a glass of wine or eating some chocolate and it curtailing my diet for the day. Which, inevitably, left me full of self loathing and defeat because I’d gone off the plan.
Now, I preface this by saying that for some people, a strict caloric daily intake diet is important. But I wasn’t overweight or underweight and I wasn’t trying to make weight for a show. There wasn’t a single REAL reason in my life restricting my food intake. It was me and my unrealistic obsession of the eternal 6 pack (which thankfully more and more people are speaking up about the unhealthy cost of obtaining and maintaining a 6 pack). I was tired of it. I didn’t know I was tired of living a gym driven, food obsessed life while I was in it. That realization didn’t come until years later. Hindsight is always 20/20, right?
It took years, but I realized I wanted more freedom with my nutrition than what was promised to me in fitness magazines. I knew I wanted to be strong, feel confident in my body, eat freely and be happy.
In came balanced living.
The transition from obsessed, overzealous athlete and competitor to balanced living was gradual. I see it now as it was happening throughout graduate school as my work loads increased. I was under stress all the time and the last thing my body needed was the intensity of a 2.5 hour olympic weightlifting work out, 5 days a week. The last thing my body wanted was to be told ‘no, you can’t have that glass of wine, or piece of chocolate, or fattier piece of meat tonite.’
Things were shifting. I was starting to listen, really listen, to my body.
No longer was my mind focused on beating my body tired in order to see my 6 pack every day or the extra pump here or the extra feeling of tightness in my arms or glutes. I wanted my body to radiate vitality, happiness, and health. I wanted my exterior to reflect my internal shift of loving my body fully, as it was, regardless of the shredded 6 pack or big weightlifting booty. .
Now, balanced fitness for me is about 3 moderate to heavy strength training sessions a week, a handful of yoga classes with breath work and meditation fueled by moderate, balanced eating.
Over the years, I’ve developed a lifestyle of moderate eating and movement and in case any of this resonates with you, AWESOME! Here are a few of the steps that I’ve taken as well as coached to my clients to live a moderate, balanced life with food.
1- Loving and appreciating our bodies where they are, for what they are. Our bodies are truly powerful: the vessels that propel us through our lives. Before we start doing any ‘work;’ nutritionally or physically, this is a critical step.
2- At meal times schedule an extra 10-20 minutes to eat. By slowing down while we eat, we allow our bodies time to send signals to the brain that there is food in the belly and we aren’t going to starve and that we are okay/satisfied. This helps us eat until we are satisfied, while enjoying delicious food.
3- Step away from the scale. Yes. Really. Step away. At least for a while as you practice mindful eating and moving. Stepping on the scale day in and day out will inevitably lead our brains to criticize our progress and body. Instead, start listening to the signals your body is sending: are you feeling more energized and happy.
Slow down and listen to your body. We all have an intuitive voice that guides us through life (otherwise, honestly, how did you get to reading this article? It’s not by mistake). Listen to your gut (literally and figuratively).
4 – Stop counting calories. Instead, practice a combination of #2 (mindful, slow eating), and experience how you feel when following the Hand Plate Method. The hand plate method helps you use your hand to determine the components of a balanced meal. This general guide to creating a balanced meal, if followed, can ensure we receive the nutrients our bodies need to be the strong vessels they are.
For women: palm sized piece of protein (chicken, fish etc), 2 fist fully of leafy green carbs, if you make your hand into a cup- that’s how many carbs you should have (quinoa, cous cous, etc). And from the tip to the base of your thumb measures fat per meal.
For men: double each portion