The Balancing Act

I'll be the first to admit that from a very young age I was a girl of extremes. Things were either black or white, right or wrong, good or bad. I was either completely obsessed or utterly disinterested. I went through life this way for quite some time.

All or nothing.

This type of behavior impacted me in more ways than one. It affected my health, my relationships, and my happiness. I lived like this until I could not live like it anymore.

Always extremely active, my life has constantly been on the go for as long as I can remember. At my own will, I have always been fueled by chaos. As a child I was constantly shuffled around from school to sports, to piano lessons, to dance, shoving Eggo waffles, peanut butter sandwiches and goldfish in my mouth in between. Despite eating on the go, my mother always cooked pretty healthy and fed my sisters well. Therefore, when I got my driver's license, what I was most excited about was being able to drive to McDonald's after school in between soccer practices. Yes, I actually used to eat a Big Mac minutes before running around a field for hours. Completely clueless of what a calorie even was.

And then I went to college.

College is where the offset began to shift in the other direction. College is a time of drastic change and lots of first experiences. It was the first time in my life I really heard girls being super critical about their bodies and speaking critically of others bodies. At first this banter seemed foreign but it quickly started to resonate within me. I started being hyper-aware of what I was putting into my body. I learned what a calorie was. I discovered that exercise wasn't only meant to improve performance on a field. I began to obsess over calories in vs calories out. My clothes eventually started to get looser, and people started to notice. And it became addicting. The euphoric feeling of exercise, the liberating feeling of being thinner, the societal approval of those around me. It was an obsession I was fanatically committed to until I could commit no more.

Eventually, the weight loss started to become harder, and the constant calorie counting and hours spent at the gym no longer became worth it. I got burnt out, as anyone would.

I'm sure you've heard the story many times before, you know how it goes..

The term "balance" seemed logical at the time, but instead struck me as sort of an excuse. If I was not training and working towards a specific fitness goal each and every day, I felt I was somehow selling myself short.

There were no such things as rest days. To me "rest" was just an excuse. Skipping hard workouts to me was equivalent to skipping a night of sleep. And the same applied to food. For what seemed like the longest time in college, food was either good or bad, leading to a whole host of problems that go beyond the number on the scale. This way of living lead to guilt, anguish and disgust.

It wasn't long before I had my "F this" moment..

I knew this lifestyle was not healthy, nor was it normal or worth living. I knew there had to be a more educated way. I began to shift my obsession with quantity and rather began to observe quality. I immediately stopped counting calories and trying to undo meals in the gym. Rather, I researched different diet programs written by accredited doctors, dietitians, and nutritionists. I became so intrigued in reading about nutrition as an ideology and slightly disturbed when I started to consider how the western diet has evolved. I began to observe different cultures, through research, observation, and experience.

I spent the winter semester of the junior year in Italy. This was a real eye opener for me. I discovered first-hand the significant differences between the European diet and the American diet. One of the first things I noticed are there are very few obese people walking the streets of Italy. I couldn't understand how this was possible as I was indulging on their delicious culture.

Croissants and full-fat cappuccinos for breakfast, paninis and/or pizza and wine for lunch, and three course dinners, always consisting of a pasta dish to start, some kind of meat or fish as the main course, and dessert, always. It didn't take long for my friends and I to start noticing a change in the tightness of our pants or the rounding of our faces. We just did not understand how a culture could eat like this and still remain so slim.

I remember striking a conversation with one of the locals about the subject. "Ah you fat Americans eat and eat and eat. You don't know when to stop. You don't know how to eat your food. You don't appreciate your food."

Dang, he was right. I then started noticing my friends and I licking all of our plates clean. All or nothing, right? We have no control. Ah, but the food was so fresh. You could taste the unprocessed-ness of it.

And ding ding ding that was my AH-HA moment: quality over quantity.

I came home from Europe that winter and did not try to exercise off any unwanted weight I had gained over the trip all in one day. Instead, I came home inspired and ready to change, ready to rid myself of such extremes, ready to find the grey area, the middle, the balance. I came home so fascinated with food science and exercise physiology that I decided to change my college major and study it further. There was always a burning desire inside of me to help others the way I helped myself. Hence my career in physical education, coaching and personal training.

Nowadays, it is more clear than ever that there is no such thing as a "one size fits all" food and fitness prescription. It's getting rid of that "dieter's mentality." Forgetting about the rules. Allowing yourself to discover your healthy balance, your optimal Trifecta of food, fitness, + wellness. The balance that works for you and only you.

#balance #italy #westerndiet #europeandiet #nutrition

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