People, by and large, seem to be naturally motivated to gravitate towards extremes. This is perhaps truer in the world of health and nutrition than it is in any other domain of life.
New, extreme diets are forever rising and falling in popularity, with the flavor of the week meal-plan suggesting that you should cut out entire macronutrient groups with extreme prejudice, or take this particular health supplement 12 times a day, or drink a prescribed amount of water, and so on.
The same general patterns apply for fitness, and for all other elements of the health component of life.
The issue is, of course, that — like just about everything in life — experiencing optimal health is largely a matter of balance and harmony. If you’ve ever met a truly vibrant, vital, magnetic person — someone who seemed to have a healing aura about them — the odds are good that individual was very adept at living a balanced lifestyle.
Here are some tips on how to find balance in your pursuit of optimal health.
Exercise, but finish each workout feeling good
If you believe all the hype surrounding high-intensity workouts these days, you could be forgiven for thinking that anyone who finished a workout without feeling like the world had just collapsed on them, was a wimp.
This perspective is far from uncommon, and it’s established itself in popular fitness culture to the extent that everyone can relate to jokes about walking down some stairs after leg day, or “motivational” pictures with quotes explaining that you need to train like you were being chased by a pack of hungry lions, or else you’ll never be successful.
The thing is, those kinds of exhaustion workouts severely tax the body’s central nervous system, and are emotionally draining, too. Do too much of them, and your immune function may well fall apart.
Exercise regularly, but exercise within the right intensity range so that you finish each workout feeling good.
Eat enough, but don’t eat constantly throughout the day
There are a huge number of extremely restrictive diet systems out there, encouraging some pretty grueling dinner table habits in pursuit of the perfect washboard abs.
But severe caloric and nutrient restriction has severe downsides over time. The Minnesota Starvation Experiment, conducted during World War 2, found that mental and physical health was severely compromised by ongoing caloric restriction.
Eat enough food, eat until you’re fully satiated at each meal, but don’t eat constantly throughout the day. Try to avoid snacking between meals — as research has suggested that this eating pattern may cause insulin resistance over time, and potentially even Type 2 Diabetes.
Do enough meaningful work, but don’t cut out essential sleep and downtime
To feel content and fulfilled in life, people need to spend their time productively, and achieve enough so that their lives have meaning, and they feel good about themselves. This positive outlook on life contributes significantly to positive mood, as well.
The thing is, when people work too much and cut down on their sleep time, every element of their health takes a dramatic hit, from working memory, to blood sugar regulation, hormone balance, organ function, and mood.
“Work” enough — but don’t cut back on your sleep to do so, or on the leisure time which brings joy to your life and brings you closer to friends and family.