Tag Archives: balance

Balance in All Things

 

So I was talking with a Health Coaching client recently, and we were discussing how important it is to keep up with self care (no, not the ridiculous “treat yo-self” kind).

It is so easy in our world today to get overwhelmed.

We are assaulted from all sides all day long with the idea that we are never “enough”; we need to be smarter, sexier, earn more money, be better looking, and always be “busy”.

If you have ever been enjoying a walk, a good book, a soak in the tub, or a mindless TV show and felt guilt and anxiety because you were not being productive right that moment, you know what I mean.

If you’ve ever caught yourself, past midnight, still replying to work emails in bed even though you’re exhausted and have to go in early for a meeting tomorrow, you know what I mean.

If you’ve ever gotten so overwhelmed and burnt out on your writing, or blogging, or side-hustling, or maintaining your homestead you early retired to that you just cannot even, you know what I mean.

We need balance.

Balance in all things.

This applies to all areas of your life.

How do you feel if you’ve worked overtime for three weeks straight, you have yet to get more than 6 hours of sleep per night, you haven’t seen your wife or husband or kids or friends in a month?

How do you feel after a buffet of all your favorite things, where you had two plates too many and just couldn’t help yourself, and then also there is always room for dessert too?

How do you feel when you just can’t say no, and so you are working, and volunteering, and on a committee, and helping out at your kids school, and don’t even remember the last time you showered?

How do you feel when you work your day job, and another few hours at your side hustle, and have three freelance projects due by tomorrow as well as a post you need to write before 8am?

Probably not great.

find your balance

But, how do you feel when you have one of those days.

A day where everything clicks. Flows. Is easy.

You get things done.

You’re ahead of your deadlines, you finished a big project, your boss praised you in front of everyone, you got an unexpected raise.

The house is clean, the laundry is done, the yard is mowed, the sink is empty, dinner was a breeze.

You’re in the zone.

AND there is still plenty of time for you.

To work out, do some yoga, read a good book, listen to an inspiring podcast, have a glass of wine/beer, sit and watch the sunset.

You got to spend time with the people you most enjoy, laughing until your cheeks hurt and making memories you know will last forever.

You feel fulfilled, creative, glowing, on top of the world!

Feels pretty awesome, yeah?

Yeah.

Balance looks different for everyone.

Maybe you are a single male in a metropolitan city, living in a tiny apartment with 2 roommates while you finish an MBA. Maybe you are a legal aide, renting a small apartment by yourself within walking distance of work, struggling to pay off six figures of debt.

Maybe you are early retired, living in South America on 10,000/year. Maybe you are a married couple with three kids living in a house you inherited from your grandparents in the suburbs, or a McMansion you earned through a decade of schooling and licensing and work.

In each of these scenarios, your priorities will be different.

But your needs are the same.

Everyone needs the basics: water, food, clothing, shelter.

After that, we all want to be comfortable, whatever level of income and luxury that means for you. We all want to feel loved and valued, be part of a community. We all way to feel healthy, passionate, inspired, capable, and independent.

Woman holding Freedom banner

But this is the 21st century.

We can all be Connected, all the time.

We must be On, all the time.

Reachable, all the time.

Working, all the time.

Exhausted.

All.

The.

Time.

Where is the time for you?

Health

To be truly healthy requires balance.

If you go to any extremes, that is usually where the most unhealthy habits begin and thrive.

You eat far too much and too often, you risk obesity and diabetes.

You lean on fast food, processed meats, tons of cheese and oils, and solely pre-packaged meals, you risk serious cardiac issues, high blood pressure, and strokes.

You indulge too much and too often with alcohol, and you risk addiction, destroying your liver, starving your cells of nutrition, and shattering your relationships and ruining your entire life.

However.

If you eat only raw vegetables every day, you will slowly starve from lack of proteins and fats.

If you try every herbal supplement on the market, you risk interactions with other medications and crazy unanticipated side effects.

If you become too obsessed with eating “clean” and working out constantly, you risk eating disorders, weakening your bones, losing your hair, and collapsing from exhaustion.

And so, the need for balance is clear.

healthy vegetarian avocado salad

Eat your vegetables.

No excuses.

There are SO MANY KINDS, and so many ways to cook them.

Try spinach, carrots, onions, potatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, radish, beets, collards, mushrooms, zucchini, lettuce, cucumbers, squash… you get the point.

Eat fruits too.

They are nature’s candy.

Go ahead and eat carbs, but try to make them whole grains (brown rice over white rice, whole oats, quinoa, barley…)

Get protein from the source your body responds to best, but lean heavily on legumes (black beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, split peas, lentils, navy beans, and more).

Move your body.

Every day.

As frequently as you can, and for as long as you can.

Try new and different ways of moving too. Try yoga, pilates, cycling, water aerobics, or just go run around a playground. Monkey bars are a LOT harder than you remember, I bet.

And for pete’s sake, drink water! (Especially if your name is Pete)

You will literally die without it. Don’t try to rationalize to yourself that coffee counts, or tea, or soda. Drink actual water. Like, about half your body weight, in ounces. Every day.

Add fruits, flavorings, or try fizzy water if you can’t handle tap. But please, please, drink water.

But also?

Go ahead and eat that brownie now and then.

Say yes to a 2nd margarita on Cinco de Mayo.

Listen to your body and know the difference between a healthy soreness from muscles being worked out and an actual overuse injury or something that needs medical attention.

Give yourself rest days.

Don’t forget that by eating healthy and exercising so you can live longer,  you should also be enjoying living right now. 

balanced stack of donuts

Relationships

Another aspect of life which requires balance is our relationships.

Relationships with coworkers and bosses, with our neighbors and friends, with our family, with our romantic interests.

We need a balance of personalities in our lives, people we can go to when we want to celebrate, when we want to vent, when we need a shoulder to cry on, a drinking buddy, someone who tells us the truth no matter how much it might hurt, someone we can count on to get something done right and on time.

But it can be easy to overextend ourselves too.

You know how sometimes, friends or family come to stay for a holiday or vacation, and by day 8 they have worn out their welcome by 4 days? That’s unbalanced.

You know how your significant other can become too needy if you haven’t spent enough time together, or too distant if you are around each other too much? That’s unbalanced.

You also need to nurture your relationship with yourself.

Think about it: when is the last time when you were totally alone?

Like 100%. No other people. No phone, no Twitter, no Facebook.

Just you. And your mind.

Did you love it? Did it scare you? Make you uncomfortable?

Time alone is time for self reflection, growth, recharging, release.

Struggling with the “big questions” of life.

If you feel like you need permission to be alone and not be doing productive things, schedule it into your life.

Put it on an actual calendar.

8pm - 10pm Tuesday: Massage followed by bubble bath.

2pm - 5pm Saturday: See action hero movie alone and check out that new book store.

Figure out what it is that recharges you, makes you happy, and inspires you to be your best.

Then do more of it.

When you are fulfilled and at your happiest and most vibrant, is when you are capable of giving of yourself the most.

You cannot pour water out of an empty pitcher. Click To Tweet

pouring water from a pitcher

Career

Here too is where many of us cannot find balance. We are pushed to “become” our careers.

Oftentimes the very first thing someone asks when meeting someone new is “what do you do?”

You job or employment is seen as the definition of who you are as a person. It defines you. You are not “Joe” or “a coffee lover” or “a girl who likes Left for Dead” or “the best a capella singer in this room”.

You are “an engineer”, “a teacher”, “a mom”, “a construction worker”.

And in the pursuit of money (we will talk more about that in just a second) it is all too easy to get sucked into your career and let it be all consuming.

With our smart phones and constant connected world, you can answer emails at 10 pm and 4 am, you can be on conference calls from anywhere and anytime, you can be working at the dinner table or on a train or in the toilet.

And we do.

Man Standing infront of Red Locker Using Mobile Phone

But what we need to not lose sight of is that it is just a job. At the end of the day, what you trade so many hours of your life for in order to keep bills paid is just a job.

You can get another one. You probably will.

If you love your work and are invested in what you do and you willingly work overtime because it is your true passion, that is amazing and I honestly am so happy for you!

But it is still a job.

And you still need work-life balance.

You need time to put work thoughts on hold, and engage in other areas of your life.

Stop stressing over hiring interviews, projects, looming deadlines, or presentations, and start planning a trip to Spain, a visit to an old college friend, hang out with your neighbor, or try a new hobby like painting or skiing or hiking or glassblowing.

If you are terrible about unplugging, start small.

Just try setting limits for yourself, like “no phone after 7 pm” or “no work email on the weekends”. Maybe you can even progress to the point of outright turning your phone or laptop off when you are off the clock!

Just like above with your personal relationships, your work relationship needs balance.

When you give your brain time away from work tasks to be creative and process, you never know what magical solutions your subconscious might come up with.

And you will definitely be better able to make decisions and solve problems when you are a happier, more relaxed employee.

Money

When it comes to money, it seems “enough” is not a word that will ever apply.

Even when someone is demonstrably in the top 1% of earners in the world (think those pulling down six digits per year, like 200-400, but not quite into the millions), they will still defend to their last breath the fact that they are “average” and “just getting by” and “it’s not quite enough”.

We are encouraged to compare ourselves to top earners and innovators like Elon Musk, Warren Buffet, Steve Jobs. Ads for bigger houses, flashier cars, ivy league schools, the nicest clothing, the scent that will definitely make you sexier, flood our senses 24/7.

And the bills never end.

Whether you have plenty of breathing room, or pinch every penny and still come up short some months, it never feels like enough.

So you take on overtime, extra shifts, a second job. You pick up tutoring, cleaning houses, bartending, work all the weekends.

You start hustling, building your websites and courses and ebooks, and freelance writing every spare minute.

But do you ever evaluate your ROI?

How much are you making, in dollars, but how much are you spending, in time and opportunity cost?

These are very personal choices, hence the world of Personal Finance. I cannot tell you which high-paying-but-stressful projects are worth keeping, or which pain-in-the-ass-but-pays-on-time clients you should ditch.

But I highly recommend you use the 80/20 rule which basically means that when we’re talking about earning, 80% of the income comes from 20% of the effort. And conversely for frugal living, 80% of your savings will come from 20% of the expenses you can control.

Concentrate yourself on the 80% at work which reaps the highest rewards. Ask what your boss wants the most, and take steps to make it happen. Prove your worth and ask for it.

And don’t worry about the 20%. The whole office will not implode if you don’t check email until Monday. No one will quit if you leave a little early to go for a run on a particularly stressful day (probably).

laying in a hammock, betsy jacobson quote

Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Click To Tweet

By taking concrete steps to create balance and space in your life, you are one step closer to living the life of your dreams.

Moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”
– Epicurus

 

 

What do you struggle to balance in life? Or are you a total “Lord of the Dance Pose” expert in all areas? Share your tips and opinions below!

Diet Update: 2 weeks in

Disclaimer: some of these links lead to product pages, which if you buy them, will not affect the price but will earn this blog a tiny fee, to keep me supplied with kale & yoga pants. I am not a health professional, I am just relaying my own personal experiences and opinions. This is not meant to be health or dietary advice for the general population. 

As I’m finishing up the first two weeks on my holiday diet, I have learned a lot of things about food, myself, and dieting in general.

  • Portion sizes matter
  • Food type/substitutions matter
  • Vitamins & Nutrients matter
  • Exercise matters
  • Balance matters

Before we go into each of these topics, let’s review what the goals were. At a starting weight of 156, and a goal weight of 135, I hope to lose a grand total of 21 pounds in 7 weeks, which is 3 pounds per week. I would not recommend this to most people.

However, I have always been curvier and lead a pretty sedentary lifestyle, though I get 10K steps on most days and am capable of light jogging for 30 minutes at a time. I am young (ish) and in decent shape, so I know this particular diet and exercise plan will not jeopardize my overall health.

Week 1-2 (Nov 3 – 16):
  • Daily – 20-30 minutes of yoga, 15-30 minute walk
  • MWF (or 3x/week) – body weight workout video or run

Having a supportive hubs is the top tool in my arsenal so far. He has been SO helpful in keeping me motivated on days I don’t want to work out, usually even joining me for the short 10-15 minutes HIIT videos. He has been great at not tempting me, and asking how things are going to keep me on track.

I have added workout tracking to our handy-dandy whiteboard, where I add different symbols on days I complete a yoga workout vs a HIIT workout. I have not been able to motivate myself to run, with the changing weather making it so cold outside and dark by the time I get home. I’ve been holding pretty steady to both of my goals, with one or two missed days.

Yoga I normally do in the morning. I use the YouTube series Yoga with Adrienne. This is a good time to breathe, meditate, get a good stretch in, and focus for the day. If I miss it in the morning because I was running late or couldn’t get myself to do it, then I do a video at night before bedtime.

My job is pretty sedentary overall, so having a FitBit Alta now has also helped a lot. It vibrates every hour that I have not yet taken 150 steps to remind me to get up and move a little. The people in my building probably think I’m weird for just walking around the halls doing laps every hour, but it’s worth it. We also try to go for a walk every night, when it isn’t raining or too cold.

You can see from the tracking table above that I’ve gotten in at least 30 minutes of walking on most days. I’ve also hit my step goal of 10,000 per day a little more than half the time, as you can see from the graph below.

Last weekend, my mom was in town and we spent some time at the beach with her friend. There was some exciting news that required celebrating, so we convinced her to go out dancing on Saturday (11/11). It was exhausting, I haven’t stayed up past midnight in a long time, but boy was it fun and totally worth it!

Clearly, the biggest pattern I see is that weekends are far lazier than week days for me. Especially Sunday. Both weekends I barely hit 5000 steps. Though the night we went out dancing was obviously very active, as I ended up with over 16,000 steps! Maybe I should consider joining a line dancing group or something for cardio.  🙂

 

Food Plan

  • 3-5 meals per day, for a total of ~1000-1200 calories
  • Very limited carbohydrates
  • Daily green drink + vitamins
  • One cheat meal or snack/weekday, one per weekend
  • Only snacks allowed are green tea, raw whole fruits, raw veggies (RV) or steamed veggies (SV)
  • Unlimited salad greens or raw non-starchy veggies

Overall I did a pretty good job of hitting my goal calorie range. This is made much easier by eating a lot of salads, broth based soups, raw fruits and veggies, and my favorite low-cal protein breakfast shake. Go figure, following all the typical dietary recommendations works!

Below you can see a typical days’ meals. Breakfast is a chocolate protein shake with a half of a banana, with the coffee in it as well. This has become my go-to because it is so fast and easy, and I can drink it in the car on the way to work. I also had dried some apples in the oven, with nothing on them at all, to take as a snack with my green drink. More on that below.

Lunch was a salad, with some low-cal toppings of sunflower seeds and craisins for variety, taste, and extra nutrients, and (measured) 3 ounces of boiled chicken breast. I have a small food scale that I’ve been using. I cook a large batch of chicken, steak, or chili and then measure out exactly 3 ounces at a time, or 1 cup servings, and then package them individually so lunch is easy peasy.

I’ve also begun boiling a dozen eggs over the weekend, peeling them, and then packing 2 or 3 in ziplock baggies so I can grab and go as a perfect high-protein snack. I feel guilty about throwing out the yolks but I just can’t with that nasty chalky taste… oh well. And dinner was a serving of my delicious sweet potato and chickpea curry.

I’m gonna be honest here, there’s a little gap over last weekend, because of my point about balance. I didn’t even bother to track the totals. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

As for weight, I’m gonna be honest here too. I haven’t unpacked my scale since we moved… a year ago.

I pulled it out this weekend, dusted it off… and the battery is dead. So no update on weight for you.  🙂  Like I said, weight and BMI is not that great of a way to measure health, but I can tell you that my regular work pants have been feeling a little looser.

On to the lessons!

Portion sizes matter

In general, we do not comprehend or realize how seemingly tiny differences in serving size or food choices can make such a huge impact on weight. As little as 100 extra calories per day can add up to 10 pounds of weight gain over the course of a year (source).

For example, go take a look at the different NIH suggested meal plans for weight loss. It was a little bit surprising, even to me, that as little as 1/2 cup of cantaloupe and banana, less than 1 cup of orange juice and milk, 1/2 oz of roast beef, 1 ounce of chicken, and 1 tbsp of guacamole can change a day’s caloric intake from 1200 calories to 1600 calories.

This is the example meal plan for wight loss using Mexican-American cuisine

If you are not using actual or accurate measuring tools, i.e. food scale and measuring cups, it is SO easy to over-estimate. How many people can accurately measure exactly one tablespoon of peanut butter every time, or 3 ounces of chicken?

 

Food type/substitutions matter

The food items highest in calories and generally not as high in nutrition include:

  • Fats/oils*
  • “White” grains (bread, rice, flour)
  • Processed/packaged goods
  • Meats
  • Dairy products

Of course, in nutrition there are almost no absolutes. I would NEVER recommend anyone go 100% fat free (source). Fat is not the enemy. You just need to monitor the amount very carefully, as one tablespoon of olive oil has about 120 calories, and it is so easy to over-pour or estimate high.

And you also need to be discerning about your source. One avocado has  260 calories from fat, but so would a doughnut, or 2 small slices of pepperoni pizza. Guess which one is a more sound nutritional choice? When it comes to dairy, I would far prefer a single ounce, one die-sized cube, of a super sharp white Vermont cheddar to a heaping cup of the packaged-with-sawdust-so-it-don’t-stick bagged grocery store cheese.

The same can be said of all the other high-impact foods. Be more mindful of your meats (if you eat meat), including where it came from and what type of cut it is. Check out my post on pig parts  breakdown, and see this post for chicken, this post for the deets on beef, and this and this for all your oceanic questions.

 

Vitamins & Nutrients matter

Basically, any restrictive diet has a risk of not getting all the vital vitamins and nutrients your body needs to function, grow, rejuvenate and repair cells. Don’t know what kinds of vitamins there are or why they are each important? I wrote an article all about it, and a special one for the whole family of B vitamins.

Though this diet has a heavy focus on lean protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables, I want to make sure I am not missing anything my body needs day to day. We tend to crave foods that will fill a need, so I listen to my body (which is made easier through the mindfulness and meditation of yoga) and if I’m feeling particularly drawn to a certain food or food type, I will have some.

But just to make sure all my bases are covered, I also take a daily multivitamin for adults, drink a daily green drink, and make a protein shake on most days. For now I’m using the Centrum Complete Adult Multivitamin. It isn’t a super-huge horse pill, so swallowing it isn’t a problem, unlike some multis I’ve tried in the past.

The daily green drink I’m loving right now is Amazing Grass Green Superfood (30 servings size, or for bulk pricing the 60 servings size). They are all organic greens grown and dehydrated in Kansas. They use a start-to-finish cold processing and packing process to keep as many nutrients as possible.

They also have flavors, like Berry and Orange Dream, immunity boosting and antioxidant packed versions, blends that include protein, as well as one that contains natural caffeine from yerba mate and matcha green tea to replace your morning coffee. All of their products are:

  • Certified Organic by CCOF
  • Gluten Free
  • No Sugar Added
  • Plant Based
  • Non GMO
  • Kosher
  • Vegan

The Protein powder I’m using right now is Muscle Milk, chocolate flavor. The 10g of protein per scoop comes from milk (whey protein isolate) so be cautious if you have a dairy intolerance. My absolute favorite thing to do with it is to combine it with a half of a banana and a tbsp of PB2 peanut powder for a chocolate peanut butter banana shake. It makes a great under-300-calorie breakfast, or post-HIIT workout drink. I even add coffee to it sometimes for an all in one breakfast/caffeine rush on the go.

 

Exercise matters

As I said above, I really do believe that increasing my activity level has helped me have more consistent energy throughout the day. I am noticing, at the 2 weeks mark, that that energy is starting to wane. I am getting sluggish upon waking again, hitting snooze and having to literally drag myself up.

This could be due to all the excesses of the past weekend, or it could be my body’s way of readjusting to its new normal.

But I am also noticing an increase in my cardio and strength. I can do more push-ups now before I collapse, and more jumping jacks before I’m out of breath. I did yoga pretty often previously, so I can hold a plank for a minute or more. I still struggle with jump squats, but I’m getting better at it. Improvement is the name of the game. And no matter how long I make regular exercise part of my life, I will never like burpees. Never.

 

Balance matters

Now, keeping in mind all I’ve said so far about the positive aspects of these lifestyle changes, I am still a passionate believer in balance. Balance in all things. Eating better, moving more, and regular sleep are all very important aspects of holistic health and happiness. But, so is friendship, adventure, and wine.

I stand firm in my view that the 80/20 rule is the best way to live life. Essentially, you follow strict rules 80% of the time, and relax a bit 20% of the time. The 80% effort is enough to bring you the results you want, while the 20% helps you from feeling repressed and chained to a system and rebelling or “falling off the wagon”.

In this case, I stuck to my diet very strictly, until the day I got to the beach to hang out with my mom and her friends. There, I kept my good intentions in mind, but also allowed myself to taste some of the cookies we made at our cookie swap, and indulged in a few glasses of wine. We went out and danced like crazy, burning off some of those excess calories, and laughed a lot, which also burns calories and makes you feel good.

Will I Keep Going?

Absolutely. Though I don’t know my first two weeks’ weight change, I can say I believe it has been successful. I know this is a very ‘soft’ way of measuring, but I can literally feel my regular pants loosening. The button doesn’t leave an imprint after I’ve been sitting a while, the inseams aren’t pulling at the thighs, and I just feel better overall.

I have also noticed much more even, sustained energy levels. Previously I would have more peaks and valleys (usually tracking along when I drank coffee…) but these past 2 weeks I’ve had pretty steady and consistent levels. I also seem to be sleeping better, with fewer times spent awake in the night. I also love knowing I am increasing my chances for a longer, healthier life.

These things put together equals a general happier me, an overall sense that this is working and worth it, and something I want to continue. Ultimately, I am hoping these changes become the new normal for me, since it takes an average of 2 months to create and stick to a new habit. I want to make regular exercise part of my daily life, along with as clean eating as I can accomplish while still allowing that 20% for fun and letting go.

 

 

Disclaimer: some of these links lead to product pages, which if you buy them, will not affect the price but will earn this blog a tiny fee, to keep me supplied with kale & yoga pants. I am not a health professional, I am just relaying my own personal experiences and opinions. This is not meant to be health or dietary advice for the general population. Please speak with your own doctor or health professional before starting a diet of your own.