Can we ever really be balanced

I originally wrote this post for HuffPo, but decided I wanted to share it here too. Balance as a topic is something I’m so passionate about, and the more I think about it, it’s really what I, and Wholeheartedly Healthy is all about…

Balance is that word that we all aspire to, but rarely seem to achieve. Almost as soon as we gain a feeling of being ‘balanced’ it slips through our fingers and we’re back to takeaways for dinner and a glass, ahem, bottle of wine after the kids go to bed.

Is being balanced something that we can actually achieve in the long term? 

I believe that it is, but to get there we need to change how we think about balance, and really get to know what balance means and looks like for us.

Life has its ebbs and flows, and its own seasons. Sometimes it will be the case that you’re having to work a 50-hour week and then party all weekend, other times you’ll be spending the whole weekend in your pjs. Another way to look at it is that you may spend a holiday or birthday eating a diet of chocolate cake and ice cream, and then come back and be on a healthy eating kick. This is the nature of life, and whilst I’m not saying that it’s ok to live off ice cream, I am saying it is ok to accept it. Because from a place of acceptance, perhaps not of the behaviours but more of the ebbs, flows and seasons, you can start to build your picture of balance.

20 months ago I had a baby and my life changed forever. Before getting pregnant I was at the gym 5 times a week, ate food that could rival Deliciously Ella in the clean eating stakes and was generally A Healthy Person. So much of that life fell away when I had my baby, and I spent a lot of time feeling guilty for the ready meals I was bunging into the microwave and the coffee after coffee I was drinking just to be able to function. I can remember wishing that I could just be more ‘balanced’ like I used to be. The truth is, back then when I was obsessed with healthy living, that wasn’t balance either.

What I’ve learned from the other side of that (and yes, I still eat ready meals and drink coffee now he’s a toddler, only not quite so much!) is how this was, and is, just a season of my life and I need to embrace it, and develop a new picture of what balance is for me now. 

In developing that picture, it’s also so important not to compare your life to anyone else’s. Your balance will look different to someone else’s balance, even if you seem to be in the same life season. Your priorities, wants and needs will all be different, and they are the important ingredients in developing your own picture of a balanced life.

That’s the start really, developing a picture of what ‘balanced’ looks like for you, not just for the next week or month, but for the next year or more, with acceptance that life will ebb and flow and that the season of your life might change. 

Having accepted that I’ll not be hitting the gym 5 times a week any time soon, nor eating the perfect clean diet, I’ve been able to work on what balance is for me now. 

 It’s cooking from scratch using whole, real food ingredients as often as I can, but having a ready meal in the fridge for when I’ve had ‘one of those days’.

 It’s getting to the gym twice a week and going to a blissful yoga class once a month, and being ok with that usually being my only exercise because something is better than nothing.

 It’s being ok with the fact that I’m basically a walking zombie until I’ve had my coffee, and that on some days when my sleep thief of a child has had an especially bad night, it’s ok to have another cup, or let’s face it, 3.

 It’s eating chocolate, every single day (to be fair it is dark chocolate #antioxidants).

Mostly, it’s accepting that there’ll be hard weeks when my little one has chicken pox, we’re stuck on the sofa and I look forward to chocolate just for the reward of making it through, and there’ll be good weeks when I cook every evening meal from scratch, make green smoothies for breakfast and get to the gym. That’s my balance right now.

I’d love to know: what are your thoughts on the topic of balance? Do you feel balanced right now? What does balance look like for you?