As a food blogger and all round foodie, my conversations with other people tend to almost always “mysteriously” end up revolving around food (I know, weird, right?). The question that comes up over and over again in these conversations is always,”But how do you manage to stay in shape when you are constantly surrounded by so much good food?”, which is a totally legitimate question. I don’t claim in any way to have all the answers. However, I would like to share with you what works for me.
My one word answer, while may be difficult to achieve, is as simple as can be: Balance. Balance is key to living a life full of delicious food, good health, and overall wellness. Without balance, one or more of the above will most definitely suffer.
One of the most important factors of a well-balanced life that I have come to accept as necessary is exercise. Let me confess something to you: I’m not a fan of exercise. I never have been, nor will I ever be an athletic, sporty person. Not gonna happen. But, through personal experience, I have become a true believer that it’s essential to our wellbeing. The benefits of making exercise a part of your life are endless. I am not saying you need to be a cross-fitter or run marathons, but incorporating a reasonable amount of moderate exercise in your weekly routine (about three-four half hour sessions) is enough for your body and mind to reap the benefits, while helping to keep the fat from accumulating. In other words, just do it. Find something you can enjoy (or at least tolerate) and commit to it. For me, High Intensity Interval Training has been a lifesaver. Short, intense, effective and anything but boring, especially when done in a group.
The other integral component to a balanced life is moderation. If you follow my blog or Instagram account, you will see that I eat pretty much everything: pasta, pancakes, desserts, you name it! With the exception of junk food, which I don’t even label as “food”, I am unapologetic about enjoying all the foods that I love. They key here is that I don’t have them all the time. You will also notice that along with these indulgent foods, I eat large amounts of more nutritious and nourishing foods. I adore veggies, salads, whole grains, eggs and nuts, and I make sure that the majority of my diet is made up of these highly nourishing foods so that I am also able to enjoy the not-so-nourishing ones occasionally.
What I’ve found works for me is that I fill my weekdays with nutritious meals – lots of salads, greens, protein, the sensibly good stuff which I have grown to thoroughly love and enjoy. I avoid processed food altogether – refined grains, flours, and sugars – opting for fruit or more virtuous snacks like dates if I feel like something sweet. If I find myself craving something that is more indulgent, say a creamy pasta, or a cookie or croissant, I put it on the list of things “to eat/make” on the weekend. That way, I never feel that awful sense of deprivation people on diets feel. Instead, I have lovely treats to look forward to.
Feeling constantly deprived is one of the most miserable feelings ever, and one that drastically affects our relationship with food in a negative way in the long run. I plan my weekend around the things I feel like eating, and by the time the weekend comes, I always find that I naturally narrow down that “to eat/make” list to a couple of things I really feel like eating, and I just go for it. I’m able to eat and enjoy all the wonderful foods and treats I love, no guilt or shame involved. And thankfully, no change to my waistline.
Find a system that works for you, because of course every body is different. Try to practice intuitive eating: listen to your body more closely and be true to what you will come to easily identify as your body’s needs. I totally believe that you can, and should be able to enjoy all sorts of food in a well balanced diet. You can still have the treats you like, you just don’t have to have them all the time (the keyword here being ‘treats’). One burger won’t make you fat, just like one salad won’t make you thin.
Yes, food is essentially meant to be fuel for our bodies, to help keep us well and strong and functioning optimally. But food is also a great source of pleasure and enjoyment for our souls. And people often overlook that important aspect, which is essential to our overall happiness and wellbeing. It is OK to eat things for enjoyment that won’t necessarily contribute nutritionally to our bodies, as long as we are sufficiently supplying our cells with the nutrients and goodness they need regularly. As well as providing our bodies with adequate exercise and rest. It’s all about balance.