Expert Advice from Adrienne Radcliff Hefner MS, RDN, LD , Registered Dietitian Nutritionist at Island Nutrition
Everything from social media to TV adverts throw healthy lifestyle advice at us all day long. Try Keto! Be Vegan! No, wait, be grain free! Or hey, why not all the above? We are constantly told how our bodies should look and promised happiness when we achieve this goal. The truth is, long term happiness is not achieved via one’s appearance or even through meeting one quick fix goal. So then, what is the answer? Balance.
As a dietitian, I spend a large portion of my day encouraging a balanced eating pattern. Balanced eating often means 3 meals a day composed of a half plate of vegetables, a quarter plate of starch, and a quarter plate of protein with fruit and dairy as add-ins to meals or for snacks in between. The portions I recommend vary depending on age and gender of the individual as well as health issues they may face, but the overall message is the same: “find balance.” I often hear shock from patients when I tell them most, if not all, foods can be eaten if we consider portions and balance. It seems “too easy” to make these subtle shifts. However, research and my experience serving patients show sustainable lifestyle shifts lead to more long-term health benefits.
The benefit of balance can be applied to all areas of life. Another area I apply it to when discussing lifestyle habits with patients is physical activity. So often we have lofty goals to go from zero exercise to an hour each day. This not only leads to burnout but can lead to physical injury too. I recommend balance in physical activity by having some planned days off or low physical activity days such as easy stretching, yoga, slow-paced walking depending on the person. This allows the body and mind to rest and regroup for the next day of higher intensity exercise.
Though my focus with patients is on physical wellbeing, it is always important to address all other areas of wellbeing because they affect the choices’ we make daily for eating and physical activity habits.
Mental health relies heavily on balance too. Not only does it depend on adequate nutrition and exercise, but also our ability to find balance in how we spend our time and mental energy. We often live life without thinking through how to best manage our individual needs and desires that compete for our time. Will I cook dinner tonight or spend those 30 minutes on a run? Can I share a drink with a friend or get an extra hour of work completed? Who needs to be dropped off or picked up before I can take care of my own needs? Will I take 15 minutes to enjoy a hobby or sleep an extra 15? These are only a few examples of the thousands of daily habits we complete without even thinking about the effects on our life balance and therefore our overall mental (and physical) health.
Balance is key for a healthy lifestyle. Think of all the ways we could better our lives through this technique. If we apply balance to all areas of our life, allowing a little give and take, we can approach the promise of long-term happiness that is so often advertised to us.
Having trouble finding balance in your life? Contact Island Nutrition today for support from a Registered Dietitian at 295-4082 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively find out more about our services on our website www.islandnutrition.bm.