Finding Your Balance

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As I sit here, sipping my tea, with a box of cookies to my right and In Defense of Food to my left… I bounce the idea around of letting myself dive into the sweets and cookies that surround the holiday or following a strict juice detox so that I can indulge later on. While the later sounds much less desirable, I can drum up adequate reasoning for either path. After giving free reign to holiday parties and treats, its easy to fall into the trap of feeling guilty, bloated and as though a ten mile run is needed to burn off all of the calories that were consumed. As the holiday rapidly approaches, I am reciting to myself to enjoy life, to live in the present and to find a balance.
Sure, eating the whole tray of cookies probably isn’t the best idea… As it will leave you nauseous, sluggish and unproductive while you scramble for your last minute holiday gifts. But on the flip side, a strict juice diet, or say chicken and broccoli, will leave you craving your favorite holiday foods. So, LET’S LIVE LIFE! Drop-kick the guilt and the thought of having to workout twice to “make up for it” because believe it or not, your body will bounce back. That cookie will not go straight to your thighs, because that is not how it works. Just as eating a salad won’t give you six-pack abs, that extra slice of pie won’t crush your hopes and dreams of ever having one. I challenge you to wallow in a plate of seconds, enjoy dessert with family and friends and spoil yourself.
Where am I going with all of this? Balance. No… Not the yoga-esque type of balance that you try to find while holding all of your weight on your big toe, but finding an equilibrium in your diet and daily schedule.

I honestly believe that health encompasses not only physical health but mental happiness, as well. Laboring hours on end meal prepping, measuring out macronutrients and caloric intake, can prove to be extremely beneficial in terms of appearance… Often times giving the notion of great of physical health if followed for a long enough time, coupled with sufficient and healthy exercise. But there comes a time, when these exact measurements become tedious. They begin to weigh on the emotions of the individual as they turn down dinner plans with friends due to the unknown nutritional value of the meal they would be consuming. The stress and fixation of perfection turns into an obsession and this lifestyle can become all encompassing, leading to a decline in mental health. With that being said, I think it’s important to find your own personal balance… one that provides structure in your diet and fitness to accomplish individual goals, while allowing yourself to indulge once in a while. In the long run, I believe that it can be linked to greater mental health and likelihood of sticking with it.
Realistically, the opposite extremes of calculating every bite that goes into your mouth versus allowing yourself to eat anything and everything both have their consequences. Surely, eating well and exercising makes you feel great! But at times, the loss of control of the notion that the more you workout and the less or healthier you eat, the even better you will feel can lead to serious problems, such as eating disorders. That is where it is important to realize that it is okay to not workout every single day, to eat a cookie (or three) and not feel guilty about it. As both you and I progress on the journey of life, accompanied by healthy eating and working, let us each find a balance that works for us.
While I am reading In Defense of Food, I am beginning to realize the way in which media, food manufacturers, distributors and even our government constantly alter the nutritional guidelines to promote a particular product or diet. Michael Pollan works to defend food, claiming that we are no longer consuming food and we are not really eating. Instead, we are consuming edible food-like substances accompanied with various health claims, such as cancer prevention. Pollan refers to the Western American diet as a paradox: the more we worry about nutrition, the less healthy we seem to become.

“That eating should be foremost about bodily health is a relatively new and, I think, destructive idea-destructive not just the pleasure of eating, which would be bad enough, but paradoxically of our health as well. Indeed, no people on earth worry more about the health consequences of their food choices than we Americans-and no people suffer from as many diet-related problems. We are becoming a nation of orthorexics: people with an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating.” 
― Michael PollanIn Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto

It is interesting to note that the food that our ancestors ate, even dating back to the generation before us, is completely different than the food that we are eating today. In addition, the food that is consumed by the American population, as compared to that of Europe or other continents alike, demonstrates extreme variety and contrast. When Pollan showed the words “chocolate cake” to a group of Americans, their top response was “guilt”, in contrast to a group of French, who associated it with “celebration.” A brief but refreshing reminder that food should not be our enemy.
Based off these simple facts, it is hard to determine exactly what we are supposed to be eating. Many argue that we are not meant to eat meat, while others feel strongly about consuming meat on a daily basis. Science attempts to prove and disprove various claims and diet plans but all have failed to make Americans healthier as a whole. It is with this that I return to my main claim that we should find a balance. Pollan leaves the reader with a final piece of advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” We mustn’t consume the same foods day in and day out and expect to have a balance of all the required nutrients and vitamins. Therefore, a diverse array of foods, each in their own moderation is important.
With that being said, I encourage you to buy high quality, nutrient dense food that works for your body and long-term goals. Meanwhile, enjoying a treat every once in a while, splurging on yourself and not letting guilt take over.

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