I saw a post on a certain social media site this morning. It was a photograph of a delicious looking breakfast – egg, hollandaise, avocado, toast. Probably bacon. The caption was something along the lines of “Cheat’s breakfast before diet week”.
That got me thinking.
About a year ago, one of my besties and I were cuddled up on an outdoor couch at a party. We were toasting our toes, having a giggle and talking about how we’d been making a series of unhealthy and irresponsible life decisions. We happened to be tipsy and mildly stoned at the time, which explains the ridiculous idea we came up with: we would ditch our heady, wild lifestyles and start training for a marathon. After the hangover, we spoke again and both decided that, actually, it wasn’t such a bad idea to have that goal to work towards. We looked at routes and distances and motivational training apps. Well, I did. My friend just started jogging regularly.
12 or so months later, that wonderful and inspiring human has just signed up to run a marathon. I have not. This has also got me thinking.
I have had a few minor health issues lately. Nothing serious, just the odd twinge in my back, lower energy levels, increased susceptibility to colds – all things that come from not caring for my body. I’ve become pretty good at mental and emotional health management over the last couple of years, but I have allowed my corporeal health to fall a little by the wayside. Until very recently. I had an epiphany of sorts a few months ago: I am never going to be a health freak. I like food and alcohol too much, and I lack the discipline to exercise every day. However, I realised, I don’t have to become Jane Fonda in order to improve my overall health and fitness (although, I admit, my hair is showing some eagerness to take that path…). The real lightening bolt came when the thought occurred to me that the tiniest change – going for a run once a fortnight – would be an improvement. It would be manageable, realistic, and maintainable. And it would be difficult to not find time for. So I went home and downloaded Zombies, Run! and then faffed around for a few more weeks, and THEN… went for a run. It was awful. I thought I was going to have an actual heart attack – and I hadn’t even run the whole way, I had walked substantial chunks of it. I was horrified at how hard it was, and how shit I felt after. And that’s what made me realise I had to keep doing it. I’ve kept at it, running the same 3km loop a few times a fortnight, and it’s slowly getting easier. I actually ran the whole way last time. My goal at the moment is to run on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday on the weeks my daughter is at her dad’s house.
Today is Saturday. My daughter is at her dad’s house. I did not go for a run.
I slept in this morning and woke around 11. I stayed in bed for another hour, just being comfy and thinking about things. I thought about going for a run. I thought about stuff that’s been going on at work. I thought about uni. I thought about the leftover pizza in my fridge. I decided to make the healthy choice – by not going for a run, and staying home to eat cold pizza instead.
Now, this is not the obviously healthy choice. But I like to see health holistically. Today I chose to stay home and treat myself – to eat and do whatever I felt like eating and doing. Totally guilt-free. Totally wonderful. Totally good for me. So when I saw the post about a “cheat’s breakfast”, I felt really sad for that person. It’s not cheating to enjoy yourself. It’s not cheating to indulge in ‘unhealthy’ stuff now and again. Healthy living is about making choices that give your life balance, and that fill you with joy. Jogging does not fill me with joy – but you know what does? The knowledge that I will soon be able to keep up with my daughter as she races along on her scooter; the feeling that I am finally caring for this poor old body that (for the most part) uncomplainingly carries me through life; and the understanding that I don’t have to feel bad when I take the unhealthy option. But the thing that brought me the most joy today was noticing that my marathon-running friend spent her Saturday at home baking choc-chip cookies. Now THAT’s what I call balance.