My Journey to Balance: Part 2
To see how I realized balance was missing from my life, click here and read Part 1 before continuing on!
Balance is such an undefinable term. Nobody’s idea of balance is exactly the same as somebody else’s. What I need in my life to be happy and true to myself is not the same as what my mother, father, friend, or you need.
In my mind, balance leads to happiness. Balance is what allows you to do the undesirable tasks, like taking out the trash or calling your great uncle who doesn’t know your name, but also to do what make you ecstatic. Balance is doing what makes you feel calm and rested, but also staying up later at night every now and then to create memories with loved ones. Balance is being spontaneous, but also remembering what you need to feel nourished. Balance is what allows us to have a happy life, as we become willing to try, learn, grow, and stay true to who we are.
My mom loves to watch reality TV. You may think it is nonsense, but for her, she loves to unwind. Who cares if it is not what you like to spend your time doing? If it helps her relax and contributes to her balanced and happy life, isn’t that all that matters?
My dad loves to graze. He doesn’t really eat full meals, except for when we all eat dinner together, and instead eats a toaster waffle, some baby carrots, some yogurt, here and there throughout the day. For his always on-the-go lifestyle, this works for him.
You may love SoulCycle and go to their class four times a week. I really don’t like biking, so I will probably never go to a session. But, who am I to judge you if this is what makes you happy? I praise you for getting active and doing what makes you feel good! There is no denying that group exercises can create a strong sense of camaraderie and motivation. You are on the track to finding balance, and that is what matters the most.
When I first realized I was so out of touch with who I am and what I needed in my life to make me happy, I went to see a doctor. I wanted to see why I couldn’t sleep at night, why I was constipated, why I was always burping. That doctor told me I was eating too much. Not satisfied, I went to two other nutritionists. The first told me to stop eating xyz, the second told me that it is all up to a higher being. I was frustrated and thought they were all wrong.
Finally, I found a nutritionist that made sense and seemed to truly care about my health. Unlike the others, she tracked what I ate for a week, along with my exercise habits, and had me fill out a bunch of forms about my history, my mindset… and we had a very realistic, informational phone call in which she told me frankly that I was vastly under-eating for the amount I exercised and that my body was in starvation mode. She told me I had something called Orthorexia Nervosa, an unrecognized eating disorder by NEDA in which the individual exercises compulsively and cuts out many items from their diets to try and be “healthy.”
From there, we set up weekly meetings to discuss how I could progress. I was to eat more and exercise less until my metabolism came back up to speed. This step in particular was incredibly difficult for me. My guilty thoughts haunted me and I constantly felt regret. But, this was all a part of the process. I had to record my cravings, whether I allowed myself to eat to those cravings, how I felt after every meal, whether I was guilty or satisfied… I had to learn to listen to my body and understand my hunger levels. She encouraged me to eat something every 3-4 hours, switching my body to multiple meals from my habit of two main meals a day.
I got a personal trainer* to ensure I was both not over-exercising and exercising safely. I practiced taking rest days, not forcing myself to spend four hours at the gym after eating a cookie the night before. I practiced switching up my workouts, finding what I love instead of just forcing myself to do what burns the most calories. I stopped weighing myself obsessively.
After not knowing my weight for almost a year, I accidentally found it out. I was 12 pounds more than the previous year. At first, I was so upset. I couldn’t believe it. But, to be honest, those feelings quickly disappeared. I became oddly proud of myself. Yeah, I had bought a ton of new clothes along the way (I’m talking to you pants), but I could finally see muscle, not just ribs. I was no longer up all night thinking of food. I didn’t feel pressure to eat dessert or not eat dessert—I did what my body felt. I learned what amount of exercise I needed to feel happy and healthy. I learned to spend time with my friends and not devote my life to my appearance.
There are so many events that happened along the way to get me to where I am today, and while I couldn’t be more proud of myself, I won’t lie and say that everything is always great. But I am so much happier than I was two years ago. I am so much healthier, balanced, and I am constantly impressed and amazed with what my body can do and what I can do for my body.
*I recognize that both nutritionists and trainers are not accessible to everybody. I am very fortunate that my family had the means to help me with this experience. However, I do not believe professionals are the only way for people to seek their balance. If I had known of somebody else in my place, I would have felt safer, less alone. I had no clue what was happening to me. If any of my story resonates with you, I encourage you to reach out. While I am not a registered dietitian, nutritionist, or trainer, I am a human being who has experienced maybe something you have felt, and am always here to help in any way I can.
What do you need in your life to feel balanced? What motivates you to get through difficult days?