Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Achieving Balance In Nutrition and Life

Balance. The elusive ideal preached to us by acupuncturists and holistic health gurus of all kinds. The power of balance is that if we move in its direction even a little, we benefit. As an example, a recent article in the news detailed how a man lost 40 lbs eating only McDonald's food, and by adding a daily walk. How could the worst of the fast food joints possibly bring him closer to health? The answer is that he was previously eating too much, and even though he was consuming poor quality food at McDonald's, the new amount he consumed was closer to balance. The quality of the food may not have changed, but a small movement in the direction of a healthier amount was enough to cause beneficial health effects. Adding a daily walk was another movement in the right direction.
Now let's talk about extremes.
I have a friend who recently posted to Facebook that he had over-eaten during the holidays, and now he wanted to balance his bad eating by fasting for several days. This is a common practice. We often see binging and purging, feasting followed by fasting, or going to the gym for hours to make up for poor meals. Or, after years of poor nutrition, some will eat only raw fruits and veggies for a month, or try the master cleanse, or some other seemingly healthy way to kick-start a movement toward health.
The problem is this: none of these approaches makes sense if one is trying to achieve balance. And, if one is trying to achieve health, TRUE HEALTH, then one is trying to achieve balance, because truly deep health only comes when our systems are harmonized and in balance.
My friend even tried to justify his behavior by comparing what he was doing to the theory of yin and yang. He said that if he ate too much and sat too much (yin) that the appropriate course of action was to balance that with lots of exercise and fasting (yang). Here's the catch: you cannot achieve balance by acting out an imbalance of either side of the spectrum. The only way to achieve balance is to stop the extreme behavior, return to balance, and wait for it to harmonize the system and heal the damage done by the imbalanced behavior. Trying to achieve balance by acting out in the opposite extreme is like trying to stop a pendulum from swinging by lifting it to the opposite side. As soon as we let go, it swings back again, and possibly with more force than when we seized it to begin with. The only way to stop the pendulum is to let it rest in the middle.
The Mind and the Middle
Really, I'm describing two frames of mind here. One is the frame of mind that "wants stuff, and wants it now." It starts by wanting crappy but delicious food, and crappy but addictive behaviors. Then, when it begins to suffer from the result of its actions this mind comes to its senses, or so it thinks, and wants a quick turnaround on its health. It wants some healing, and it wants it now! It wants to feel healthy again, as quickly as it can. It wants its hot body back, and its tight skin, and its less puffy face and eyes. So it motivates energy for change. Fast change! Explosive exercise and supplement driven change. Alas, the change it wants is also not safe or sustainable. And the even deeper truth is that it's not the extreme behaviors we need to change at all, it's the mind that we are letting run the show that we need to change.
Instead of leaving the part of us that "wants it all now" in charge we need to access the part of us that realizes that the only way to do this right is to drop all excessive craving and desire altogether, and to just rest in the middle. Rest in good clean eating, and good clean behavior that is certainly no Los Vegas for the soul, but can be deeply satisfying in its own right.
How then do we achieve this elusive balance? Very simple. Rest in the middle. Eat moderate amounts of mostly whole and unprocessed foods. Stretch and exercise an appropriate amount each day. Rest well. Meditate. Do one thing at a time. That's it. In fact, bring even one of these areas into balance and you will move your entire system closer to the healthy middle.
To sum up: it's not about gimmicky diets, nutrition fads, or allowing the mind that loves extremes to run the show. It's just about doing what you already know is right, and then having the patience to wait for the results. Good luck! -By
Achieving Balance In Nutrition and Life


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