Balanced eating can seem like such an abstract concept — what does balance really mean and look like when it comes to food?
While balance will look different for each of us at every meal,
The Spectrum of Eating Habits
Imagine a spectrum.
On one end of the spectrum, we have the all-in mentality of rigid diets, plans, and food rules that feel restrictive and require you to regulate yourself. This is the place where you eat “super clean” and avoid all “bad” foods.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is not paying attention to your nutritional needs.
Sometimes this can look like eating anything you want, whenever you want. This usually happens when someone believes that the best way to have balance is to never say no to foods that they previously labeled as “off-limits” or “bad.”
It can also look like not being mindful about ensuring you’re getting a balance of nutrients or not feeling confident in knowing what your body needs to be nourished without the guidance of being on a specific diet.
If you just let go of the diets but you don’t also learn how to focus on your nutritional needs in a more supportive and sustainable way, you eventually won’t feel well, you may get further from your well-nourished weight, or your physical health may suffer. And all of these things may lead you to feeling pulled back to wanting to go on a diet, which swings you right back into the other end of the spectrum.
You need to nourish your body well in order for you to simply feel your best and also to care for your health and wellbeing.
Remember, nutrition is the catalyst for all areas of our health and it’s what allows us to enjoy and experience life. You deserve to find a way of nourishing yourself that supports you without it requiring you to regulate or restrict yourself.
What Balanced Eating Looks Like
What we’re aiming for is a happy medium — balance.
What some people think when they hear happy medium is spending some time on one end of the spectrum and some time on the other end of the spectrum, swinging back and forth between the two.
An example of what this may sound like you saying you’ve been “good” all week, so now you’re going to eat whatever you want all weekend.
Or it could be the reverse, where you say that you’ve been so “bad” all week, so next week you need to make up for what you ate and eat super clean.
But that’s not really balanced. That’s cycling between two extreme states.
Not only is that not supportive of your wellbeing, but it’s also not giving you a sense of ease, peace, and enjoyment with food that’s so important.
Rather than swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other, what balance really looks like is hovering right in the middle of the spectrum with a little give and take on a daily basis.
This is where you’re making very intentional choices that allow you to nourish yourself well without needing to restrict or regulate yourself, and also have the flexibility to enjoy foods you like without ignoring your nutritional needs.
Balance takes many forms and can look different for each person, every day, at every meal!
This can look like enjoying a slice of pizza with a side salad.
It can look like choosing to have dessert one night because you really want it, you have your favorite dessert on hand, and you’ve given your body the nourishment it needs.
It can look like opting to make a more nourishing version of your favorite comfort food so that you’re able to sneak in more whole foods into your day while also making it a meal that’s really enjoyable.
The purpose of finding balance with your food choices is to bring awareness to what you want and need, and make an intentional choice that helps keep you in the happy medium — no matter what it may look like.
This balance allows you to honor your wants and needs, build confidence in your ability to make the best choice for yourself, and experience much more ease and peace around food so it no longer is a source of stress or something that preoccupies your mental energy.
How to Find and Maintain Balance
In order to find this balance and stay in this happy medium rather than swinging from one end of the spectrum to the other, have to form new, more supportive practices and mindsets that allow you to hover in this middle, balanced state for the long-term.
Part of the Diet for Weight Loss Editorial Team 2021