A saying that one often hears the older generation mutter is: “everything in moderation”. While this is open to criticism, one cannot help but see the merits in the logic.
A more recent saying, often brandished on t-shirts, states: “obsessed is a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated”.
Sure, moderation doesn’t make one think of excellence, but it does instil a sense of calm. One cannot become the best at something if you are moderately motivated or dedicated, but one won’t become morbidly obese or develop chronic health problems if everything is done in moderation. On the other end of the spectrum, the second saying gives one the sense of “all or nothing”. However, it is also easy to see how an absolute focus on one aspect of one’s life may lead to the detriment of the others.
Now, we’re by no means advocating mediocrity in this article. What we are doing is looking at how striking a balance is often a better way to go with regard to lifestyle choices than taking an all-or-nothing approach.
Dropping the ball
Read this quote by James Patterson:
“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping them all in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls… are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.”
Now, while this quote in itself is a lesson for all of us in the priorities of life and what truly matters when we’re old and grey, it also serves as a handy metaphor for finding balance in our quest to become healthier and fitter.
Let us look at the glass ball called health. If we obsess over this ball, to the detriment of the other four, what will happen? If we drop the ball at work – well, it will bounce back up, over and over again. But if our obsession with health causes us to drop our family, friends and integrity, well then the warning is a lot more stark.
Having the body of our dreams means nothing when no one loves us, all our friends have deserted us and our integrity is in tatters. Sure, this is extreme, but extreme behaviour can lead to extreme outcomes.
Finding a balance in our health and fitness doesn’t stop there. It goes beyond looking out for the pillars that make up our existence. Enjoying balance in our approach is the surest way that we’ll stick to our new lifestyle choices. The rewards make sticking to a plan far more likely than if the life we live, in pursuit of our goals, is not worth living.
Striking a balance
What does it mean to approach health and fitness with balance then? Well, if we take Patterson’s analogy for life, we can do the same with health and fitness. The balls that you will be juggling are largely dependent on what goal you are chasing, although some will always remain the same. Nutrition, exercise, rest and recreation are some of the balls you want to keep in the air.
Here, the most important ball, as we have repeated so often, is nutrition. But, this does not mean that you should focus everything on nutrition and forget the rest. Yes, a lifetime of poor eating habits can lead to an array of life-threatening diseases, but there will come a time when lack of exercise and movement will lead to biomechanical dysfunction and other issues related to poor fitness and muscle atrophy. However, focusing on nutrition and exercise is not enough – a lack of rest can also be absolutely harmful and detrimental to your health and fitness. On the other hand, an obsession with rest – well, we know what that is called!
Create a plan and stick to it
The surest way to ensure that you strike a balance and find a routine to live the healthiest and best life possible is to draw up a plan and then try and stick to it.
[checklist]1) Research – learn about nutrition and exercise
2) Plan your eating habits and meals in advance
3) Draw up a well thought out exercise plan (or have an exercise professional do it for you)
4) Schedule personal and group recreational activities
5) Sleep enough; but don’t sleep too much[/checklist]
Exercise and diet are probably the two most common areas where people can become obsessed and end up hurting themselves. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you.
Too much of a good thing
It’s not inconceivable for a person to change her eating habits and enjoy the benefits of weight loss and a new physique. However, far too often this becomes obsessive – where the weight loss itself becomes the drug and not the pursuit of a healthy body. This person then starts becoming extremist in her eating – perhaps cutting all fats, cutting portions and calories to ridiculous proportions, maybe even skipping meals. It is easy to see what is happening – and too often specialists talk about seeing people who, on the outside, appear to be in good shape but inside their bodies are on the verge of shutting down: damaged metabolisms and internal organs taking strain from extreme eating practices that often started out as simple diets with the best of intentions.
The same can be said about exercise. We all know that we need to be active and move to be healthier and fitter. However, a bit like the diet and the obsession with actual fat loss rates, and not the end goal, people can become obsessed with exercise: whether this is running or weights or CrossFit. The end result? People quite literally train themselves into the ground – immune systems are wrecked, dysfunction becomes chronic and injuries become debilitating. But it doesn’t stop there – these people are so obsessed they will train through injuries as if the longevity of their bodies do not matter.
And that’s why the old adage that too much of a good thing can become a bad thing is so true. This article is not about painting horror stories and playing up the old boogeyman, it’s about reminding us all why we picked up this magazine in the first place: the healthy intention of losing fat and becoming healthier, fitter and stronger, which are all very good intentions to start with. The key is remembering the bigger picture – keeping your eye on the balls, so to speak, so that balance remains the end goal.
And in this regard: balance equals wellness across all aspects of our lifestyles.
Author: Tanja Schmitz
Founder and Editor of Fitness Magazine. You’ll find her behind her computer or on her bike, dreaming up new ways to improve or create content for you.