Here is a common piece of advice: “Drink a lot of water, exercise, and eat healthy.” The first is doable. The second, not always easy, but still fairly simple. But the third? Although it may appear straight forward, many of us don’t really know how to go about healthy eating. Where should you start? That’s a difficult question to answer because there is an overwhelming abundance of information available about healthy eating. If you walk into Chapters, you’ll find an entire section dedicated to books on how to be healthy, each containing a different thesis and various proposed diets to follow. If you search the question of how to be healthy on Google, you’ll get 49,400,000 results (I checked). If all of these sources of information are providing different answers, and often even conflicting opinions, how do you sort out who is right? Well, you might not have to.
No two people are exactly the same, which makes it impossible for there to be one universal healthy lifestyle. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that are universally good and bad for humans to do or consume, but there room for flexibility. For instance, if you read an article that claims that the healthiest people in the world go on a run every morning, but you have bad knees, the running rule may not apply to you. So, if there is no one true answer, how do you know if you’re living a healthy life? I strongly believe that the most useful tip for living a healthy life is balance and moderation.
I have found that there are generally two extremes to healthy living. The first is what I call the “green smoothie” approach to being healthy, which encourages daily yoga, detox, and juicing kale. The other is the “happy place” approach that encourages hot baths and baking your favourite cookies. These generalizations represent two sides to healthy living that are both important, but should not be exclusive of each other. I don’t know what the absolute best approach is to healthy eating, but I think that a balance between these two extremes is a good place to start.
When creating a plan for healthy living, it’s important to leave out the words always and never. I know that sometimes it’s easier to stay on track if you make a concrete plan for yourself, but based on my experience, such strict plans tend to be unsustainable. It’s important to leave yourself some room to be human. The “always/never” plan inevitably creates the feeling of failure if a rule is “broken”. Having a healthy lifestyle set up like a pass or fail system is not healthy.
As for moderation, if you’re thinking about eating healthier, the road to that is not eliminating every unhealthy food you can think of. On the other hand, I believe that it is just as possible to have too much of a bad thing as it is to have too much of a good thing. Exercising is good for you, but too much is not. Vitamins are good for you, but you shouldn’t take too many.
Balance and moderation are two things that we should apply to our lives, beyond healthy eating and exercising. Everything we do either contributes to our health or is a detriment to our well being. Sometimes, moderation isn’t always possible; sometimes you simply have to stay up all night to complete an essay. That’s where balance comes in. If you’ve had to pull an all-nighter, restore the balance by taking an evening to watch a movie and have an early night. Amid all the books and articles telling us to follow strict regimes to be healthy, it’s easy to forget that the ultimate goal of being healthy is to feel good and to enjoy life.