When you think about practicing the principles of ‘balance’ with food and nutrition what comes to mind? If your first thought is a plate neatly cut into thirds, containing 50% colourful veggies, 25% fibrous starch, and 25% lean protein, you’re certainly not alone.
Yes, this way of thinking about dietary balance can be helpful in applying the concepts of nutrition science in a way that isn’t obsessive, rigid, or overly rule-based. But at the end of the day, when all we’re talking about is getting a balance of food groups, we’re missing the point in the conversation about balance. The truth is, there is so much more to balance when we’re talking about food.
While this perfectly split plate is one form of balance, technically speaking. But when we discuss balance holistically, this is only a small piece of the puzzle. For example, have you ever noticed that we spend so much time and effort trying to eat in this highly balanced way throughout the year, but once a celebration or social event comes up, suddenly, it’s like all bets are off. What if we told you it was possible to stay mindful, eat the foods you truly enjoy, and celebrate without going overboard along the way? In essence, this encompasses the true meaning of living a balanced lifestyle.
The art of how to put these balanced meal principles into practice while ensuring the way you eat is sustainable and realistic long term, and that your nutrition is in balance for you, is what it’s all about. With this foundational understanding, let’s dig in to how this our team at MacroNutrition Coaching likes to think about the concept of balance.
Balance in the True Sense
When discussing food, balance certainly does include applying the macronutrient balance aspect of nutrition. But practicing true, holistic balance means allowing yourself to make food decisions that allow you to embrace special events and celebrations in your life as well, such as eating that birthday cake with your bestie – and having a great time doing it.
Balance means differentiating between what is optimal for your physical health (for example, making high fibre and protein, and low sugar and saturated fat choices often) and what is practical for your unique lifestyle (such as opting for convenient sources of nutrition during a busy work day or function requiring travel). Balance with nutrition is the art of allowing each of these reasons for eating to have their time and place.
The key to practicing this holistic form of balance is to not let any one reason for eating (i.e. nutrition knowledge, convenience, what smells good, etc.) win out every time. If you do let this happen, your sense of balance and well-being will suffer in the long run.
As so many have realized from past experience, when a person takes their nutrition knowledge to the extreme and makes every single food choice from a sense of the “healthiest” food, there are consequences. On the other hand, when a person makes every food decision out of a sense of what’s convenient, they likely will not feel as great as if they were able to cook more at home. The truth is, taking the best care of ourselves as possible requires us to accept that there is a delicate balance between practicing our nutrition knowledge, indulging in what sounds/looks/smells good, and choosing what’s convenient or doable with our schedule and financial means. All of these reasons for choosing what to eat deserve to be in balance with one another.
Healthy nutrition is definitely a science, but it’s also a delicate art of balancing our reasons for eating and creating a healthy relationship with food. The goal should be to not get overly caught up in rules – use the principles of nutrition science to help guide you, but allow yourself to figure out the fine art of practicing balanced nutrition.
This is balance in the true sense.