My last blog post was about the importance of being flexible. Because—like the airline pilot who keeps adjusting headings to stay on course—we learn to adjust our path as we head toward our goals. An important aspect of maintaining this flexibility is to stay balanced, just as a major aspect of being balanced is to keep a flexible mindset. To achieve one is to achieve the other, but to lose one is to lose both. And because last time we discussed the value of flexibility, this time we’ll discuss the benefits of balance.
Balance is a critical life-skill.
As toddlers, our bodies learn the sensation of balance to be able to walk: leaning not too far one way or the other is the only way to take steps forward. Then as little kids, most of us have been introduced to the concept of balance through the fairytale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Among other things, little Goldilocks samples a variety of beds—too hard, too soft, just right—before finding one that suits her. And as teens, our bodies learn practical balance when we learn to drive. Don’t hit the gas too hard! Don’t pound the brakes! In time, much of the elemental stuff is easy to keep in balance. But when it comes to eating and food… well, balance in that regard can be a bit trickier.
Keeping in-balance can be particularly challenging when it comes to what we eat.
Sometimes out-of-balance eating is caused by an all-or-nothing commitment to eating “perfectly.” These out-of-balance eaters may one day find themselves on restrictive diets, only to give up and eat uncontrollably. Other out-of-balance eaters may commit to diets that rest on a limited type of foods. These run the risk of not taking in a recommended range of nutrients. Finally, all dieters run the risk of getting on the yo-yo diet rollercoaster, that on-again, off-again cycle of strict dieting, followed by periods of chaotic consumption. Moreover, people subject to eating issues that are triggered by emotional reactions may find keeping in balance even more challenging.
Balance found, balance regained.
Even if we feel out of balance, it doesn’t mean we’ll stay that way. I recommend that to achieve balance in what—and how—we eat, we first work on feeling more balanced in our lives. Please note: there is no perfect balance. Balance is always a work in progress, so keep a flexible attitude and lose self-judgment; let go of “shoulds.” Emphasize what we’re grateful for. Take time to focus on simple things, especially breathing. Taking quiet time to be alone with our thoughts is important, as long as we can be aware of what we’re feeling without allowing any emotions to bog us down. The key here is to let the emotions go, and simply observe.
When it comes to food and eating, we can develop a balanced, mindful approach to food by taking time to feel our connection to our body’s hunger and fullness cues. When going for a snack we might ask ourselves, “What is it that I need right now? Am I hungry? Am I bored? Am I feeling anxious?” If we’re hungry, we should eat. But if something else is going on and hunger isn’t the problem… then food is not the answer. This is the time that flexibility to make other choices comes into play.
Finally, creating balance requires that we be gentle with ourselves, and commit to growth and loving self-care. And if we’re not perfect at it and stumble in the attempt… well, we can be flexible enough to pick up where we stumbled and adjust our course!