by Sarah van der Steur
I recently started on a journey with a new client. She came to me with some concerns regarding her health and diet. She wanted to lose a few pounds, but she never seemed to have enough time to eat well. Glued to her desk all day, a pizza at 3:00 pm seemed like her only option. Seeing her child for a few minutes before bedtime and making that passing connection with her husband was part of her daily routine.
But I’m here to tell you: there are better choices.
I have found that her story is like so many others. Eating on the go so we can commit to something else. Putting everyone else’s needs before our own because we don’t value ours as much. Feeling no joy in life because we’ve run out of energy.
Sadly, this is the norm in our society because being “busy” is socially acceptable, while being peaceful and relaxed is seen as unproductive. This is the beginning of living an unbalanced life.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though. Here are three of my best practices to starting to create “whole life balance.”
Food is always the first and most essential part of balance. I’m not talking about being on some fad diet or drinking tasteless, sugar-filled protein drinks. I’m talking about committing to eating the most whole, preservative-free foods that are available to you. Beginning by swapping out one unhealthy item at a time. It’s all about small steps to the greater goal.
Studies show that 25% of what we eat creates our healthy foundation. The other 75% is how we are eating. For example, are you eating at lightning speed, experiencing indigestion on the other side? Slowing down, savoring your food, and allowing your body to slowly digest can dramatically shift your health and weight loss.
Balance Practice #1:
Next time you sit down to eat your next meal, time yourself. See how quickly you eat your meal! If you are the world’s fastest eater, start adding 3 minutes to each meal until you are able to devote 20 minutes to eating. It can make a dramatic difference in your weight loss and digestion.
I am sure you have heard how important mindfulness is and how it can play a large part in your “whole life balance.” This practice is described as a “nonjudgmental awareness of experiences in the present moment.” Studies show that having the ability to slow your mind down and turn on your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for regulating your body during rest and recuperation) can play a huge roll in stress management, effective metabolism, and even creating more energy.
Chronic stress may cause disease, likely because of related changes in your body or the bad habits people use to cope like overeating, and smoking.
Deep breathing and meditation is the practice that helps turn off the sympathetic (think fight or flight response) nervous system. Do we always do it? Not necessarily, as we lack the support and the accountability that would make the difference, but relieving stress can be as simple as slowing down or pausing 3 times a day and just noticing or connecting our minds to our bodies.
Balance Practice #2:
Practice breathing. It’s called the 5,5,7 breath. Breathe in for 5 breathes, hold at the top for 5, then breathe out for 7. This breath work is easy and effective. You can practice it any time – when you’re waiting in a long grocery line, stuck in traffic, or (let’s be practical, here) when your spouse is saying something annoying.
What does that mean? I see such a lack of self-nourishment when I begin to work with new clients. There seems to be a negative connection to it. Take some time to think about what brings you joy and self-nourishment. Do you do those things, and if you do, are you filled with guilt because of it? Sometimes the habit of not caring for ourselves is a hard habit to break.
When we love ourselves and are surrounded by things or activities that bring us joy, our energy increases, and we feel happier about life. Taking care of ourselves is a conscious choice. It uplifts the mental, physical, and spiritual levels of our being. When we feel nourished or full of joy, we create healthier and more balanced thoughts, which ultimately creates healthier and more balanced habits.
Start with small steps to fill your life with joy for better health and wellbeing. One of my favorite practices says, “small hinges open big doors.”
Balance Practice #3:
Journal 10 activities that bring you joy. Go back and circle the top 3 and then pick just 1 that you can do for the next 48 hours. Easy, right? Notice the changes you feel in yourself and run with those feelings.
After 90 days, that same client that came to me for weight loss had made a total life transformation. Yes, she lost weight, but more importantly, she changed her negative self-talk, decreased her stress, and decreased her work hours by 30% , yet was still was able to accomplish of all her tasks. She now takes the time to savor family dinners 4-5 days a week and she even had time to notice her 10-year-old son smiling ear to ear when he saw her taking the time to listen to his piano playing!
We all can make these commitments to ourselves. The key to a “whole life balance” is simply taking a moment to notice. Noticing allows us to listen to the messages that our beautiful bodies are trying to communicate and lets us make new choices that bring us happiness and health.
Sarah van der Steur is a Transformational Mindset/Health Coach who empowers women to reconnect to their authentic life balance.