"Everything in moderation, right?"
I feel like this phrase is usually uttered while staring down a plate of nachos and a big margarita. It’s used somewhat jokingly to justify ridiculous choices. But many trainers and health coaches these days are promoting a balanced and moderate lifestyle, so we’re quickly adopting this mentality, too. Who doesn’t love moderation when it means nachos!?
But, what are we even talking about here?
Balance and moderation makes me think of chemistry—you know that it must be a real thing, but you have no idea how to wrap your mind around it. How does this even transfer to real life? (I use chemistry as an example because it was the one subject that caused me to actually chuck my textbook across the room. It just doesn’t make sense!)
You want to believe that you are capable of balance and moderation, but you have no idea if the choices you’re making actually line up.
It’s a moving target.
What does being balanced look like?
Possessing balance and moderation in life means that you are wise and acutely in tune with your body.
Well balanced individuals don’t dabble with extremes, whether physical or mental. They know when to go for something and when to hold back. They hold every aspect of life in perspective, seeing the impact of choices from a broader angle.
They are the perfect balance of careful and careless.
Let's apply it.
When we apply balance and moderation to fitness and nutrition, it should look like this:
1. You know your goals and have a very clear understanding of what it requires to achieve them. Once you know this, you can determine what kind of “wiggle room” you can afford. Personally, I don’t have any goals to lose weight or “tone up”, so my wiggle room might be bigger than someone who is looking to lose 20 pounds.
2. You know when something is too much, or you’re overdoing it.
3. You know when something is not enough, or you’re under-doing it.
If hard days, or even medium days, aren’t even in the picture, then you need to step up your game.
4. You're able to maintain a big perspective. You have the wisdom to know that 6 tortilla chips will not stop you from moving forward and neither will one bowl of ice cream. However, if 6 tortilla chips leads to 24 chips and you have it every night, this is not moderation and it is not keeping your objective in perspective.
5. You are constantly asking yourself “How is this working for me?” Constant self-evaluation! If your current behaviors are not helping you toward your goals, you need to reassess. If you are making progress, then great—don’t change a thing!
Also, if your level of “moderation” always leaves you feeling out of control and plain unhealthy, then this is clearly not working for you and you should reassess.
6. You know that "balance and moderation" means something different for everybody. It works for me to have a piece of chocolate and a small bowl of ice cream nearly every day, but this could send someone else into a tailspin.
We all have triggers, cues that send us out of our wiggle room and into the zone of no control. These triggers are very different for everybody.
7. You have the skill to say “sure, but just a little”. Nothing is off limits...no food is inherently bad, but you should still have the reins in your hands. This requires willpower and mental practice.
Someone who has a food addiction has zero willpower over food. Their conscious mind is unable to control their eating behaviors. A food addiction is a fairly extreme situation, but we all find ourselves in scenarios where we eat mindlessly, unable to stop ourselves.
Make a conscious choice to challenge yourself: order dessert but limit yourself to four bites; open a bag of chips and limit yourself to only eight. You may fail miserably at first, but over time with more challenges like this, you will develop a much stronger willpower and will have the ability to say “sure, but just a little”.
8. You know when you’re obsessing too much, about both your food and exercise. If your exercise and eating habits are constantly on your mind in an unhealthy way, then you might be obsessed. We all tip into this zone occasionally, but it's dangerous to stay here.
Even as a fitness and nutrition professional, I know when to check out and just be human. You need to be able to do this, too.
If obsession is even in your vocabulary, then you are NOT balanced and moderate.
Definitely not perfect.
I am not a master at balance and moderation. In the past, my weaknesses have been a pot of macaroni and cheese, pizza, pita chips, diet coke, spinach and artichoke dip, and brownies. If these foods were available, the word moderation was non-existent. “I must keep eating this!”
I would sometimes make myself feel sick.
However, with lots of practice, understanding my goals and the bigger perspective, being very in tuned with how my body feels with certain workouts and foods, and building up my willpower, I am now able to say “sure, but just a little.”
I am proud to say that last night I made mac n' cheese for the kiddos and I had only one bite! This is a major victory for me!
Above all, be wise.
Let’s all be wise and intentional with our fitness and nutrition. Avoid extremes and be honest about your own personal “wiggle room”.
Balance and moderation does not need to be so vague after all. And enjoying nachos and a tasty margarita could absolutely be within your personal realm of balance and moderation.
Don't do this alone.
Yes, putting good eating and exercise habits into place can be very challenging.
But it doesn't have to be!
Can you imagine what it would feel like to have a good relationship with food, to confidently exercise regularly, and to be happy in your body? It feels amazing!
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