Most of us, at some point along our health journeys, have experimented with extremes: extreme diets, extreme exercise, extreme food restriction, and even extreme performance in all areas of our work and personal lives.
Many people I see in my naturopathic practice yo-yo between these extremes; they’ll be gung-ho on following their new diet or juice cleanse to a tee, only to succumb to cravings or temptations and feel like they’ve failed. While I admire many people’s drive to perform and succeed, when it comes to health, this is not something that can be ‘achieved,’ but rather, it’s a delicate balance and continuous practice of living in-tune with ourselves and practicing moderation.
Moderation is the backbone of any health plan. Why? Because allowing ourselves to experience the pleasures of life is the only way our health practices and self-care routines can be sustainable. As we near the end of summer, I invite you to reflect on the ways in which you live in extremes and consider how you can bring more moderation into your everyday to create a balanced lifestyle.
Here are a few suggestions:
1. Create intentions, not goals
I believe that over time, goals can change. When you set intentions, which are a little more broad than concrete, specific goals, you can allow what you’re working towards to develop and evolve without feeling like a failure if you don’t achieve it. For example, perhaps instead of saying you’d like to lose twenty pounds, say you’d like to feel healthier, have more energy, and be more conscious of eating whole foods everyday. See how setting intentions has a different tone than setting goals? Write a list of how you want to feel, and continually revisit it to see if you’re on track.
2. Include daily pleasure
Many people fall off the health train when they feel too restricted, or like they lack any sense of pleasure in their lives. Life is meant to be enjoyed! If you love chocolate, allow yourself a small, daily dose of high-quality cacao rather than banishing it all together. If you love baked goods, experiment with new recipes which include healthy substitutes like spelt flour instead of white flour or maple syrup instead of refined sugar.
3. Get more rest
Research shows that over-exercising, especially if you have a history of chronic stress, can actually make your body more stressed, which affects every aspect of our overall wellness. Further, when we over-work and lack good quality sleep, we tend to overeat due to the way it alters hormones responsible for regulating hunger and satiety levels (not to mention depletes our adrenals). One of the best tips to create a sustainable health regimen is to ensure adequate sleep. To optimize your rest, I recommend turning off all electronics at least an hour prior to bedtime, as well as reducing your intake of sugar, caffeine and alcohol.
4. Be present
When we are present in the moment, our nervous systems can come out of the sympathetic, fight-or-flight response and back into the parasympathetic, calm state. When we are relaxed and present, we naturally begin to make choices that better serve our health. Instead of reaching for that unhealthy snack full of empty calories, we’re more likely to grab something healthy, like fruits or veggies, because we are more connected to our bodies and what they need for nourishment. Plus, studies show that any practice that helps to reduce stress, such as yoga, meditation, or any mindfulness practice, helps our bodies come back into homeostasis and self-regulate.
5. Learn what moderation means to you
Everyone has a different idea of moderation. For those who are more inclined to live in extremes, it may feel difficult to ease up on your restrictions or experimentation with diets, cleanses or detoxes. For those who have no trouble enjoying the pleasures that life has to offer, moderation may be found in adding a little more structure around exercise and eating. Everyone has a different version of moderation, and that’s okay. The most important thing is to ensure that whatever way you approach moderation in your health journey is sustainable for you. This may take some trial and error, so be gentle on yourself in the process.
If you need support in developing a healthy lifestyle, visit your local naturopathic doctor.
Enjoy the rest of your summer!