Last week I wrote about the need for balance, using the metaphor of the Jedi, Sith, and Grey Jedi. On a surface level it may seem it’s just about morality in Star Wars, something I hope you enjoyed (unless you had a severely deprived childhood). Really, however, it was a mirror of real life. Today, and perhaps always, us humans have a tendency to be drawn toward extremes when really the centre is where you must be.
On the macro level the “centre” is somewhere around the average of society as a whole, or the median behaviours and beliefs of that society. On the micro or personal level the centre can very wildly, as what the centre is for one person may be considered extreme by another. Yet we must all find our own centres if we expect to enjoy the rest of our lives.
The first aspect of centre balance, and in today’s world perhaps one of the most important, is finding balance physically.
Often we beginning making healthy changes by, logically, introducing exercise, but, really, what we fuel ourselves with is a more important starting point. The modern consumer advertising landscape can make it difficult to know what is healthy, given all the confusion created by marketing and cost-saving measures. The first thing you need to understand is that the food industry is demonstrably corrupt (ethically and technologically), which is why we have been dealing with so much misinformation for so many years. (Listen to this episode of The Rubin Report featuring Dr.Mark Hyman to get a idea of the big picture.)
Remember how, for many years, the Healthy Eating Pyramid focused on breads and grains? (Canada preferred circles and curves) This was partially due to the (continued) corrupting influence of various food & beverage lobby groups, but also due to the fact that, at the time it was developed, the major global nutrition problem was lack of calories (or rather access to food), so governments focused on getting people easy and cheap calories, like bread. Though, as we now know, heavily processed foods, like many breads out there, may not actually be good for us.
Now that the modern goal really is health and nutrition it’s time for the marketing machine (of corruption) to try to convince us consumers that their products are the best option, one way or another. In the same ad-space there are companies and groups touting the benefits of vegan/vegetarianism while others promote a fully carnivore diet. Polar opposites! While some people may benefit from restrictive diets due to specific issues such as the various autoimmune diseases, the best advice for most is actually a balanced diet, containing fats, protein, and healthy carbohydrates. In other words, eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables, fresh meats and fish (with out hormones or additives), and a good dose of fats.
Fats are good you say? Yes, they are very important! For years cholesterol was demonized outright, and while there is good and bad cholesterol it is still not properly understood by and large. The CDC simply says that “too much cholesterol” puts you at higher risk for heart disease and stroke. and that “cholesterol can be confusing“, but new research out of the Mao Clinic (and others) suggests it is actually your cholesterol ratios that matter. Of course, most doctors will still recommend some kind of medication for higher cholesterol instead of checking the ratio or recommended dietary changes.
How about the word Carbohydrates. Lets make this clear in most cases you will at some point need them. Even the Keto diet is not meant to be long term, but rather a reset diet for your body and metabolism. By carbohydrate, again, I mean whole vegetables and fruits. Some breads may be okay, depending on your genetic make up and whats actually in them. Fresh, homemade bread will always be better on account of your control over the ingredients. “Wonder Bread,” for example, is so processed it is hardly bread at all.
And as far as meat is concerned, I can speak for myself in that whenever I have gone off meat for too long my body breaks down. Some people may be able to get away from that for the long term, but others may not. Remember, genetics and other factors can change who needs what. Without proper testing (which costs money) it can be hard to know how your body processes certain foods and nutrients. When it comes to meat, organic, grass-fed beef, without hormones or antibiotics, fresh fish, and free range chickens, are what you want. Factory farming is disgusting, and should be banned, that does not mean that we shouldn’t eat meat, rather, that means we should change the acceptable methods for raising and harvesting our meat. (And, yes, the damage that cows do to the environment has been widely exaggerated, so get over yourself if you are still confusing bad farming practices with eating meat in general.)
So how do you decide? Well, balance is what most of us need. Therefore, find a ratio of meat/fish/chicken, whole foods for carbohydrates, and fats that works for you best. Maybe even throw in some intermittent fasting and you will find that attaining the balance you seek, for all aspects of your life, was actually made easier by simply changing how you fuel yourself and what you put in your face-hole.
This is normally our first thought when we consider getting healthy and finding our physical balance. It is a huge market and, yes, of course, full of BS and corruption. How many trends and “magic fixes” have you seen that took your money or your sanity?
Remember, in the absence of fancy programs or equipment, all you actually need is your body, some time, and movement to get in shape. Bodyweight exercises are some of the best, as they can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone, and don’t put excess strain on our body. Which makes them a great place to start from.
Walking, jogging, and running are also easy to get into, even if you have to start slow and work up to full runs. Although, running, if done excessively can damage your knees and other joints, so change up your cardio and try not to do it too much. Sprinting is, in many ways, more efficient, especially if you do not have a lot of time. Try doing ten, 100m sprints, as fast as you can, and you will feel like you just ran 10 marathons.
Other ways you can work out to build muscle and other hormones, is the classic method of lifting weights. Personally I think the Russian methodology of “never going to your limit” is probably a healthier way to approach this type of exercise. I know many powerlifters out there will disagree, but, much like those who run all the time, the practice can eventually (and often rather quickly) wreck your body.
Yes, some people can run and lift super heavy their whole life without problems, but, remember, if we seek balance then using the outliers to measure ourselves may not be such a great idea. Most of us are in the middle of the bell curve on any given thing, and if we try to do what the outliers do, we may just wreck ourselves.
No matter how you choose to get physical, from running, to lifting, to the martial arts, you need to find something to do.
The importance is not what you do (although this does depend on your goals) but the fact you are doing it and doing it consistently.
If you eat poorly and don’t exercise, which is so many people these days (for example 40% of America is obese and the idea that it’s okay to be unhealthy is being pushed by pop-culture) just remember, you are not living a balanced physical life. Additionally, you will be prone to poor health and at higher risk of premature death.
Seeking balance means getting active and staying active by finding activities you actually enjoy doing. For example, I have enjoyed running and lifting for a while, but, in the long run, I don’t actually get that much enjoyment out of them. This is why I choose to train in the martial arts. However, for the sake of balance, I use the other activities to balance out my physical fitness the best I can, as that is the goal. Do what you enjoy most of the time, but supplement that with other, supportive activities, enough so that your body can stay healthy in a balanced way; not just cardio, not just strength, not just agility.
No matter what you do, stay active and eat properly, and don’t jump onto the next trend just because it’s what the media has told you to do. Look at the research, on all aspects of health and fitness, and you will see that the vast majority of health science points towards balanced diets and balanced exercise programs which involve activities that are enjoyable but also push you (without destroying you).
So what are you waiting for? Channel your inner Grey Jedi and start your journey towards physical balance. Correct your weaknesses and improve your strengths.
Written by Jonathan Fader
*I am not what you would call an “Expert” on these things as I do not have any letters after my name saying so. However, with direct access to those at the forefront of nutrition and health through the internet in many cases I (or you) may actually know enough to make informed and updated decisions.