When I was in high school, Depeche Mode sang a song called, Get the Balance Right. Anytime I feel out of sorts—my diet, exercise and health are a mess—that song’s chorus wiggles free from the depths of my brain. Maybe it’s a siren song; maybe it’s a sign; and maybe it’s my brain’s way of saying, Get your sh!t together.
The song has been playing on a loop for a month—one full of stress, sickness, and travel. It’s been a long time coming. In April, I took a full-time gig in an environment that is new to me. It’s challenging, which is just one of the many reasons why I enjoy what I’m doing. It’s also a HUGE change from freelancing, and I am still trying to find ways to juggle the job with my family and self-care.
Honestly, I’m doing a horrible job. At first I was doing alright: I made sure I was taking care of me by going to a 6am yoga class most mornings, then summer came and so did shuttling my son to random summer camps around the city and the schedule didn’t jive with my parental commitments. My exercise now consists of a 2-mile walk to work, and sometimes I walk home. Without that commute my activity level would be nothing.
Then, my eating habits took a nose dive. First, ice cream for dinner was a main stay. Then, I decide to clean up my act and have salads for lunch. And now, I am lucky if I eat at all during the day, only to come home and inhale whatever is available. My poor family used to eat well, now they’re lucky if I make dinner at all.
During my career, I have written numerous articles about getting back on track, working past roadblocks, and devising Plan B’s so that you don’t get derailed from your health goals. Guess what? All of that knowledge that has come with interviewing numerous psychologists about willpower and motivation has not helped me continue on the path that keeps me feeling better. Here’s why:
A body in motion stays in motion, but once it stops it takes more than motivation to start it moving again.
Exercise is something we all need to be doing, and I am talking about doing more than walking our 10,000 steps a day. While that simple goal is great for our vascular health, if we want to really get all the benefits that exercise can offer our bodies, we need to work out.
I know this. Doing it is a whole other story because, for me:
- getting up early to workout is more difficult because I am more tired than ever;
- the idea of going into my building’s basement gym isn’t going to help motivate me to do the former especially because I don’t quite know what I am going to do down there;
- early morning yoga doesn’t excite me like it used to and the truth is, I need something that is going to test my fitness more;
- and finally, I’m feeling lost about and bored with the types of exercise I have done in the past.
These are my roadblocks; when I get past them I’ll let you know. Until then, I’ll take suggestions.
Intermittent fasting isn’t bad; it’s the circumstances that affect your food choices that kill good intentions.
I have been fascinated with intermittent fasting—which is not eating for 12 or more hours. Some research suggests that this practice may increase longevity, help control weight and enhance mental acuity. These studies are preliminary but still very interesting to me. Anecdotally, I find eating this way allows me to control at least one aspect of my diet and allows me to think well throughout the day. The problem comes when my 12 hours extend to nearly 20 hours, or the only thing that I have eaten all day is a LaraBar, or when the time comes to eat I have candy, cookies or whatever sweet goodness is sitting in the nearest kitchen.
Unlike exercising, my barriers to eating feel more manageable. In general, the intermittent fasting makes me eat less because I don’t get as hungry. The real problem comes with the food choices, I reach for the junk that’s easy rather than make the effort for the foods I know are better for me. In an effort to navigate eating during my day better, I have started eating a hearty breakfast that will easily last me until dinner on most days. I just need to be better on the days that doesn’t occur.
Ultimately, getting the balance right involves me giving effort work, family and self-care equally. I’m not going to achieve that on the first go—in fact, I haven’t, and it may not happen on the tenth go. All I can do is learn something with each try and I intend to do so.