For a long time I was either all in or all out when it came to trying to balance living a healthy lifestyle with having a social life. I would go on these health kicks that would last a few weeks or months and would consist of me completely shutting down all invitations to social events and activities because I was so dedicated to living the healthiest life possible and didn’t want anything to get in the way of that. Then I would fall off the wagon (hard), agree to every social event, do whatever I wanted and lose all motivation to exercise or eat healthy. As I said it was either all in or all out for me for a long time and I honestly didn’t know that there could be an in between.
It can be hard to find the middle ground between making your health a priority and actually enjoying yourself in life. I know that telling someone that you’re on a diet or that you have a gym session first thing in the morning that you can’t miss are not the most fun or the most easily understood things on the planet to explain – trust me. It gets even harder if you start to have strict training plans or dietary restrictions or if you cut certain things out of your diet for ethical or health reasons (cough cough meat, dairy, etc.) For some reason people really get judgey whenever they hear about someone doing things a little differently.
THE SUPPORT SYSTEM
I think that the first step in finding balance is figuring out who in your life supports your choices and who does not. If I’m being brutally honest (which I always am) if anyone ever gives you a hard time for eating a certain way, working out or prioritizing your health then ditch them right then and there. People who have nothing better to do with their time than criticize the fact that you are trying to better your life are not people worth spending your valuable time on. I wouldn’t even be able to count how many times I’ve had someone say something like; “why do you NEED to workout?” or “doesn’t it get boring eating healthy all the time?” or my all time favourite “EW what are you eating that looks gross” – to which my answer is usually along the lines of; *insert ignorant persons name here* thank you for sharing your disgust with me about my salad you’re so right, your deep fried pathetic excuse for food looks way more delicious and nutritious can I have some? NOT.. Okay you’re right, I’d never actually say that to someone but I’ve thought it many many times. People don’t like what they don’t understand and for some weird reason in todays society it is a lot easier for most people to understand eating a McDonalds burger than it is for them to understand eating actual vegetables (we’re so screwed) but that’s okay, you just have to let it roll off of you and move onto bigger, better and healthier things.
Unfortunately for a lot of people social situations are stressful because they know that there are more often than not going to be not so healthy food choices, drinks, treats and judgement from others if they turn those things down. So a lot of the time people miss out on things because they get scared about straying from their normal diet or routine and that’s totally normal to feel that way, you can’t fail if you don’t go right?
You may not realize it but having a social life is actually really important to our overall health. Yes taking care of your body, muscles and digestive system are great but taking care of your soul should be a priority as well. When we engage in social events and meet new people or get to know old ones we are feeding our soul, you know that saying “laughter is the best medicine” – well it actually is! I bet you couldn’t tell me one time in your life where you’ve laughed until your cheeks hurt and then felt shitty right after – it just doesn’t happen. That being said, can you tell me the last time that you actually laughed that hard? If you can GREAT but if you can’t then it might be time to battle these stressors and get out there so you can enjoy your life a little more.
It’s important to remember that nourishing our bodies goes far beyond just the food we put into them.
HOW I PERSONALLY BALANCE BOTH
I live by an 80/20 rule in my life which basically means that I eat clean most of the time (80%) but still leave myself room to indulge and enjoy my life! I track my macros, eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full and I never deprive myself of anything, if I want something I will have it!
The same goes for enjoying my life and social situations – I don’t turn people down when I get invited to things even if I know that there are going to be temptations. I’m at a point in my journey where I feel more than comfortable saying no if I don’t want something and I know that if I do want something then that is OKAY too. I’ve never been a huge drinker, I personally grew up around someone with an alcohol addiction and I just don’t like what drinking in excess does to myself or to people around me, so I don’t do it. I have no problem being the sober one at a get together and if someone asks me why I’m not drinking I just simply say “I don’t feel like it” and usually they drop it. I am however a total self proclaimed wine connoisseur, I worked in a high end wine bar for 3 years and I love everything about it so I do like to enjoy a glass with my dinner sometimes, usually on a Friday night as a treat – this is something I know that I enjoy so I don’t limit myself from it!
I’ve learned how to go out and not overdo it, I know that if I’m tired I should go home because my body will thank me tomorrow and I know how to turn any restaurant menu item into a healthy option. I want to be healthy for the future and I know that in order to make anything long term you have to actually enjoy what you’re doing and for me that means having a balance of both fun decisions and health conscious ones. I know how good my body feels when I feed it real whole foods, but I also know how good I feel as a whole when I enjoy time out with people who truly matter to me, so I don’t pick between the two I make sure I do both and always keep my health and wellness in mind.
CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK
We are all only human. We have wants, needs, desires and passions and that is normal and HEALTHY – you are not weak because you ate a cookie (or two) or because you chose to go out to celebrate someones birthday and had a few too many drinks or because you missed a workout. None of those things make you weak or a failure, they make you human and they most likely made you very happy at the time so just relax, take a deep breath and know that it’s okay to not be perfect and to not stick to your “normal” routine 100% of the time.
At the same time it’s also okay to turn down a social gathering especially if you’re tired, run down or just not up to it for whatever reason. Your true friends will not judge you for staying in on a Friday night and you shouldn’t judge yourself either.
Life is meant to be lived, enjoyed, celebrated and shared – don’t force yourself to miss out on amazing opportunities because you feel restricted. Do you want to be 80 years old and look back and think – wow I wish I spent more time with the people around me and less time stressing over my appearance? I don’t think so and as a good friend of mine by the name of Drake would say “You only live once that’s the motto – YOLO” and truer words have never been spoken.. No but seriously think about it – rhyming and swear words aside that’s pretty wise, we should probably listen to him.