What the hell does “balance” even mean?

It’s something that every fitness or health blogger preaches about as the key to success, and that in finding “balance” you too can achieve their level of happiness and casual six pack abs that come with it. Instagram fitspiraters post pictures holding chocolate chip muffins as they stand in the sports bra and pants at 7% body fat. You too can have your muffin and eat it, if you possess the magical “balance”.

Balance is a concept I massively struggled with post anorexia and something which I’m still conscious about now. After having recovered I went through a long phase of binge eating followed by restrictive eating, which is a nasty circle to get stuck in. The sugar rushes from binging were immense and although I hated myself for it every time, it didn’t stop it from happening again two days later. It felt like being possessed and out of control. I would try and compensate for my binges by working out, and exercise became complulsory and unenjoyable as I was always trying to work off last nights nutella I ate out of the jar with a spoon. Yet again, food and exercise controlled me but in a very different way to what I had known before. For someone who has come from such a restrictive way of eating, over eating feels so strange, so scary, so shameful… it’s the self-hate which is the hardest part to deal with.

Through reassessing my diet and controlling my exercise I gradually got back on track. I lost the weight I had gained from binging and rekindled my love for healthy foods, which tasted amazing as well as nourishing my body. When my abs came back and my confidence along with them, I started to take myself seriously as a weight lifting clean eating machine. I didn’t have many lectures at uni, so the gym and meals structured my days. When you become too focused on something however, it can have negative effects as we all know. To the extent where I wasn’t eating an apple because it had too many carbs. Of course, this was reminiscent of the restrictive eating I had known before, and naturally what happened again were bouts of binges as my brains survival mechanism kicked in. Although only occaisonally, yet one sugar binge could leave me feeling ill for several days after.

Forward wind to now. I’m back at university: studying, gyming, socialising. I fit the gym around my lectures, it is very important to me mentally more so than physically but it doesn’t run my life. I love to cook and prepare interesting and healthy meals which are suited to my fitness goals. By that, I mean that they are enough calories to fuel my workouts and brain energy for studying and are also my favourite foods which I enjoy. They are not banale chicken and veg all day every day. I have a treat everyday- whether its a hot chocolate or dessert after dinner, I feed my sweet tooth. In fact, I’m currently eating more than I was before, of both healthy and occaisonally unhealthy foods too, and I’m feeling leaner than ever. I wake up and can feel some baby abs there somewhere. My blood sugar levels are great and my metabolism is on point. I’m not foggy headed or lacking energy. Around studying and working out I see friends, we eat together, get a coffee or go out for something a little more alcoholic…

I’m writing this after just having made the most delicious protein pancakes because I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t hungry, I just “fancied” something. I thought to myself, “it’s not normal or healthy to eat pancakes at 1am, is it!?” But this is my balance. This meal will keep me on track and be fuel for my morning work out. It’s healthy but decadent. It nourishes my body but also good for the soul. I then went on my phone and out of boredom scrolled through instagram. Pictures of body builders and fitness models who I once wanted to be like dominated the news feed. But they don’t have balance. You don’t see it, because photos never tell the whole story. But they can’t sit in bed and eat a chocolate bar whenever they feel like, they can’t go round a friends for wine and end up going out until 3am. They lead very restrictive lifestyles to maintain a constant 7% body fat. What’s more, those competing in fitness competitions throw any concept of balance out of the window when they finish competing and demolish the food cupboards after having been depleted and hungry for so long.

So, although I’m not shredded to pieces and still have fitness goals to reach, my version of balance is working just fine for me and that’s where I want to be. It’s true what they say about moderation, you can still be a healthy fit person who indulges now and then. Find your own balance in doing whatever works just for you. All it has to do is make you happy, healthy, and be a sustainable lifestyle. Create your own lifestyle.

It would be rude not to share this pancake recipe with you. To be enjoyed as part of a “balanced lifestyle”:

  • one sachet of quakers oats
  • 2 scoops of protein powder (mine is vanilla)
  • one tablespoon of chopped nuts or dark chocolate chips, or both!
  • enough milk to bind all the above to form a gloopy mixture, not too runny.

Heat some coconut oil in a frying pan and spoon the mixture at the desired size of pancakes. I like small and chubby ones. When it starts to bubble flip it over for a few minutes on the other side. Once golden, put on your plate and top with greek yogurt, berries or banana, nutbutter, caco nibs….the possibilities are endless!