Thinking Out Loud: Balance

I can be a little extreme at times.

I’ve talked about this before here, here and even here. I’m a go big or go home type of girl. When I sign up for something I tend to hit it hard until I’m done. My drive is actually one of my greatest strengths. It can also be a tremendous weakness if taken too far. The same is true of virtually anything, and I want to talk about this today. Out Loud. Thanks for hosting, Amanda.

Thinking-Out-Loud

I love to accomplish all the things. Heck I can be a little crazy about it at times, but I also recognize rest and rejuvenation make it possible for those things to happen. Taking some me time helps me recharge, not to mention it’s good for my mental health, and we all know I need to keep what sanity I have left, assuming there’s any remaining. The jury is still out on that one.

So I make it a point to relax for a handful of hours every single week. The majority of my down time takes place on the weekends, but I try to squeeze in an hour or so every night during the work week. Some days this is practical and other days, I need to shift my expectations. Either way, I schedule Meghan time on a regular basis because I’m trying to achieve balance.

The same goes for my time at the gym. When I’m there getting my sweat on, you better believe it’s balls to the wall (in my mind, my cojones are huge). I will push myself beyond what I think I’m capable of, and much to my surprise, I usually come out on top. I didn’t think I could do a Tough Mudder. I didn’t think I could run on a treadmill for five minutes straight at a 7.5, clip, but I did. I pushed myself, I went for it, and I made it possible.

That being said, I take lots of rest days. When you’re in maintenance mode, you get to do that. I usually workout about three times a week, four if I’m feeling lucky. My workouts don’t last more than an hour and that’s on a good day. On my off days, I rest, and by rest I mean I don’t do any kind of workout; not a light yoga class, or a quick and easy jog because I’m trying to achieve balance, and let’s be honest, yoga can be a kick ass workout.

When it comes to food though, I don’t go to extremes, unless you count crazy obsessions over a particular fruit or vegetable, but I blame my CSA for that. If you get a bazillion tomatoes every summer, you’re going to make a lot of tomato dishes. That’s statistics right there. I’m pretty straight forward in my desire to eat real food. Specifically, I like to consume as many good quality, nutrient dense, ingredients in the right quantities. I eat the less than healthy stuff in much smaller quantities, and I try to keep it all as chemical and crap free as possible. It’s all about balance.

I wish this concept was reflected in the media. Sadly it’s not, especially of late.

The widely popular television show, The Biggest Loser, just finished another season and Rachel, the winner of the whole show, took things too far. She went from being morbidly obese to stick figure thin, neither of which exemplifies a healthy lifestyle. The public outrage over her extreme weight loss was swift and loud with cries of her having an eating disorder circling the internet and talk show circuits. I don’t know if that’s really the case or if she simply took the challenge too far in order to win the big $250,000 prize. Maybe she has a problem, maybe she doesn’t. Either way it’s not for me to decide.

What I do know was Rachel needed to lose weight.

I’m not saying that to be derogatory or inflammatory. Her being overweight doesn’t make her any less of a person, although there was a reason she went on the show to begin with; she wasn’t healthy.

I need to throw in a side note: I’m an advocate of being healthy, and only blood work can truly tell you that, not the number on a scale. That being said, generally carrying too many extra pounds can lead to negative health consequences. The same can be said for carrying too few pounds. Both can be incredible taxing and damaging to your body, short-term and long-term. At the end of the day though, it’s your life and you get to decide how you live it.

Rachel needed to lose weight when she started, and she needs to gain weight now that it’s done. Unfortunately, she traded in one unhealthy extreme for another, and while neither is ideal, at least she’s out there and trying. I can’t fault her or The Biggest Loser for that. Can you say the same about yourself?

Hopefully Rachel is still a work in progress and will one day obtain a healthy balance, but I say instead of attacking her or the show, whose true goal is to promulgate health and wellness, we need to start trying to find a good balance between obesity and thinspiration because neither one is a good fit for our physical or mental health.

While balance is great in concept, it can be much harder to put into play. So how do we do do it?

We do this by working towards balance in our own lives.

We do this by realizing it’s an ongoing process with hiccups along the way.

We do this by being open to change.

We do this through self-love.

We do this through self-reflection.

We do this by being an example.

We do this by supporting one another.

We do this by encouraging those working towards a healthier lifestyle.

We do this by not judging those who aren’t.

How do you achieve balance in your own life? What things do you do to excess and how do you try to balance them out?

This entry was posted in Good Eats, I Work Out, Reflections and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Thinking Out Loud: Balance

  1. Meghan,
    Do you abbreviate Meghan Time in your planner as Me. time?

    If not, you should. That’s cool.

    I’ve never seen this TV show of which you speak, because I live under a rock (topped with the winter squash that I keep meaning to roast one of these days) but your words ring of common sense and gosh darn it good old fashioned midwestern sensibility.

    Too bad you’re from Buffalo, but it appears that Ohio’s rubbed off on you a bit. Not too much, though. Just enough. Or your folks raised you right, I dunno.

    You make sense.

    • Meghan says:

      I don’t abbreviate Meghan time in my planner, but you’re right, I should. It usually pops up in the form of bad tv, book reading, working out, mediating, self-pampering.
      Midwestern sensibility; I like that and as much as I like to blame my parents for all my flaws, they’re responsible for my ‘balance’ philosophy as well.

  2. Fran@BCDC says:

    Excellent post, Meghan. I had heard about it and it’s amazing the looks on the two trainer’s faces. They were obviously shocked and I don’t think in a good way. Thanks for writing this. So very insightful. Hugs.

  3. caren says:

    I agree with you on the biggest loser gal. She did need to loose weight. I’m not overly panicked on her current weight as that will probably even out a bit, but I doubt she’ll ever get back to where she was, and that’s balance!

  4. I struggle with extremes as well… I’ve always adopted the “go big or go home” mentality, not realizing that going big often left me going home… I overdid it on exercise. I overdid it on clean eating. I overdid it on being healthy… And while all those things are great, they can definitely be taken too far and become the opposite of what they’re supposed to. I think balance means something different for everyone, but at the end of the day it’s supposed to make you feel good… That’s how you know you’re doing it right.

  5. When I was in high school I was such an extremes type of person. In some ways I have gotten better, and in other ways I have gotten worse. Overall though, I feel like I’m averaging more in the middle. The problem is that even though I no longer pressure myself to get 100s on everything or DO everything, sometimes I feel guilty for allowing myself that leniency.

    You took this in a little bit of a different direction than I expected, but I like your “work in progress” statement. I think we are all a work in progress. None of us are “finished.” Because if we were, then nothing we did after the fact would change us. Unfortunately though everyday we have to work at it. “It” being life, health, etc. Even in maintenance you have to work to maintain.

    How do we do this? <<< All of your answers are phenomenal, but the self-love one struck me the most. I've always tried to keep an open mind about others, and even if I do judge someone at first appearance, I usually realize that and look for an opportunity to change my mind, to tell myself that I don't know they're thinking/what they're true intentions are.

    Branching off of that though, while I have gotten better about judging others, it's not always easy to do that with yourself. Self-love, at least the term, is kind of a newer concept to me. I never before maybe last year had even heard of it, let alone knew that it was something I should be practicing.

    I balance myself with the help of friends and family. Thanks for the extra little stability today Meghan ;)

    • Meghan says:

      First, feeling guilty is normal. I used to feel really guilty when I started scheduling relaxing time for myself. I also realized that time was making me happier and a more enjoyable person to be around. It’s worth it, so I learned (although it still creeps up from time to time) to let the guilt go. The more you do it, the better you’ll get at it. It’s like anything else; you have to practice.

      Second, keeping an open mind is probably the hardest thing to do. It’s easy to make a snap decision; it’s easy to shut someone down because one thought runs contrary to your own. It’s much harder to quiet the judgmental voice in your mind, but again totally worth it and the more you do it, the easier it gets.

      I surprised myself with where I went with this post. I had like seven different topics all interwoven (thin shaming, fat shaming, perspectives, the need for us to fight the obesity epidemic, achieving the middle ground) and this is what I finally ended up with. It certainly wasn’t where I started, but I did like how it ended. I’ll also likely do rants on those other topics, but they needed their own post.

      If you don’t mind my asking, what direction did you think this would go in? I’m curious to get your thoughts, and I suspect whatever you say will probably be right.

      Self love is the bomb; it’s where my ego comes from, and I can tell you I wasn’t always this way.

  6. Sarah Pie says:

    I’m still working towards that kind of balance, but I love hearing about it from people like you who have achieved it. I head it called the “once” trap years ago and that has stuck out for me ever since, the idea of “once I ____ everything will be what I want”. Problem is there is always another “once” to accomplish and you never reach the balance you’re working for.

    I’m pushing through the negative end of extremes right now, telling myself once the number on the scale come down I can work towards a better balance of food and exercise… it’s not healthy and I KNOW that but sometimes it can be that hard to listen to yourself.

    This was a beautifully written post and very timely for me personally, so thank you for the extra motivation to hit that balance :)

    • Meghan says:

      Just like everyone else, I’m a work in progress when it comes to balance. Admittedly though, I’m much better at it now than I was five years ago. I’m still growing though and working it every day.

      You are spot on with that once trap business.

      Work towards a better balance of food. Eat lots of the good nutrient dense stuff, less of the other stuff and the scale will gradually decrease. You rush it by restricting, and you stand a good chance of getting it all back and throwing your hormones and body chemistry out of whack, which will also make it more difficult and more likely to resurface.

      I’m happy to be of service. Email me anytime.

  7. Ameeeen. I struggle with balance and I’m trying to fix that. I used to be on extreme diets or in binge mode and I’m finally letting go of that as well as trying to find balance in other places in my life.

  8. Ahh the infamous B word- Balance.

    That is something I am working on and find to be perhaps, one of life’s biggest struggles. I went to extremes when it came to exercise and eating but think I’m making good progress in seeing the balance in those areas- but it’s other areas where it’s still open ended.

    Thanks for this post- It really made me think and reconsider my current views on it.

    • Meghan says:

      So serious. It’s like I don’t even know you anymore… :)

      Life is one big balancing act so the fact you’re working on it, is in itself an accomplishment. Pat yourself on the back Arman. Or how about a swat on the ass. See – now that’s better.

  9. Mason_Moore says:

    Have any objections about me putting up this on twitter?

  10. Abby says:

    Amen. Well, I say that hypocritically seeing as I have major issues with exercise, but balance is something that I’m really trying to work on (thank you OCD and depression for making things so very fun!) Hearing about your rest days and mindset was very refreshing, especially seeing as you’re someone that I do respect and know isn’t crazy. So many blogs consider rest days to be a light 10 mile jog with a diet of two eggs and squash for every meal. That’s not living. That’s obsessing and controlling and doing anything but listening to their bodies.

    My point is that balance is much easier said than done, but it’s absolutely necessary for an authentic life. You can’t be too much of one thing or another without giving up another part of yourself. Great post.

    • Meghan says:

      I know I read about rest days involving yoga classes or a brisk hike and I’m shocked because those are my work out days. Oops.

      I almost didn’t include the details about my workouts (how many times per week and for how long) in the post, but now I’m really glad I did. Thanks for your comment. I love hearing from you.

  11. Meghan-This is by far the most articulate and well thought out post I’ve seen on the biggest loser “scandal” (for lack of a better word). I too wish the media were better able to reflect balance. I have struggled for years with this concept in so many facets of my life. I’ve been there with food, with exercise and now currently with work. I push myself to my limits and ultimately I crash and when I crash, I crash hard. aka this weekend. I’m trying to get better at not letting myself get to these extremes but it’s certainly a steep learning curve. One day I’ll learn and it will stick. In the meantime it’s nice to have examples like you out there :)

    • Meghan says:

      Well thank you Davida. That means a lot to me. I really do understand the outcry about the winner’s dramatic weight loss but it seems to me everyone is forgetting how unhealthy she was when she started as well. I really believe the answer is somewhere in the middle. Healthy doesn’t have to be a six pack set of abs or a giant keg. The way I see it, is somewhere in between.

      I used to have big balance issues when it came to work so I can 100% relate. Sometimes I still do, but I now recognize the patterns, and I have the tools to work my way out of those unbalanced situations. I’d be happy to listen if you ever wanted to chat about it and I’d be willing to share the steps I take when I start to go too far in one direction.

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  13. This is definitely a well written post on the subject! (Although I dislike when writers say “don’t judge others” when that in itself is judging those who we think are judging others haha. I rather like “don’t be mean/hateful towards others” because judgement is a necessary part of life BUT being mean/hateful shouldn’t be. //end rant) I too agree she went to far just by looking at her new BMI which puts her in the underweight or at risk category..just as she was at a BMI that was at risk beforehand. Of course we don’t know if she is feeling good or what blood testing would say, but we can make assumptions based on what we have seen… I actually wanted to write a blog post about this but I suppose I will write a super long comment! ;)

    Balance is key to everything! I think it’s so tempting to want to step up our game when we see others doing awesome things via social media or blogs or even hearing about it in person. What we don’t tend to see is what the rest of this awesome person’s life looks like. I think it’s important to understand none of us are superhumans and we are all (hopefully) working towards our own balance.

    Again, well written! I will be sharing this via the interwebs!!

    • Meghan says:

      I specifically decided to use the phrase ‘don’t judge” because it is harsh (and therefore better delivers my message) and because the media was definitely judging Rachel. No assumptions necessary; it happened and much like you suggest, will always happen. Maybe I should have tried to say don’t judge negatively because I like your idea about that. Good rant and I’m glad you shared it. I like different viewpoints even when they run contrary to my own. I would love to see you write a blog post on this topic too.

  14. Ok, so I can’t help but find this a little eerie…you know I don’t have cable and even if I did, reality television’s not really my thing, but I JUST saw an article on this Rachel girl in a magazine one of my coworkers had at the hospital last night. People, I think…again, something I would never buy to read, but you know, I just can’t seem to help myself when trash like that is lying around the department. Ha!

    Anyway…I saw the pictures during her transformation. I agree that she definitely needed to lose weight, but I couldn’t help see her mid-season progress shot and think, “wow, she looks really healthy there.” – according to the article, she was 150lbs. Now she’s what? Nearly 50lbs lighter than that? It’s crazy…and I wonder if she still maybe sees herself as that 200-something pound girl from when it first started. Body dysmorphia is a bitch. I remember when I was going through my divorce and was at the lowest weight I’d ever been, how I went so long never noticing my ribs and spine poking through my skin but only relished in the fact that I “finally” had a flat tummy. Luckily, I got a wake up call…to the tune of SIX cavities when I went to my dentist appointment at the end of the year. My body was basically taking nutrients/calcium from my teeth (and probably my bones now that I think about it) because I wasn’t feeding it properly. Now why can’t the media do some sort of expose on that?! I wish there was more of a “nourish your body” type movement in this world instead of a “strive for skinny” one. What HAPPENED to the days of positive and healthy looking body image like Marilynn Monroe?

    I really like how you came at this post…from both sides. Embracing your strengths and weaknesses, pulling out the extremes and really putting things into perspective. And that last line? “We do this by not judging those who aren’t.” Perfection. :)

    • Meghan says:

      Aw, thanks Sunshine.

      I’m still actually behind in the show so I haven’t seen all the episodes yet or the finale, other than the hype the media has made. In the episode I’m currently on, I think she looks pretty fabulous. Like she could have been done right then and switched to maintenance mode. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

      What I thought was really unusual about it all was the very strong public reaction to her being too thin. I get it, believe me I do, but where was that same reaction for her being overweight? And why can’t we stop focusing on too thin or too big, and just focus on healthy. Or like you said, let’s focus on “nourishing the body.” I love that.

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