Struggling to find a balance between healthy eating, exercise and a busy schedule? There are so many conflicting messages about what, how much and when to eat. And just how much and what type of exercise you should be doing? We spoke to James Burke, a fitness and performance specialist, to find out how to make the dilemma manageable.
Picture a balanced life. What does it look? It’s something I’m often asked, and different trainers have their own opinion. As someone who constantly questions conventional wisdom, I decided it was time to come up with an answer.
Some believe that balance comes in the form of calories, a simple formula of what you eat versus what you burn. They might skip lunch or do 30 minutes of cardio and justify their wine in the evening. Some people are meticulous with food diaries and train themselves into the ground with the belief that the harder they train, the better. Unfortunately these people can end up struggling with adrenal fatigue and extremely high inflammation levels leaving them feeling stressed and flat. Neither give us an easy answer.
The thing I notice time and time again with clients is inconsistency. To be balanced must include consistency, so it’s a good place to start as you carve out your own healthy path. It’s also worth saying that any obsession is not a way to bringing balance into your life. Obsessively counting calories? Severely restricting the types of food you eat? They’re all heading down the road to burnout.
Firstly, I’d like to ask you to take a step back and be honest with yourself. You should ask ‘am I being too hard on myself’ as more often than not it isn’t a case of lacking discipline, but rather not being able to take your foot off the accelerator. This can be just as destructive.
We’re all so fantastically unique, both physiologically and mentally, that following somebody else’s food plan or workout regimen won’t necessarily give you the same results. My aim is to give you the confidence to make the right decisions, rather than feeling constant guilt when you don’t follow your routine. Nobody knows your body like you do, and after spending an hour in the gym with a trainer, there are another 23 hours of your day that are full of temptation. Food is just one part of a big puzzle, stress, sleep and exercise contribute to the bigger picture.
From working with clients of all different shapes and sizes, using a flagging system can be very effective. I work on the principle of ‘How Does It Make You Feel’ and apply a system of marking everything with a green or red flag, to help you make the right decision. For example in terms of food choices, by having a superfood smoothie for breakfast, that’s a nice healthy green flag, whereas a latte is red.
Just flagging your choices will hopefully create a sense of control and change your mindset to a more positive way of thinking. You can then mark off your day as a red day, green day or a mix. By the end of the week if you have had a majority of green flags then you’re moving in the right direction.
It’s a powerful tool to use without keeping a detailed food diary – who has time for that?
Changing personal habits are the biggest obstacles when creating a new lifestyle. Try not to think of it as a diet, just some ways to get rid of the stuff your body doesn’t like and finding a balance that frees you from any guilt you may have when enjoying your favourite foods. See, there’s a green flag already.
Just to be clear, this doesn’t mean you can justify having a sugary snack because you had a green juice in the morning! If you’re looking for a way that lets you make your own choices, flagging might help you begin your path. Remember this is a marathon not a sprint, so take it easy and enjoy life.
How has your day been so far? What are you green flags? What are your red? It’s as simple as that.
Find out more about James and his very luxe fitness life on instagram.