Tag Archives: balance

Follow me at my new site . . .

Just wanted to post another invitation to follow me at my new website, lmwellness.com.  I notice that there are still a number of people who are visiting this site (kimthedietitian.com), yet I have not posted in many months.  I fear they must think I am lazy!  Not so.  I have just been posting in a different place.  Join me there!

Too much? Too little? Ahhh . . . that’s just right!

Goldilocks knew what was "just right."

Goldilocks knew what was “just right.”

Oh, the beauty of balance!  Yes, you can get too much of a good thing.  A new study claims that people who run a lot – not moderately – tend to have similar risks of dying as those who do not run at all.

A little running – say 3 to 4 miles a few times a week – has health benefits.  Run too much and it loses its health benefits.  Of course there are individual differences as with any human studies, but logic always seems to come back to balanced living for better health.  Ultramarathoners: you would definitely not be considered moderate.  Isn’t 26.2 miles enough of a challenge?

Balance is not an easy concept to define with precision, but it is still a good basic guiding principle for healthy living.  Believe it or not, we all “know” where the point of balance is for our unique bodies.  The problem is that not many of us trust that we know.

Let’s face it.  We are addicted to information, and there is plenty of it out there:  the TV, magazines, newspapers, friends and acquaintances, and  the internet.  All of these sources are external input.  What about the internal indicators we might get if we tuned in more often to that channel instead!

With increasing information about what to eat, when to eat, and why to eat – not to mention the many versions of advice and “proof” – our diet-crazy culture has lured us away from the true messages of our wants and needs.

Too much?  Feel sick, stuffed?  It could be a response to thinking you need less than you do, failing at that craziness, and “blowing it.”  Or, it could be the result of not taking true care of emotional needs.  Emotions need balance too.

Too little?  Feeling starved, weak, deprived?  Your true balanced self would tell you it’s crazy not to eat!  External messages that imply (or come right out and tell you) it should be enough are not in your best interests either.  And what about all those ads that show what fun you will have if you eat all those tempting gooey treats?  Just more confusion.

Tune back in to your needs!  It will likely feel uncomfortable at first.  “Who me?” you ask,  “I’m the expert on balance?”  Yes, you are!   Here are a few tips:

1.  Feeling sick to your stomach = too much

2.  Irritable, hungry, worried about eating too much = too little

3.  Enjoyment of a balance of healthy AND delicious food in the quantity needed for a vital life and a mind that is not overly-fixated on the next meal = perfect balance

It’s really that simple.

Ouch! Friendly Reminders About Balance, or “Johanna made me do it.”

My poor body!  It has tried many times over the last week and a half to gently remind me, with subtle yet increasing muscle tenderness and joint aches, that I am pushing too hard.  You see, I have been testing my physical limits lately:  “Let’s just see what I can do if I give it a push.”

In my much younger years, I enjoyed “playing” at gymnastics tricks, and later regretted never pursuing it more seriously.  (Now I see the wisdom of that decision as I hear stories from people who competed and are now faced with lingering issues from past injuries.)

Then I saw this video, and I thought “If she can do that at 86, . . . ”

So . . . a week ago, I took a private gymnastics lesson and did many assisted “tricks” that left me feeling a little impressed with what I  could do, and very aware of my less limber back and legs.

Feeling inspired, over the course of the next week, I took a vigorous, long, and hilly bike ride with my husband and a longer than usual run.  That left me feeling a little more impressed and a lot sorer.  Then I did a strength training class that was much harder than what I usually do.  Again, I was a little more impressed with myself yet very aware of the physical toll on my body.

But, was I aware enough to rest after any of these challenges?  NOOOO!  I was a little bit “high” from the accomplishments and a little too stupid to stop.

My muscles finally ached so much that I got the message my body had been trying to send for a while.  I went to a therapeutic yoga class during which we never got up from a seated position.  It was forced relaxation and stretching for me, and it was just what I needed.

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants to get moving toward more challenging activities, but it is also possible that a reminder to rest is more important at the moment.  I found myself re-visiting my overall fitness and health goals:  TO FEEL HEALTHY AND HAVE NO PAIN.  It’s good to remember that JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DOESN’T MEAN YOU SHOULD!  Balance is best.

Too Much of a Good Thing Is . . . Too Much

DSC02398

Like so many Americans, I take dietary supplements, nothing too crazy, but I take them everyday.  A recent editorial in the Sunday New York Times had me headed for the kitchen cupboards to check out the labels on my vitamins.

I know this stuff.  I’m familiar with the studies that show adverse effects from too much Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and antioxidants in general, but I still like to add it all up every once in a while to make sure the cumulative dose of whatever I am taking is not working against me.

You are probably much like me, bombarded by sales pitches that sound logical.  “Antioxidants fight free radical damage, which will help ward off disease and illness . . . and even physical signs of aging . . . ”  This is true, BUT . . .

Too much is still too much.  It is still not better.  Food is a safe way to get anti-oxidants in quantities that will not be harmful.  You will simply not be able to eat enough fruits and vegetables to overdo it, because you will get full before that.

What’s the harm in taking megadoses of antioxidants?  The editorial points out that the risk of cancer seems to rise, because it appears that protective mechanisms in the body are harmed when we are flooded with too many antioxidants.  In other words, the body’s natural balance is thrown out of whack.  It’s just another reminder that the body is a smart machine, and it is made to work best with fresh natural food with minimal processing . . . and minimal monkey business with supplements.

That said, I am still taking my supplements, but I do not take megadoses of anything.  Once again, moderation seems to be the best way to go.

Greater Balance Is Often the Important First Step Toward Weight Loss

Big-small, high-low, hard-easy, hyperactive-sluggish, . . . these are all examples of life’s extremes.  What we all really seek is balance.  For that reason, the lows will tend to be counterbalanced by the highs.

The human body is programmed for balance.  Equilibrium in terms of pH levels and glucose levels is a matter of life and death, so in healthy people there are multiple safety mechanisms to make absolutely sure that these key blood levels are within normal ranges.

Human behavior is like this too, although not as easily balanced for many of us.  Eating in excess and then counterbalancing with undereating is an all too common dieting habit.  The pattern repeats without conscious thought after a while.

I have found that when there is chronic imbalance, coming more to the balancing point – in other words, to that point where the behavioral extremes are less extreme – is the necessary first step for improving any kind of health measure, including weight.  The range from high to low is then narrower, the mind is calmer (after the initial doubt and fear are overcome), and weight goes down.  Yes, weight goes down – even if there is not a morsel counted or journaled!

I often tell people to trust me if they are not ready to trust themselves.  Lean on my confidence.  I have experienced this in my own life with all kinds of things.  Seeking more balanced behavior reaps benefits without even knowing exactly what that balancing point looks like at first.

I am not saying that you will never find that you are uncomfortably full, or that you will never again feel over-exercised, overworked, or overwhelmed.  I am just saying that you can get to a point where these times are rare and more of a curiosity than anything else:  “Wow, how did I get this full?  I must have eaten too quickly to know.  I know I waited too long to eat and was overhungry.”

I am in the process of completing 200 hour yoga teacher training, and my current reading assignment has a great section about this topic:

We all know the feeling after eating a big holiday dinner.  Our belly is so stuffed full of food we are only able to lie on the couch, groaning.  Even for the next few days, we will feel exhausted and lethargic, having overdrawn our energy account trying to digest and assimilate the enormous quantity of food.  Experiencing this discomfort, we then tend to swing to the other extreme and eat too little.  This depletes the vitality and strength needed to nourish the mind, emotions, and body.  Only when the physical realm is in a state of balance is there ample energy to drive us to the more subtle spiritual vistas.  (My comment:  “More spiritual vistas” can be as simple as having great creative ideas or adding value to an important relationship.)        From The Secret Power of Yoga by Nischala Joy Devi

What are the healthiest actions you can take in the moment . . .

. . . to have the healthiest overall health in the long run?  Think about it.  I didn’t ask, “What are the healthiest actions you can take in the moment?”  The answer to that question for most people would be a form of “super behavior”, maybe an ideal super activity (if there is such a thing) or perfect eating (whatever that is!).  Even if we could define a perfect set of habits, ideal – or perfect – health behavior is just not something any of us can keep doing for long.

So the real question – the one that will cause you to be your healthiest – has to have a longer range outlook.  In other words, how does this way of living that I am doing right now affect how I behave in future moments, weeks, or years?

Over-aggressive effort usually ends up polarizing our habits.  We get really “good” sets of habits and equally “bad” ones.  And then we have the overall habit that includes swinging between the two poles.  Not ideal for health, not ideal for mood, and not ideal for ultimate well being.

So, looking at how current health-related activities will affect our ultimate health outcome is crucial.  It is why I am a proponent of finding the balancing point between the two extremes and making an overall habit out of being more consistent.

The result?  A level head, a level weight, a level mood, . . . . simply more balance.  Simply better!

Never Underestimate the Value of Maintenance

We all forget to be grateful for what we have.  It’s human nature.  Every so often we get reminders, usually when we lose something and then we appreciate it.  Sometimes it is money or material items.  I recently lost my iPod, and I really appreciate it now that it’s gone!  Even if we have not personally had major health issues, we at least have heard stories of other people who only truly appreciate their health once it is gone.  Time spent complaining about minor aches and pains can be seen as petty in light of such insight.

The same feelings are connected with weight loss.  So much energy is spent working toward an ideal weight, or just a weight that can be tolerated, that many dieters forget to be grateful they are not gaining when the pounds are not falling off quickly enough. Continue reading

Reflections on My Yoga Weekend

Exhilarated and fired up!  Drained and surrendering.  That is how I feel after 20 hours of yoga training this past weekend.  Light/dark, strong/weak, confident/self doubting – all at once.  Today I am reflecting on the dual nature of all things, but specifically related to me and my experience.

Among all of the universal truth reminders, this one remained with me as I left the studio, my weary brain and body feeling the effects of a second 10-hour day of listening, processing, sitting on the floor, and moving on the mat.  Yes, I felt relief as I headed home, but I also felt super-charged, creative!

At any given time, I am usually more aware of one side of an experience or a feeling, and that becomes my reality.  “I feel weary” usually feels one-sided and exhausting.  At those times it is hard to remember how much vitality I usually feel.  “I am feeling alive and fired up” is normally a mood that forgets what it felt like to have self-doubt.

At the outset of the weekend, we all chose a word to describe yoga for us (at that time).  My word?  BALANCE!  Processing the experience, I find it interesting to see that my biggest take-away was precisely that.  It was a great reminder – both sides of a feeling are always there, although one usually dominates in the moment.  When I feel weak, I will feel strong again, and my strengths will not be unchanging.

I am usually aggressive with my physical body.  I grew up in an atmosphere that celebrated being tough, and I am proud of that.  Arguably the most stinging insult as a child was “wimp”.   God forbid!

But I am learning that babying my body is necessary at times.  Pushing through pain is not always (ever?) a good thing.

I remind myself that the sore part of my upper left leg has been alternating between “kind of ok” to “ouch” to “a little better” for months.  It took this past weekend to realize that . . .

AHA! I am both strong and fragile.  Just because I can doesn’t always mean I should.  I recognize that I will feel strong again, and in that strength, I will remember the potential for weakness.

Know What You Know!

Common Sense – So Rare, It’s Kinda Like a Superpower . . .  (addictinginfo.org)

Remember the Ninja Turtles? This kinda goes with the super powers theme, and it is getting close to Halloween. Good excuse to pull out an oldie but goodie – 1989

I often remind people to consider common sense.  Why?  Simply because there is so much focus on what is the “right” thing to do as defined by the internet, TV, “experts” and research.

Carbs are good . . . no, wait . . . carbs are bad . . . no, it looks like it depends on what it is . . . no, . . .

Talk about confusion!  And that’s just the biological side of eating.  What about the human side?  That’s even more individual.  Information is good, when it is accurate.  With nutrition research, accuracy is not always absolute.  With so many different genetically different people in the world, there are bound to always be individual differences.

Please pay attention to up-to-date information, but please don’t forget to pay attention to your own body and how it responds to different types of food.  Maybe even more importantly, I believe we all do better when we observe how our eating and our lives interact.

How do you meet your emotional needs?  Do you have an emotional repertoire that includes other soothers besides ice cream with hot fudge sauce?  Do you notice that when you eliminate all pleasure from food in the interests of optimum nutrition, you eat more junk than ever before?

Common  sense will lead most people to moderation in most things.  Food is no exception.  You are the “expert of you”, the PhD of your needs.  When you put all of the information together, you are the only one who can figure out the best way to use it.  Stay healthy!

Life As a Run 4

These guys aren’t worried about their pace.

In the middle of my run today, it hit me – I am really enjoying this.  I am not feeling tired, I am breathing nice and steady, and my mind is not focused on my end point and thinking ‘Can I make it?’

If you have not read my previous posts in this series, you will not know that “in the middle of my run” is not 10 miles, or 5 miles, or even 3 miles.  I seldom run more than 3 miles at a time, but I was having some fun over the summer with pushing my physical limits with regard to speed.

There were times when I truly was not sure if I could keep going, even if I slowed down when my breathing felt frantic.  It felt like I could only recover by stopping and just walking for long enough to regain my breathing rhythm.

Over the past few weeks, I have headed out for runs making a new deal with myself:  Kim, you can go at ANY pace  you want.  Just get out there.”  This attitude got me out the door several times when I would not have gone if I thought I had to push the speed.

Sure, it felt good to accomplish speed goals.  Just to know I could do it gave me a mental boost, even though I was completely whipped by the end.  However, after a few leisurely runs, it occurred to me that my short-lived fanaticism just didn’t feel “right” in a bigger sense.  Today it dawned on me that the speed strategy was not in line with my real goal – my BIG goal – which is to feel as good as I can and be super healthy.  I simply felt less achy and looked forward to my runs more when I was more moderate.

I don’t regret pushing the limits, because I realize it helped me to find my balancing point between what was too easy and what was too hard.  I now define that healthy balance in terms of my breathing.  I no longer keep looking at my Garmin watch to see my pace.  I let my breathing guide me.  If I start sucking wind, I slow down right away and steady the breath.  If I think I can feel good picking up the pace, I do it.

So human, isn’t it?  I started from a point of very little effort, hardly running at all a year ago, and then I got a little full of myself and pushed to the other side.  I needed to see just how far I could go.

I found out when I naturally started slowing the pace.  Now I consistently run about a 9.5 minute mile, regardless of whether I clock it or not.  I also find that I can occasionally run 4 or 5 miles and enjoy it, but usually 3 is the magic number.   My body knows its balancing point.

I see this with weight loss.  People can feel a little fanatical when they start seeing results.  “Well, that wasn’t so hard.  Let’s see what happens if I cut back more.”  They eventually reach a point of effort (suffering?!) where they swing back the other way until they find that comfy spot, the point where they aren’t always looking at the calendar and wondering how long this can continue – much like me looking at my watch when I run, gasping for air and wanting to quit.  Thoughts?

After I wrote this, I re-read my last post about running.  Hmmm.  It seems that I realized, in the middle of my speed demon phase, that my speed tended to  balance out over the course of a run – faster spurts were often followed by an opposing slower pace.  It just took me a little longer to realize the bigger reality of balance as it applies to my genuine lifestyle goals.